The power of the introvert
“We know from myths and fairy tales that there are many different kinds of powers in this world. One child is given a light saber, another a wizard’s education. The trick is not to amass all the different kinds of available power, but to use well the kind you’ve been granted.”- Susan Cain, ‘Quiet’
Imagine you are attending a graduate assessment centre. It’s the final stage before offers are made. You notice someone; they seem to be the centre of attention, they are networking with a lot of the other candidates and they appear friendly and personable. Contrastingly you notice someone on the edge of the room, they are having a one on one conversation with another candidate, are a lot quieter and seem totally engrossed in the conversation they are having. Which person would you think was the better candidate and most likely to get the job alongside you? The loud, exuberant person or the quiet listener?
It’s an Extrovert’s World
Talkative or quiet? Confident or unassuming? Seek the spotlight or shun it? In Western cultures, we live in societies that admire extroverts. Many signals tell us we should aspire to be good with people, confident and comfortable in the spotlight.
But is this the only personality that can succeed in the hectic world we live in? Not according to Susan Cain. In her book, Quiet, multiple historical and modern examples, from Dale Carnegie (author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People”) to Eleanor Roosevelt and Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple), show that you don’t have to be loud and talkative to be successful in the professional world today.
So why does this matter to you? Well according to Quiet, the Introversion-Extroversion Spectrum is one of the fundamental determinants of our personalities. And peoples bias in favour of extroverts might be blinding us to the invaluable benefits of introverts.
Introversion and Extroversion: What’s the Difference?
Extroverts gain energy from stimulation; revelling in multitasking, social situations and thinking on their feet. Introverts actually lose energy from these kinds of stimulation, which is why they often enjoy more reflective environments. They are often quieter than extroverts, because they spend more time analysing their environments. They listen more than they talk, they enjoy concentrating and they think before they speak.
Entering the workplace, its really important to understand and recognise your own preferences. Both introverts and extroverts bring strengths of their own to any role. While you may not dominate in meetings, you need to be sure to demonstrate your well-considered contributions in another way, and help your manager understand your style of working.
A balanced approach
In ‘Quiet’, Susan Cain isn’t trying to argue that introversion is in any way superior to extroversion. She simply stresses that if introverts are often overlooked in today’s world, it is worth considering the working environments (or assessment situations) where they are able to, not only work comfortably, but also to shine.
‘Going against the grain’, so to speak, can be extremely draining and not sustainable in a long term work situation. So if you do prefer to hold back, observe and listen in meetings, or work best in one on one situations, then tailor your working day around this as much as possible. Diverse workforces are what make teams and organisations thrive, so whilst work (or even outside of work) can often seem like an extroverts world, remember the power of the introvert and what you can bring to the table.