Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

by Susan Cain

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain is aimed at helping introverts survive in a world tailored for extroverts. This book contains advice on bettering your communication skills, improving efficiency at work, and forming deeper bonds with extroverts.

If you are an extrovert, don’t worry! This book also contains some advice for extroverts, so they can understand introverts a little better and learn how to communicate with them in a more efficient manner.

We have compiled all of Cain’s tips and tricks into simple actions you can perform every day. Even implementing one or two of these actions as habits will make your life a little easier—just try it!

Summary Notes

The Rise of The “Mighty Likeable Fellow”

“How did we go from Character to Personality without realizing we had sacrificed something meaningful along the way?”

Around the turn of the twentieth century, a cultural revolution took place. Public speaking was once considered a skill only useful for the elite, but qualities such as being charming, sociable, personable, etc, were now associated with successful businessmen. And thus, the “Extrovert Ideal” was born. 

As the Extrovert Ideal grew in popularity, the concept of the “inferiority complex” was developed. This was used to describe all those who felt inadequate and insecure - and the term was widely adopted fairly quickly. The Extrovert Ideal was introduced as early as childhood - many parents discouraged “quiet” hobbies such as learning classical music in favor of more social hobbies such as football.

Now, the Extrovert Ideal is nothing new - extrovert-like qualities can be traced back to our DNA and there are plenty of historical figures who exhibited these qualities. However, again, is it necessary to adopt this Ideal, or label ourselves as having an inferiority complex simply because we do not exhibit extroversion? The answer is no. 

Our “personality” is automatically driven by our character - so it is our character that should be developed. Instead of developing a “fake” personality to come across as a better public speaker, it is better to focus on being authentic and truthful. When we do this, we can play to our inner strengths and maximize our success, without losing our integrity.

Actions to take

The Myth of Charismatic Leadership

“We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.”

Extroverted qualities have been extensively pushed onto people, and those who are more introverted tend to get overlooked. Qualities such as staying calm and level-headed, thinking critically and appreciating knowledge for its own sake, and being generally quieter than average are rarely appreciated. However, these qualities are just as important. 

Quiet leadership is often the backbone of any successful organization. Those with giant personalities help attract customers, clients and investors, but it’s those who are introverted that actually build and perfect the product or service offered. Essentially, introverted qualities are just as important to focus on and develop. 

Remember, quiet leaders can be just as, if not more, effective than loud ones. Even successful extroverted leaders need to balance their charisma with introverted skills such as listening before acting, focusing on building their character over their social circle, etc. 

Additionally, quiet leadership often encourages extroversion in teams. Introverted leaders are happy to listen, rather than talk, and are better at facilitating brainstorming sessions. Beyond that, they are able to implement the solutions discussed in an effective manner. They are less focused on being in the spotlight and are more focused on their actual work.

Actions to take

When Collaboration Kills Creativity

“If personal space is so vital to creativity, so is freedom from ‘peer pressure.’”

Teamwork and collaboration are often touted as the foundation of success. However, they actually take your focus away from actual tasks that help you improve your work. While some level of collaboration is important, it is just as, if not more, important to spend time working alone. This is when you can truly think without the influence or distraction of others. 

Although many organizations - including businesses and educational systems - push unnecessary amounts of teamwork onto us, it’s important to remind ourselves that boundaries are important. If we spend all our time discussing and collaborating, we spend less time working. Although we may have a broader network, we can only achieve success when we get tangible work done.

When you focus on building your character, you will naturally become more innovative. If you know how to work and create as an individual, you’ll be more confident in your skills. Plus, to be able to contribute effectively to a team, you’ll need to be sure of what you can do. 

Introverted skills focus heavily on self-development and improving one’s current standards, which is critical to success - both in terms of teamwork and personal development.

Actions to take

Is Temperament Destiny?

“We - as adults - can shape our selves and make what we will of our lives.”

