Why Introverts Can Speak Softly And Carry A Big Stick

 

Written by Shawn Parr

What everyone can learn from the book Quiet: A conversation with Tim Rayner

The power of positive energy is addictive and, for me, fuel for life. I get up every day with the goal of helping others realize their full potential. Whether it’s a company or an individual, I am inspired by the power of unlocking potential through a combination of passion and purpose. I am privileged to work with a huge range of amazing people of all ages with a wide variety of professional expertise. We are currently working on a fascinating new product for high school and college students and I had the opportunity to work and mentor a brilliant young man named Tim who described himself as an introvert.

As part of the program I bought Tim a book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking to help him explore this self-described label. He told me how much he enjoyed the book so I asked him to give me his perspective. Here’s what he had to say:

If you’re a self-described introvert, you’ve probably noticed that introversion is commonly viewed as an unfavorable quality. As society has adopted the terms “introvert” and “extrovert,” there are a variety of definitions that have been used to describe these enigmatic terms.

More often than not, organizations use personality tests to categorize employees into certain areas with specific expectations based on their characteristics. People tend to form their own perception of expectations of behaviors based on these categorized personality types. In some cases these tests are spot-on and offer insight into another person they may not have had the opportunity to see otherwise. However, I question the accuracy of these tests. How can 20 questions dictate how one will behave and react to situations without considering the person’s current state of mind, health, and past experiences? I’m not sure it can. Regardless of the accuracy of personality tests, people and organizations will continue to use them as guides for behavior.

It is evident that Western society has a cultural bias towards extroversion because of the push toward the American Dream. We value those who challenge the norm, break tradition, stand above the crowd, and speak their opinions loud and proud. Our society is built upon creating these types of people. From a young age, our education system puts value on those students who adapt to high-stimulating environments and are comfortable speaking aloud in class, while questioning those who tend to be quietter and shy.

It is because of this mindset that many introverts have been pushed to be extroverted when, in fact it is not natural for them to do so. Each personality type has its own strong qualities, so I considered the advantages of introversion.

Reading the book Quiet led me to understand introversion on a much deeper level than what I’ve been led to believe. The book’s author, Susan Cain, offers a revolutionary definition of the term “introversion” and makes an effort to put the “Extrovert Ideal” to rest.

Cain exemplifies a multitude of her introverted friends, whom she describes on a complex scale and brilliantly ties in to portray a powerful depiction of the true richness of introversion.

Quiet provides education and advice to help introverts understand how to effectively control themselves in social situations. It also sheds insight for extroverts to help them better understand introverts.

My only wish is that Cain went more in-depth about how a home environment of extroverts can affect young introverts (such as myself, being the independent, introverted son of two extroverts). For me, being surrounded by extroverts caused me to seek withdrawal. To avoid the hectic environment, I chose to shut my door and turn on music. But what that did was give the rest of my family the impression that I was antisocial. The effect it had was resentment towards the other members of my household. And I have a feeling this may be the case for other introverts.

Understanding what it means to be an introvert allowed myself to wallow in my inner sanctum. Others who might not understand their introversion may become self-conscious, unconfident, and may possibly develop social anxiety. Western society naturally tends to suppress introversion rather than letting it flourish. I believe allowing introverts to express themselves, can actually improve their confidence.

With that aside, Quiet is still a rich, enthralling read and has something for people of both types to take with them—for us introverts, it is a rousing manifesto of the power of quiet and for extroverts, it may be a key to understanding the complexity of their quiet friends. Being provocative as it is, the book transformed my understanding of myself as a mental and physiological introvert, and I have been able to better engage myself in different ways, and I hope it can do the same for other introverts out there.

 

Advice and Principles
Introverts usually work best on their own terms. Try to tailor your life, if you can, to allow for some alone time, where you can work alone and control your environment. Find your “restorative niche,” as it is called. Below are some of my favorite insights from the book:

“If you’re an introvert, find your flow by using your gifts. You have the power of persistence, the tenacity to solve complex problems, and the clear-sightedness to avoid pitfalls that trip others up.

“You enjoy relative freedom from the temptations of superficial prizes like money and status. Indeed, your biggest challenge may be to fully harness your strengths.

“You may be so busy trying to appear like a zestful, reward-sensitive extrovert that you undervalue your own talents, or feel underestimated by those around you. But when you’re focused on a project that you care about, you probably find that your energy is boundless.

“So stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don’t force yourself to seek breadth. If you prefer single-tasking to multitasking, stick to your guns. Being relatively unmoved by rewards gives you the incalculable power to go your own way. It’s up to you to use that independence to good effect.”

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