The power of introverts











This is a GREAT book. In my humble opinion – as an introvert. There it is, out in the open … and this book helps me feel good about it, whereas for years, I’ve felt a bit ‘wrong’, strange and nerdy.

Now those of you who know me may be thinking ‘no way is she an introvert’. I am not paralysingly shy, I can speak in public with relative ease, I get along with people just fine. But shyness is not the true definition of introversion. Yes shyness and introversion are often correlated but the way psychologists define introversion is much more about the extent to which someone recharges and gets their energy from being alone versus recharges and gets their energy from being with others.

And I am very much in the former camp. A major part of my decision to work independently is because I crave time alone and love to spend at least part of my working day thinking and writing quietly – that’s how I best do my job of solving problems and having ideas, rather than being constantly in the company of others, debating things noisily – the default mode of ad agencies and many other companies largely populated by extroverts.

One of the many interesting things about this book is that it reveals the latest research on how the brains of introverts and extroverts differ – i.e. there is a biological basis for introversion. Introverts are what development psychologists call ‘high reactives’: even when tiny babies they react more strongly to stimuli of any kind and are more highly sensitive to their environments. I really identify with this – I find open-plan offices really stressful, I can’t sleep if there’s any noise or light, I pick up on others’ emotions very easily. Whereas extroverts have more ‘low reactive’ brains so require an awful lot more stimulation and novelty to feel excited, take more risks, are less bothered by criticism, etc.

Part of the reason why I’ve always been embarrassed by my tendencies is that the extroverts have taken over the world – at least the business world. Business culture venerates and rewards the overtly charismatic, confident and gregarious – it is those people who become leaders. Business culture LOVES teamwork – indeed it pretty much insists that that’s where innovation and new ideas come from and many workplaces are now organised to maximise interaction.

Whereas there is an awful lot of evidence that very many breakthrough ideas are made by introverts – by people who prefer to work independently and for whom solitude is critical to enable concentration and creativity. Apparently Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, Einstein, Van Gogh, …. all introverts. In my experience advertising creatives are often introverts, and have fought hard for the right to retain offices with walls within agencies keen to mix everyone up in open-plan formats. Not always successfully.

There’s so much important stuff in this book. If you’re interested start with Susan Cain’s great TED talk:

Then read the book if you think you might be an introvert, are married to one, need to parent one with care, have to manage one at work, … Honestly, it could change someone’s life.




One Response to “The power of introverts”

  1. helenweavers Says:

    Interesting article about the influence of young introverts in social media, which acknowledges that being introverted doesn’t mean shy and retiring but often strong-willed and opinionated … just more likely to be expressing that through online content than through being the captain of the football team or the most gregarious party person.

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