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Introverts: Quietly…Take Back Your Life!

Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts

Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts

Are you secretly – or even unknowingly – an introvert trying to adapt in an extrovert-favored world?

Studies show that one-third to one-half of Americans are introverted.

But given the overriding “culture of personality” – which does not value  introversion and all its positive qualities – you may be constantly trying to live up to the “extrovert ideal”.  In fact, you may not even fully realize or accept that you are an introvert at heart.

In the second grade, I receive an honorary certificate – gold stars and all – for having read 32 books.  That’s likely a sign of my true disposition.  But as an adult, I took on high stress, high profile jobs that were not necessarily a good fit for an introvert, who typically needs to retreat periodically from over-stimulation.

Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World that Cannot Stop Talking by Susan Cain took my breath away  Just a few pages in, it became a life changing read for me.  Cain shares this aspiration as a core purpose of her book:

If there is only one insight you take away from this book, though, I hope it’s a new found sense of entitlement to be yourself.

In Quiet, Cain shares the cutting-edge neuroscience and psychology that underpins our current understanding of introversion, turning on one light bulb after the other as she proceeds.

Introversion is not black or white.  Some introverts are shy, but others are not.  Some are highly sensitive, but others less so.  Introversion and extroversion lie on a spectrum and you may sit at the far end or closer to the middle.  On top of that, you may be able to consciously and effectively turn on extroverted qualities in moderated doses.

Quiet makes a compelling case for the urgency of finding balance as individuals and as a world.  Cain paints of clear picture of how world-shattering events like environmental travesty and stock market crashes can emerge from a system dominated by extroverted urges.

This book is about introversion as seen from a cultural point of view.  Its primary concerns is the age-old dichotomy between the “man of action” and the “man of contemplation,” and how we could improve the world if only there were a greater balance of power between the two types.

Although this is not predominantly a self-help book, the information, research, and insights Cain shares will help you accentuate the beneficial aspects of being an introvert.  At the same time, you will learn ways to protect yourself from over-stimulation in a turned on world.  However, if  you are already comfortable as an introvert and familiar with research on the topic, it’s possible the book will not resonate for you in the same way it did for me.

I found Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Cannot Stop Talking a very potent.  If you are curious you can also read a synopsis of some of the key points Cain presents on introversion in Quiet and Society’s Extroversion Bias at this ~ this space.

Or plunge right in and watch this 19-minute video The Power of Introverts with Susan Cain.  I was riveted the entire time.

Where are you on the introversion – extroversion scale?  Is it where you are meant to be?  Are you comfortable there?

If you enjoyed this article please share the link.  Thank you!  Let’s connect on Google+ or the Always Well Within Facebook Page.  Or consider subscribing to Illuminations from the Heart, my weekly letter.  With love, Sandra.

 

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27 Comments

  1. I think I need to read this book! I’m comfortable identifying as an introvert on the far-ish end of the spectrum, but I have a lot more difficulty dealing with the extroverted world around me. I tend to cope by avoiding it, which isn’t particularly constructive. It’s unfortunate that the world values extroversion so much more than it does introversion. I think it would be wonderful to get the word out and see them more equitably.

    • I’m enjoying it immensely. I found it inspiring to see how some introverts are able to manage well in the extroverted world by doing it in bite-size pieces interspersed with restorative activities. Understanding our own needs and how far we can reasonably stretch the limits of introversion is an individual journey, but we can learn from each other along the way. Cain’s book is definitely make an impact, but how deep and lasting it will be remains to be seen. Wishing you the best with exploring how you can comfortably stretch.

  2. Thanks for sharing Sandra – I think the book will help to to figure out if I am one! lol – hard to tell sometimes! We (or maybe just me) share so many traits of introverts and extroverts, no? And also, how about bloggers in general? Are they introverted writers or extroverted socialites?

  3. HI Vishnu,

    So happy to see you! I think of you often. You can take an introvert / extrovert test on Susan Cain’s website and get a sense of where you might be on the spectrum quite quickly. You might be an ambivert – in the middle with an equal portion of both.