Nature certainly plays a role in our general temperament. Whether we are more likely to be introverted or extroverted can be traced back to qualities displayed in childhood. For example, introverted people were more likely to be less reactive to stimulation when they were children. Alternatively, extroverted people were more likely to be more reactive as children. 

Our temperament is largely controlled by biology, or more specifically, the way our brain functions. However, our character and personality are also formed by nurture, i.e., our upbringing and exposure to the world around us. Our ability to adapt to change and cope with difficult and/or traumatic experiences is not just defined by our nature, but also the strategies we were absorbed in childhood.

High-reactive children - who tend to grow up into extroverted adults - often require a more carefully tailored environment to succeed. Due to their tendency to react to changes in their environment, they are more likely to develop depression, anxiety and shyness. However, with good parenting, child care, and a stable home environment, the traits that make these kids more vulnerable to changes in life actually help them achieve success. They are able to express empathy and care exceedingly well and cooperate with others easily. They are kind, conscientious and work hard at the things that matter to them.

Ultimately, it’s less about introversion vs extroversion and all about understanding where our strengths lie. We can then adapt our coping strategies accordingly - no matter what stage of life we are in. As part of our behavior is dictated by nature, it may help to look into our childhood and better understand who we are, so we know where to go next.

Actions to take

Beyond Temperament

“There is no one more courageous than the person who speaks with the courage of his convictions.”

Who we are is somewhat determined at birth by our genes. We tend to carry this imprint in our character and personality until adulthood; it is often the underlying reasons for many of our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. There is only so much that we can do to stretch our natural temperament and go beyond our comfort zones. This applies to both introverts and extroverts. 

That’s why it’s incredibly important to tap into our own set of unique skills. Instead of trying to fit into someone else’s shoes, you will realize that you perform better when you’re in your own zone. If you’re naturally introverted and surround yourself with quiet people, a quiet environment, etc, you’ll shine much brighter than if you were to force yourself to be comfortable in a loud and social atmosphere.

Understanding your natural limits will help you better create the ideal environment for you to be most productive and happy in. Although we are often told to stretch our limits, we can actually benefit more from playing to our strengths in an environment best suited to our unique nature.

Actions to take

Franklin Was A Politician, But Eleanor Spoke Out Of Conscience

“Guilt is a tainted word, but it’s probably one of the building blocks of conscience.”

A common character trait of introverts is high sensitivity. While this is often misinterpreted as a flaw, it is simply a neutral description. Highly sensitive people can even be interpreted as creative, intuitive and deep thinkers. While highly sensitive people do tend to feel emotions more strongly than others, they are more keen observers and can notice subtleties in their environment that others often miss.

Additionally, highly sensitive people tend to be conscientious and diligent, and they actually care. This caring nature is what drives real change. Although introverts typically don’t like speaking on the main stage, they are often the ones with the passionate message. Take Al Gore for example - he tried to warn everyone about climate change for years before anyone took him seriously, and he had to package his warning into a Hollywood movie first! 

Ultimately, however,  he worked hard to tirelessly promote the movie and communicate his message to a wide audience. When introverts and highly sensitive people truly apply themselves and focus on what they believe in, they can achieve incredible things.

Actions to take

Why Did Wall Street Crash and Warren Buffett Prosper?

“Introverts’ disinclination to charge ahead is not only a hedge against risk; it also pays off on intellectual tasks.”

When it comes to motivation, there are two external tools that people often use - rewards or threats. However, external tools definitely have their drawbacks. There is the possibility of the reward or threat disappearing, not being motivating enough, or even placing too much pressure on you to complete the task. Despite this, many people still fall into the trap of motivating themselves with potential rewards of threats, and end up failing as a result of it.

Biologically, this phenomenon tends to affect extroverts more than introverts, who tend to be better at delaying gratification. While there are several scientific theories on why this occurs, there is no concrete understanding yet. However, introverts can also begin to use external motivational tools, especially when their internal ones fail.

When you pursue an activity for its own sake and because you want to do the best you can, you are more likely to complete it without getting stressed - this is a fact. This is also how introverts achieve success; they do things because they want to, and they work hard because they want to do a good job.

