Every once in a while, a book comes along that changes the way we look at things: our relationships, the roles we play, the ways in which we interact with one another, even how we view ourselves.
For most of my life, I have equated happiness with gregariousness, eloquence with intelligence, and having lots of friends with having good people skills. Only recently did I realize that subtle shifts have occurred in my understanding of happiness, temperament, intellect, and socializing. I have realized that, while I dearly love spending time with my friends, I also need pockets of solitude in which to "recharge": nights where I shut off the phone and curl up on the couch with a Diet Coke and a lovely book. Also, I love to be around people but often prefer to socialize in small groups rather than in crowded bars or at large parties. Sometimes, when I am happy, I am filled with energy and feel talkative and charming. However, sometimes I'm at my happiest when I experience something in a quiet way.
Cain's definition of introversion immediately interested me. Whereas I have thought of introversion as a synonym for shyness; Cain argues that it is not. Rather, she defines it as "temperamental inner-directedness" and describes introverts as those who are "reflective, cerebral, bookish, unassuming, sensitive, thoughtful, serious, contemplative, subtle, introspective, inner-directed, gentle, calm, modest, solitude-seeking, shy, risk-averse, thin-skinned."
Cain contends that no one is purely an introvert or an extrovert. An interesting way to understand where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum is by taking the informal quiz that Cain supplies in her book. Answer each question as "true" or "false", choosing the answer that applies to you more often than not:
1. ___ I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities
2. ___ I often prefer to express myself in writing.
3. ___ I enjoy solitude.
4. ___ I seem to care less than my peers about wealth, fame, and status.
5. ___ I dislike small talk, but I enjoy talking in depth about topics that matter
6. ___ People tell me that I'm a good listener.
7. ___ I'm not a big risk-taker.
8. ___ I enjoy work that allows me to "dive in" with few interruptions.
9. ___ I like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale, with only one or two close
friends or family members.
10.___ People describe me as "soft-spoken" or "mellow".
11.___ I prefer not to show or discuss my work with others until it's finished.
12.___ I dislike conflict.
13.___ I do my best work on my own.
14.___ I tend to think before I speak.
15.___ I feel drained after being out and about, even if I've enjoyed myself.
16.___ I often let calls go through to voice mail.
Regardless of where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, it's interesting to think about different facets of temperament and what is beneficial about each of them. We tend to value certain qualities over others, but it is time to challenge some of the foregone conclusions about leadership, group work, and socializing?
Whether or not you agree with Susan Cain's assertions about the importance of introversion, I believe this is a discussion worth having. I put forth Susan Cain's Manifesto, as found on her website www.thepowerofintroverts.com and invite your thoughts and opinions.
1. There’s a word for “people who are in their heads too much”: thinkers.
2. Our culture rightly admires risk-takers, but we need our “heed-takers” more than ever.
3. Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.
4. Texting is popular because in an overly extroverted society, everyone craves asynchronyous, non-F2F communication.
5. We teach kids in group classrooms not because this is the best way to learn but because it’s cost-efficient, and what else would we do with the children while all the grown-ups are at work? If your child prefers to work autonomously and socialize one-on-one, there’s nothing wrong with her; she just happens not to fit the model.
6. The next generation of quiet kids can and should be raised to know their own strength.
7. Sometimes it helps to be a pretend-extrovert. There’s always time to be quiet later.
8. But in the long run, staying true to your temperament is the key to finding work you love and work that matters.
9. Everyone shines, given the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.
10. Rule of thumb for networking events: one genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards.
11. It’s OK to cross the street to avoid making small talk.
12. “Quiet leadership” is not an oxymoron.
13. The universal longing for heaven is not about immortality so much as the wish for a world in which everyone is always kind.
14. If the task of the first half of life is to put yourself out there, the task of the second half is to make sense of where you’ve been.
15. Love is essential, gregariousness is optional.
16. “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Gandhi