    In terms of blogging, I think some introverted qualities lend themselves to blogging, but some make it more challenging. I will probably write about that at some point! It’s a topic I’m exploring on a personal level.

    Be well!

  4. Your post sure piqued my interest! I want to read the book. I went most of my life trying to be an extrovert and never feeling happy, comfortable, or confident in the various roles. I always pushed myself to be more of an extrovert because of societal and personal influences. Then, I was very critical of myself because I did not enjoy it, was not inherently a natural at it, or successful. Wonder why?

    In the years after my brain injury, I have been totally surprised to find that I am an introvert at heart. I do much better with low stimulation, lots of solitude and do not need a lot of interaction with people at all. The ironic thing is I am more frank and assertive than ever having come into my own power and finally being comfortable with myself.

    • @Sandra
      I’m so happy my post on how much I enjoyed Susan’s Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Cannot Stop Talking book resulted in your reading it and liking it as much as I did. It’s so heart warming to see what your reader’s responses are. Susan’s book caused me to relect on how much we need to recognize the value of quiet leadership and the creativity that spirngs from solitude.

      My Quiet Quiz: Are You an Introvert or an Extrovert? results were not surprising. I answered the majority of the questions “true”. This description is without doubt me.

      “Given the choice, you’ll devote your social energy to the people you care about most, preferring a glass of wine with a close friend to a party full of strangers. You think before you speak, and relish solitude. You feel energized when focusing deeply on a subject or activity that really interests you. You have an active inner life, and are at your best when you tap into its riches.”

      Dear Debbie,
      I too have recovered from a head injury and that’s when I uncovered the truth. I have always an infrovert but due to family circumstances had been functioning as an ambivert since I was a child. Uncovering that truth set me free in so many ways. Which is not to say I have not benefited form operating as an amibvert because I have. Like you I am more frank and assertive now that I have become my own best friend than I have ever been.

      • Yes, I’m supremely grateful to you for your article, timethief! I had been to Susan Cain’s website before (pre-book) but it didn’t grab me then. Your book turned the tide and tuned me in to this part of my personality that I never recognized. Now I can embrace being me without all the confusion.

        You’ve always said your an introvert, but now I understand far more what that really means! I hope many people will read this book and feel liberated by it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.

  5. Hi Debbie,

    These are exactly the kinds of personal stories we need to encourage and validate each other! Thanks for sharing your experience of returning how to your true self.

    I have a feeling that you would really like this book as it delves into the neuroscience (to some degree) and psychological research of being an introvert. It seems like you’ve already discovered and affirmed your true self as an introvert, but you might still find the information and research validating. It might also give you some insights for balancing your forays into the extroverted world, as you’ve mentioned your plans to move out of your current level of solitude to some degree. And, as a writer and aspiring author, it might be interesting to see how Susan is managing in the world of book promotion as an introvert that has comfortably stretched her limits but makes sure to get the restorative time she needs.

    I loved the book myself! Thanks for your thoughts.

  6. Of course that was a TED talk! I love TED, and Susan Cain’s kicked ass! I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the end where she asks introverts to share what they’re carrying once in a while.

    I’m an introvert. I go out with my big group of friends and sing karaoke in front of strangers, but most of the night I spend sitting, sipping my drink and listening. I used to hate public speaking, but I’ve gotten a lot better (especially after a Business Women’s Forum workshop for improving public speaking).

    After working several years in the corporate world, I still feel a sense of dread when I think of meetings. I think our society could really improve in the way we encourage brainstorming. I do love collaborating and talking with other people with different views and ideas, but my best brainstorming has always been my own, unplugged, with pen(cil) and paper.

    • I love your upbeat energy, Elizabeth. I was mesmerized by Susan Cain’s TED talk too. As an introvert, you seem to be managing your forays into the extroverted world well. Congratulations! It helps so much to know our selves, doesn’t it!

      Meetings are not high on preference list either! You’re so right, much more could be done to make meetings and brainstorming work more effectively for introverts and thus benefit from all they have to offer.

