Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking is one of my favorite public figures. She herself is an introvert, but has found it within herself to speak to the world about the power of introversion and why the world is leaving them behind.
Cain explains that there is a difference between shyness and introverts, yet as a society, we’ve come to regard them as one in the same. She says shyness is a fear of judgment and introversion is simply introspective, reflective and quiet.
She goes on to question why we have started emphatically using group work, open office spaces and stimulating environments. Introverts feel most alive, creative and capable in a quiet, less stimulating environment. The ironic part is that up to half of Americans are introverted – so nearly half of the population’s needs are being either ignored, or worse, shamed.
Something I found very interesting that she said was that extroverts get so excited that they put their own stamp on things, and other people’s ideas might not as easily bubble up to the surface. Recently I took a leadership class, and this truth was very self-evident.
As a class, my professor took us out of the classroom and outside, down the stairs and past the parking garage until we had walked a total of about ten or so minutes from the classroom. He stopped us all and started passing out bandanas (to which we gave him very confused looks). He stated we’d have to make it back to the classroom…blindfolded. And we had to do it all together, never letting go of each other. If that wasn’t enough, we had only 5 minutes to make a plan and get ready, then only 1 hour to reach the classroom.
What happened next was interesting. In a room full of leadership students, chaos broke out. Quickly and subconsciously the group broke in two, with the loud students shouting their ideas and the quiet, more introverted speaking quietly amongst themselves and observing the other group. Eventually the decision was made (in well under 5 minutes), and the plan was executed. Was it the best solution? Maybe. Maybe not.
When all was said and done our professor stood before us and recapped what he saw. He told us that while the group was deciding on a solution, the extroverts completely shut out the introverts, who were in fact coming up with the more creative ideas. But because they wouldn’t yell above everyone else, their ideas were never heard. His lesson for us that day was that sometimes a great leader isn’t the one who will yell the loudest, but rather the one who won’t.
Susan Cain did a very entertaining and informative TED Talk , which you can watch below.
Contributed by Ashley Hudson