The power of introverts is a phrase I never expected to hear much. Power is more frequently discussed in connection with extroverts.
Recently I watched a Ted Talk by Susan Cain and I was struck by how she expressed thoughts and feelings that I have also experienced, but have felt unable to share, at least not in a public way.
QUIET – THE POWER OF INTROVERTS
I bought her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts and read it in one sitting. I realized that for a great part of my life I have been forcing myself to go out on a stage and act.
This may sound overly dramatic, but anyone who is naturally shy, or introverted will tell you that it takes determination to get out there and do readings, or give talks, or join groups of people for a networking, or even a social occasion.
You see I am an introvert who, like nearly everyone alive today was born into the culture of personality.
WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT IT?
The culture of personality perpetuates the notion, (and the book of course) that we have to Win Friends and Influence People.
Speaking of which, I was once told by a man in a meeting that I should read that book and learn from it as it might help with my quietness.
I wanted to ask what was so great about all the noise and babble, but didn’t.
I also wanted to tell him I had already read that book and strangely it hadn’t turned me into an extrovert. But, again, I didn’t. I just nodded. He wouldn’t have understood – we were from two different planets.
On planet introvert I can enjoy long periods of silence where I read, write, think, or just let my mind wander.
If I am with friends I don’t need to talk all the time and I don’t need them to talk all the time either. In fact, if they do, I feel like I want to get away – too much noise!
Of course, I not totally introvert – I don’t think there is any such thing. I also have enough of an extrovert in me to have lots of fun with other people too.
Still, much as I love my friends I could not spend extended periods of time in company. I need to recharge my batteries by being alone. I am only myself when I am quiet and still.
At least one-third to half of the population are introverts. Yet, As Susan Cain says ‘group-think’ is considered vital to progress – even in schools. Very few organizations value, or harness the power of introverts.
In the average workplace, the emphasis is on people coming together to develop and share their ideas, often in a noisy open-plan type office. There are very few workplaces that provide a quiet environment in which to be still and think.
THE BEST IDEAS AREN’T NOISY
Groups follow the ideas of the most dominant people in the room. Yet there is no correlation between dominance and the quality of ideas.
Personally, I have seen this mostly when working in television, where groupthink dominates, and the loudest voice is the one heard, regardless of what they are saying.
It was while working in television that I became painfully aware that my pausing to think was being perceived as me ‘not working.’
Someone with their mouth continually open and spouting thoughtless waffle was ‘working.’ Television is where extroverts, and those who are good at pretending to be extroverts – rule. I like thinking – it works for me.
Of course, extroverts are great people and we need them, but balance is everything. We need the quiet, thoughtful power of introverts as well.
I have worked in environments where I can honestly say my best work was done on a tiny pocket notepad during a toilet break – that being the only place where I could literally ‘hear myself think.’ I couldn’t have asked for time alone – it would have gone against the group-think culture.
SO HOW ARE YOU SELLING YOURSELF?
This culture has bled into the arts. A place where you might expect the power of introverts to be recognized and understood – even applauded.
The idea of a writer living quietly in their imagination is constantly challenged – artists are now expected to package and sell themselves for public consumption.
SOLITUDE = CREATIVITY
Yet, according to psychologists, long periods of solitude are crucial to creativity. Many of us writers are introverts.
We like to keep part of ourselves to ourselves and we need the freedom to just be who we are, without the pressure to entertain.
Thinking about the pressure to entertain reminds me of the agent who told me to ‘lose the shyness.’ I resisted the temptation to tell him to lose the baldness.
Unfortunately there are many agents like this. Some say that quietness doesn’t sell books and will not take on an introverted writer. Why? Because introversion doesn’t sell.
SO WHAT ABOUT THE INTROVERT AS A WRITER?
So where does it leave the introverted writer? We continue to write – a real writer cannot stop.
But if we are unable to adopt the persona of the salesman or woman, or if we are unable to shout that zinger of a sales-pitch loud enough, then our stories could remain untold.
So, will the power of introverts ever be accepted? I think so – we are entering a period of great change.
The Internet is driving this change. We now have an un-gated platform on which we can all for communicate – as quietly as we like.
We don’t have to be loud and gregarious. We don’t have to package up our lives, bind it with some false personality and shout ‘here I am!’ from a market stall crowded with lots of other people screaming for attention.
Now, we can create our own blog or website, write our own stories, our own books, our own articles and poems and quietly put it out there.
We don’t have to be an extrovert, nor do we have to pretend to be an extrovert. Now, if we want to, we can just be as we are.
‘You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.’
Best of luck with your writing.
Everyone has problems from time to time – writers too. So if you have problems writing you will find help here.
Are you hooked on the net? Some people spend so much time on the internet they are afraid they might be addicted. This is something that commonly affects people who work at home – like writers. If you have this problem then learn more about how to disconnect here.
Sometimes we can spend so long working hard on a book, or story that we can start to feel drained and we can lose that drive that we had at the start. If you feel this is you and that you are tired of your own story then click here for help.
Some writers say there is no such thing as writer’s block and the subject is hotly debated on many a writer’s blog. Whatever your opinion there can be times in a writer’s life when we simply lose the drive to write. This could be a confidence problem or something else. If this is a worry for you – make sure you read this.
P.S. Before I finish, I want to be transparent and say that I am an affiliate for Susan Cain’s book. I have read other books about introverts, however to be honest, some of those books simply tell us to pretend to be extroverted.
Susan’s book is much different. It is written by a genuine introvert and it is all about acceptance. I regard this book very highly and I would not be an affiliate for a book unless I can honestly give it my genuine recommendation.