      Wishing you the best with your writing endeavors.

      • I’ll be honest: it wasn’t always that easy for me! I still have my shy moments, too.

        • That’s interesting as you seem so outgoing and dynamic on the video I saw on your site. That just goes to show that introverts don’t come in one flavor. That can indeed be very dynamic given the right circumstances and the ability to turn this on in bite size chunks with restorative breaks in-between.

  7. I’m pretty sure I’m half introvert, half extrovert. People who meet me assume I’m an extrovert because I’m very outgoing, however I MUST have time alone to write and read. And these are among my favorite activities. This book sounds like a must-read, thanks for sharing it.

  8. I’ve learned that’s called an “ambivert”! You do seem to have a healthy dose of extroversion. It’s good to hear how clear you are about needing balance and making sure you get it. Very inspiring.

  9. I score as an introvert on that personality test. People who don’t know me very well would probably be surprised, but people who know me well would see the truth in that. I think I must be somewhere towards the middle.

  10. Interesting! You could be more of a moderate introvert or an ambivert. One example in the book is a very dynamic college profession. He seems very extroverted in that role, but basically hides away at other times and has plenty of restoratives niches during the day.

  11. Hi Sandra
    thank You for sharing the Ted talk by Susan Cain. As an Artist I absolutely must have my time of solitude and creativity, yet I do enjoy sharing with other people*! & wow the number of times I have been called ‘mellow’ … I thought it was just my California~ness in NYC …

    • You’re welcome. Thanks for sharing your experience. Introverts do enjoying spending time with and sharing with people. They typically prefer one on one encounters over groups or parties though. I liked “mellow”! That could be quite a contrast in NYC!

  12. I always thought I was an extrovert, when recently I discovered that I’m actually an introvert and prefer to be alone and talk to myself. but I’ve always be so outgoing and sociable – i guess that’s society’s standards I was living up to. But i feel better being myself now, and to knkow I have strength within, introvert or not
    Noch Noch

  13. Hello Noch Noch,

    I think you are not alone! Susan Cain’s book has been revelatory to many people, including myself, who have never realized they were introverts. Discovering our true self – the journey you are on – is essential to finding meaning in life, where ever we might be on the introvert – extrovert spectrum. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. It encourages others to realize that they too may be trying to “live up to society’s standards” while denying their fundamental essence.

    • rainforestrobin

      I just LOVE your words here, Sandra, “It encourages others to realize that they too may be trying to “live up to society’s standards” while denying their fundamental essence.” Wow!!! And YES!!

      I was always told that I was Extrovert, but I secretly KNEW, without doubt, that I was not. But when I was younger I never said anything because in school and out in the world I got more praise when seen as a “go getter” or Extrovert. Yet, I abhorred it and really wanted time alone in the woods or in a canoe, or writing, or creating, etc.

      Just because one is good with people doesn’t mean what they need or what they REEEEEALLY want to do, or where they find their greatest inspiration, creativity, insight, strength, and peace. Thank you for your wise words here. All my love to you. Rob

      • You certainly proved you are not an extrovert living as you did in the Australia Rainforest for a few years! What a remarkable stint. Few would have the guts to do that.

  14. rainforestrobin

    Dear SANDRA!!! I cannot even possibly tell you HOW much this post and video mean to me. People often think I am an extrovert because I am so good with people, and oddly have excellent social skills, can reach out and hug and touch people, talk (or hug), easily, total strangers, etc. BUT, but, but…..The bottom line fact is….I am an introvert.

    I related to your post and Cain’s video sooooooooooooo much. And the truth that I am an introvert came SO to light when I published my book. I now know in EVERY bone of my body, in my ENTIRE being that I HAVE to time ALONE, long periods of quiet time in Nature, time alone to write, do nature photography, and other creative projects.

    People often cannot understand when I do NOT want to go, go, go. It is hard for them to understand that being extremely creative, I need that quiet time to FEEL, DREAM, and CONNECT with my “God” (or the Great Universe, my Creator, etc). Whatever term one uses, I definitely HAVE to COMMUNE with that which LOVES me, that which IS Love. It keeps me sane, in touch with a more vast reality than most of my culture currently chooses to acknowledge (or live). It also keeps me in touch with myself, my creativity.

