I’m currently reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain and really enjoying it. I have long described myself as a “social introvert,” sticking that word, “social” in there to dispel assumptions others often jump to when they think of introverts. I’m not particularly shy or quiet. I’m not afraid of public speaking or public performances. I’ve conducted seminars at work and spoken to groups as large as 200, and I’ve acted with lead parts in school plays and excelled in those arenas. I like parties.
However, I do need time to recharge after social events or public speaking by spending time alone with a cup of tea and a book, my laptop or just my thoughts. If I don’t get that time, I am C-R-A-N-K-Y. That’s the biggest telltale of my true colours as an introvert, but there are others. It’s one thing for me to be the centre of attention onstage, where my role is very structured and defined, but I hate it in social settings. I’m fine hanging out in large groups, but I let others drive the discussion while I hang back listening and speak only when I have something important to contribute. I despise small talk and find it very difficult to get to know others who are not open to more meaningful topics right off the bat. (I’m one of those people who, upon meeting you the first time, can talk immediately about the fight you just had with your mother, but if you try to talk about the weather I’ll clam up after a few moments). I’m pretty terrible at persuasion; if my points don’t speak for themselves, I’m not someone who shows enough charisma, outward passion or confidence in my ideas or services to be able to convince someone who has doubts. This has been a career challenge in recent years as there has been a large sales element involved, and I prefer the control of self-employment to working for a company.
Not everything in this book applies to me, but I see a lot of myself in it. I have read a lot about introversion in the past so I wasn’t sure if I would learn much new in this book, but I like Susan’s angle of playing up the strengths of introversion. This is an angle I haven’t seen many places before. Introversion is usually described as a barrier to overcome, an obstacle to your success that you can learn to work with if you tame and mold it, but never is it seen as a shining light to be celebrated and embraced.
This passage’s excerpts (related to a surprising discussion of how Guy Kawasaki outed himself as an introvert on Twitter in 2008) was a particularly interesting insight to me personally:
On August 15, 2008, Pete Cashmore, the founder of Mashable, the online guide to social media, weighed in. “Wouldn’t it be a great irony,” he asked, “if the leading proponents of the ‘it’s about people’ mantra weren’t so enamored with meeting large groups of people in real life? Perhaps social media affords us the control we lack in real life socializing: the screen as a barrier between us and the world.” …
Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online… to say that they can express the “real me” online… The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of 200 people might blog to 2000 or 2 million, without thinking twice. The same person who finds it difficult to introduce himself to strangers might establish a presence online and then extend these relationships into the real world.
Though I’ve been a very inconsistent blogger who has not, in fact, shared much online in this little space lately, I’m pretty active on Facebook interacting with friends and organizing social events. I have a very active Pinterest page and adore Goodreads for sharing and learning about others’ book choices. I meet potential suitors almost exclusively through online dating, much to my (very extroverted) mother’s derision, and I’ve never been able to explain why the Internet has been so important for my social life. I never would have pinned it on my introversion! And better yet, I love the implication that the computer/Internet as an intermediary in interpersonal relations provides an opportunity for introverts to thrive in leadership and sales roles where previously they may have floundered.
I wonder how I and fellow intro’s might use this insight to boost their careers. Can we thrive in sales by making a concerted effort with online presence? What changes can be implemented online to bring in new clients? Can we direct clients via a newsletter to a referral system on our website so we don’t need to ask in person? Some food for thought.
May 2013 bring prosperous wealth and personal growth to all, whether you’re introverted or extroverted!