Why, at a big party with all my friends, do I stand in a corner speaking quietly to one person? Why do I prefer deeper, more meaningful conversations? Why do I look forward to weekends when I can simply be quiet, read the Times, and see a movie by myself?
Hi. I’m Adam, and I’m an introvert.
I don’t usually write about books without having a copy in front of me, but Megan is traveling and reading Susan Cain’s, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.” I finished Quiet a few weeks ago and it’s still part of my almost-daily thoughts.
Cain’s argument is essentially this: we in the United States privilege extroverts in profound ways (she calls this the “extrovert ideal”). From open plan offices to super-talky/chatty MBA programs to the stories we tell of charismatic leaders, extroversion dominates our culture. But, introverts make up a significant minority of society and we have much to offer, offerings that would be more easily made if culture gave us a bit more space.
Introverts, Cain reminds us, aren’t anti-social. We aren’t even always shy (though we sometimes are). Rather, we prefer less stimulating environments than extroverts. We think a lot and usually it’s before we speak. Quiet time, alone, usually leads us to relaxation and better ideas. She also points out that, too often in groups, good ideas from introverts never get heard because much of our group processes benefit extroverts.
How Quiet has changed my life
Maybe that’s a strong statement, but after reading Quiet I do feel significantly more permission (or, I’m giving myself more kindness) to live into my introversion and not cover it up by jumping on every social opportunity that comes my way. Sometimes I need a weekend to be alone. Sometimes I need my own room to think. I shudder at the thoughts of an open office plan without a door to shut. I think, according to Cain, I’d be classified as a “socially poised introvert.” And I’m OK with that. To make a theological claim: that’s how God made me. (Sure, culture and genetics helped a lot too.)
Quiet has also affected my teaching practices, nascent though they may be. I’m trying to allow students more time for small group discussions (and not only group, but individual, projects). I don’t want to privilege extroversion in the classroom, especially considering the strong leaders Cain points to who are introverts. (Pastors often are.) I want to draw out the best ideas from my students, not just those that are spoken first.
An Introvert? But what about all your social media engagement?
Recently I’ve been in a Twitter exchange with NDSU English professor Kevin Brooks (@kab13) who alerted me that with my Klout score of +62, I’m one of the most social–or most “powerful,” or “connected” whichever the right word –new media users in Fargo-Moorhead. (I’ve never really been clear about the use of Klout, but it’s about measuring influence across online social networks.) On the surface, this may seem odd for an introvert.
While Cain does point out in her book that Guy Kawasaki, a Twitter phenom, is an introvert, the book did make me wonder about my own social media interest. Subsequent reflections have confirmed that my use of social media has always been to deepen my thoughts.
As an introvert, I tweet, post, or comment not for connections for connections’ sake but because relationships matter, ideas matter, and social media supports both.
This blog is actually the prime example of a way for me to connect, reflect, and be social without draining my limited “people time” quotient. Who knows, maybe all the best bloggers are introverts.
If you’re interested in more of Susan Cain’s ideas check out Quiet and watch the TED Talk below.