    I am someone who does not thrive on constantly keeping busy, going, doing, having hoards of people around me, noise, hype, etc. Although I am very good with people, and although I can really enjoy a natural group gathering of talking, laughter, even tears, although I have done public speaking and am good at it, I STILL need time to be absolutely alone, LOTS of time alone to reflect, to feel the Universe, to feel and observe the world around me, to listen INTO The Silence, to be WITH The Silence, to fall in LOVE with The Silence. For me, when I am still, alone, I am in bliss.

    And because I am really good with people when I AM around them, and because I naturally give all I have when I am around them (I can’t stop myself; it’s just my nature), and because I am SO SO SO open (without defenses even), and because I am totally empathic and hear even people’s unspoken thoughts and feelings, I HAVE to have a lot of time alone to regroup. I have to come to a stop, to empty out all thought and churning (which may or may not be mine). And because I even feel things happening in the world (like the dream I had of 9/11 a few days before it happened) I am processing a LOT of input, and this requires time to rejuvenate, regenerate, and come to a complete place of silence, stopped. And in this silence I am flooded with LOVE, creativity, insight, compassion, understanding, and more. It just flows in naturally. Who in their right mind would want to give up that? LOL! 🙂

    I am so impressed with the quality of your posts and information here, dear Sandra. More importantly, I am deeply grateful. My heart just warms with love for you, thanking you. Reading this post, I felt so seen. I needed this today. You always speak to my heart in all your sharings. Bless you for this. Much love, Rob

    • Your story here is such an inspiration, Robin. It would make a great blob post. People need this kind of encouragement to just be willing to let go and just be. I really admire your courage. It speaks to the fact that we are all different and we really need to know ourselves and be true to ourselves so we can serve in the best way possible.

      Cain’s book and talk really, really resonated for me too! It’s helping me to discover myself more fully and validate what’s true for me.

      Thank you for all your love and inspiration. I’m always so honored when you visit here! Lots of love. With you in spirit.

  15. From Joy Holland

    “Well, you might not know this about me, but I am an introvert. I love abundant solitude, nature, time to contemplate and just be; essential to me and nourishing to my being/my soul. I also love the energy of connecting with others, and within activity; knowing that is just one small portion of my life that I may balance with the rest. I think people assume I’m extroverted because I have people skills and am good at bringing people together, but I am able to do that *because* I honor my introversion.

    I also enjoy adventure and tend to allow my dreams to become my reality, and I don’t enjoy “following” so I often end up quietly pioneering something, which I understand but feels unnatural to me. Only because I know the message is important do I allow myself the vulnerability of the unnatural.

    Like Kara, I have been called very very mellow and attribute it to my years here in CA by the ocean. However I was born and raised in NY and was very very mellow there, too:)
    Thank you for sharing the TED talk, mine has always been a soft, gentle voice and until recently I didn’t equate it with being powerful in its own way.”

  16. Joy,

    I absolutely would not have guess that about you, but now that you mention it I see how it does indeed ring so true! You are often speaking/writing about your long walks on the beach and even long periods of time to yourself. This is a great inspiration. It encourages others to hear this! Thank you.

  17. Hi Sandra, This is a wonderful post… I am reading this book too! Absolutely, the “cult of personality” hit it spot on.

    The whole subject is a really welcome relief on so many fronts… we don’t all have to be out there and on all the time to “be” and be ourselves… whether we’re extroverts or introverts or a little bit of both.

    Also, Cain writes about several myths that are shaping work and the workplace today, in really pretty drastic ways. Brainstorming, how meetings are held, open plan offices, and more. I’ve been thinking about (real and virtual) work environments that would be conducive to individual creative work as well as the kind of sessions where people are able to constructively work together. So it’s been very helpful in thinking about these things as well as personally.

    Hope you write more on this!

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