Actions to take

Asian-Americans and the Extrovert Ideal

“Conviction is conviction, at whatever decibel level it’s expressed.”

Extroversion or introversion can be ingrained from a young age. Some cultures teach introversion from childhood. Asians, for example, tend to be more introverted, whereas Europeans tend to be more extroverted. Whether it’s asking questions in class, discussing ideas at work, etc, European culture thinks of it as productive, whereas Asians tend to feel like it distracts them from actually working. This is often also reinforced by parenting.

Essentially, the West focuses on individualism and expressing yourself, whereas the East prioritizes collectivism and contributing to the group. 

There is no right and wrong. They are both different ways of working, and each comes with their strengths and weaknesses. There is significant merit to the traditional introverted method. Leaders must have soft power, which is built with the persistence that comes with silently trying and trying again. You tend to attract those that share your cause. Pursuing it single mindedly will naturally put you around others who are doing the same. When you are good at what you do, your actions will speak louder than words.

Actions to take

When Should You Act More Extroverted Than You Really Are?

“Our lives are drastically enhanced when we’re involved in core personal projects that we consider meaningful, manageable, and not unduly stressful, and that are supported by others.”

Some introverts do act like extroverts when they feel it is necessary, for example, if it is for the sake of work that they consider important, someone they care about, and so on. Research shows that many times, “pseudo-extroverts” can fully pass as real extroverts too, meaning that most introverts do know how to fake it, and fake it well.

The key to this ability is called “self-monitoring”, which refers to modifying one’s behavior to fit into a specific social situation. Self-monitors are extremely skilled at reading social cues and adapting their responses accordingly. For example, when giving a speech, a self-monitor would watch the audience for subtle signs of boredom or interest and adjust their speech accordingly. 

Keep in mind that stretching your character and self-monitoring for long periods of time can lead to burn-out - it is an exhausting activity, after all! It’s important to remember your core nature and ensure you allocate enough time to decompress too. People who bottle up all their emotions and tension inside of them will eventually explode.

Actions to take

The Communication Gap: How To Talk To Members of The Opposite Type

“Introverts and extroverts are equally likely to be agreeable; there is no correlation between extroversion and agreeableness.”

One of the biggest differences between introverts and extroverts is the way they look at intimacy. Introverts tend to highly value intimacy and prefer to have a few close friends. Extroverts don’t mind having a large group of friends and in fact thrive on it. In relationships, introverts often need more time to themselves - especially if they’ve had a rough day. Extroverts, on the other hand, crave company. This is the most common conflict in introvert/extrovert relationships.

Remember that introverts and extroverts speak, process and understand things differently. Introverts tend to avoid conflict and suppress emotion, while extroverts don’t mind it and easily express their emotions. During arguments, introverts are more likely to appear distant whereas extroverts tend to get more loud and emotional. This often leads to a vicious cycle where the introvert withdraws, the extrovert feels more alone and hurt, and so on. 

However, introverts and extroverts can be a great match if they are understanding of their differences, especially in communication styles. Both parties will definitely have to reach compromises - but when you love the other person, these compromises aren’t usually so bad.

Actions to take

How To Cultivate Quiet Kids In A World That Can’t Hear Them

“There are many paths to a satisfying life.”

The qualities associated with introverts (empathy, self-reflection, etc,) help greatly with parenting too. Not only do they help guide your decisions as a parent, they are also good values to instill in your children from an early age. Of course, extroverted qualities such as charm and the ability to socialize well are also useful, but the most important thing is that you give your child the space to be true to their unique nature.

Nurture does play a large role in determining how an individual’s personality and character develop. The environment your children are in can heavily influence their habits and thought patterns—just like your childhood environment influenced yours. 

As a parent, it’s important to give your children healthy outlets through which they can express themselves and learn social and decision-making skills. It’s also important to foster a good relationship with them, one where they respect you enough to listen to you, but also feel comfortable enough to be honest with you.

Actions to take

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