The Power of Introverts

October 24, 2012 Katharina Lochner

Susan Cain on Why We Need More Introverts

Is public speaking something you rather leave to others? Do you prefer to work by yourself in many situations to working in a team? Would you often rather be at home and read a book instead of going to this party you are invited to where you have to do all this superficial small talk? And are you feeling bad about it because a successful person today has to be a good public speaker who can work perfectly in teams and who is out there and enjoys making new contacts? And then you try to do what the world apparently expects from you? Maybe you are an introvert that is trying to pass more as an extravert. Writer and former lawyer Susan Cain will tell you that negating your introversion is a big loss to the world because when it comes to creativity and leadership, introverts are what the world needs. In a TED Talk, she explains why.

Susan Cain points out that introversion is different from shyness. It is how you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. Introverts feel alive when they are in a quieter environment, compared to extraverts that prefer more lively surroundings. She says that to perform optimally, we have to put ourselves into the zone of stimulation that is optimal for us, which is a quiet one for introverts. But the problem is that today‘s world is biased in favour of the extraverts. At school, children work in groups. Those who prefer to go alone are seen as outliers or – even worse – as problem cases. Teachers mostly say that extraverts are better students although the introverts often get the better grades or are more knowledgeable. At work, open space offices become increasingly popular. In companies, introverts are often not promoted to leadership positions although they receive better results when leading a proactive team because they are more attentive to the team members’ contributions than extraverts. Extraverts, on the other hand, are maybe better at leading teams that need a lot of guidance. But this difference is usually not accounted for in most companies. She points out that there is zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.

In order to enable introverts to use their full potential, Susan Cain comes up with three very concrete suggestions:

  • Stop the demand for constant group work. Atmospheres in which people can exchange ideas are very beneficial, but we need more freedom, privacy and intimacy. Deep thought comes usually in loneliness.
  • Go to the wilderness. Unplug and get inside our heads more often.
  • Take a look at what’s inside your own suitcases and think why it is there.

Susan Cain is an introvert herself, but she apparently taught herself excellent public speaking skills!

About the Author

Katharina Lochner

Dr Katharina Lochner is the former research director for the cut-e Group which was acquired by Aon in 2017. Katharina is now a researcher and lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences Europe in Iserlohn, Germany. In her role at cut-e, she applied the research in organizational and work psychology to real-world assessment practice. She has a strong expertise in the construction and evaluation of online psychometric tools.

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