The Power and Pleasure of Introverts

If solitude is an important key to creativity,

then we might all want to develop a taste for it.

We’d want to teach our kids to work independently.

We’d want to give employees plenty of privacy and autonomy.

Yet increasingly we do just the opposite. 

from Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

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My friend has sent me Quiet, and she has enclosed this note:  “I think you will be able, like me, to find some excellent morsels in here that will remind you of things you like about yourself, your husband and your daughter, as well as some insights.” My friend knows us well — 🙂

And Quiet is well worth a read.  By the time I had finished reading the book (in two days), there were 17 red tabs sticking out of pages. These were to mark sections to share with Bill and Natalie. They were intrigued. Bill ended up sharing a couple of the stories from the book with his senior undergraduates, who were equally intrigued.  One question he asked them was: “After you go to a party, do you feel invigorated or a little exhausted the next day?” And he had already told them: In a group of people who have been extremely creative throughout their lifetimes, you’re likely to find a lot of introverts.

Natalie’s friend and her mom came over for tea a few days after I had finished reading Quiet and they laughed when they saw all of my red tabs — “You tab books that aren’t assigned reading!” But then decided tabs were a good idea when I quickly found the section I thought they’d be interested in.

Here are some of things I learned about this little house of social introverts. And yes: introverts can be social and sociable, just not all the time. As writer Susan Cain says, “Introverts may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family…”

Here are a couple of excerpts I shared with Bill and Natalie:

N watercolorsIntroverts feel “just right” with less stimulation, as when they sip wine with a close friend, solve a crossword puzzle, or read a book. (Bill and Natalie smile and nod in recognition of them and me).

Introverts often work more slowly and deliberately. They like to focus on one task at a time and can have mighty powers of concentration. (Bill and I look at Natalie, who smiles).

There are wonderful stories in the book about work situations, leadership styles, and what kind of boss is best in different situations.  Also, a fascinating discussion about “group” projects and “brainstorming” (which, it turns out, is not the most effective way to stir up the best ideas).

I encourage parents to read the book because there are moving stories about parents and children whose introvert-extrovert personalities don’t match. One extroverted mother feels so lucky to have an introverted daughter who shows her a whole different way to see the world. While an extroverted couple decide that their introverted son, who sounds like the most pleasant little boy, needs “treatment” for not being as social and athletic as they are.

balancingOne reviewer wrote, “Quiet explores a grand array of fascinating concepts: how extroversion became an American ideal, the role of nature versus nurture in determining personality, contrasts in the way introverts and extroverts think, the difference in values between Americans and Asians with regard to introversion, when faking extroversion might be a good idea, how to cultivate “shy” kids, and more! Whether you are an introvert or you love one, this powerful book is sure to provide insight and inspiration.”

Yesterday Bill scanned his horoscope on the comics page and laughed, “It’s a horoscope for an introvert.” It read: “You need space and privacy or you become frustrated and irritable. But if you have enough time in solitude, you’ll be happy, easy-going and charming when it’s time to socialize.”



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