BreakingModern – Do you ever feel guilty about not being a social butterfly? If so, you should meet Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. In a recent TED talk, she explains why introverts should never feel ashamed about who they are.
Video: Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts
In her speech, Cain talks about going to summer camp when she was nine years old. Being an introvert and an avid reader, she stuffed her luggage with books. In an effort to instill camp spirit, the counselor led all of Cain’s campmates in a rousing cheer: “R-O-W-D-I-E! That’s the way we spell ROWDIE! ROWDIE! Let’s get ROWDIE!” Perhaps partly because of the egregious spelling error, all Cain wanted to do was open up her suitcase and crack open a book. When the counselor found her in her room quietly reading, he said: “We should all work very hard to be outgoing.”
Cain argues that this anti-introvert sentiment originates from the U.S. business, big-city movement in the 20th century. Western civilizations, especially America, have generally favored the independent man of action over the quiet thinker. But earlier in history, Americans lived in a “culture of character.” In other words, they tended to value traits of “inner self” and “moral rectitude.” Once the urban movement began, however, people started to value the ability to stand out in a crowd.
So what, you might ask, makes introverts so powerful? They seem feeble and tentative, while extroverts gravitate toward leadership roles. But in truth, introverts are the ones who possesses contemplative skills that help solve problems. This isn’t to say that extroverts can’t solve problems. Cain says our introvert-shaming culture creates a lot of untapped potential.
Why Such a Stigma Against Introverts?
Cain argues that our extrovert-centric culture is a big loss for our world. It forces introverts to shy away from who they truly are and try to be the social butterfly that they aren’t. Intellectually, introverts are in their element in the wilderness, off alone. When pressured into being someone they aren’t, introverts struggle to reach their utmost capability.
Cain isn’t trying to say that being outgoing is a bad thing for introverts. Certainly, you can’t just spend all of your time reflecting alone — you’d go crazy and be really lonely. Instead, Cain recommends three action items for cultural change.
Calls to Action
First, Cain wants to stop the movement toward constant group work — working alone allows for much better thinking and reflection, she says. Have you ever tried to get work done while hanging with your friends? Good luck. No matter how hard you tried, you never got much done. This isn’t to say that group work should be eliminated. It just means that it should be tempered in order to let introverts feel more comfortable doing their thing.
Secondly, Cain wants us to unplug and go into the wilderness of our own thoughts. In such a tech-centric world, silence is becoming scare. It’s hard to hear your own brain ticking when you’re always glued to a screen. Common sense says that making time to get off the grid can allow introverts and extroverts alike to maximize their potential.
Third, Cain tells us to take a look at our own suitcase. Yeah, you might be scared to open it up, but revealing the contents of your suitcase can help solve the problems we’re all facing. And you’d be surprised — people want to hear about what’s in there.
For BMod, I’m Ben Leonard.
All Screenshots: BMod Staff
Image Credit: Extrovert/Introvert Spectrum. Wikimedia Commons