Quiet presents exciting discoveries on the dichotomy between introverts and extroverts. Many psychologists have been arguing over these two antagonistic concepts since Carl Jung stated the central building blocks of personality in Psychological Types
Susan Cain tells us that one out of every two or three people you know are introverts, and that some of our greatest ideas, art, and inventions came from quiet and cerebral people who knew how to tune in to their inner worlds and the treasures to be found there.
Our personalities also shape our social styles
The author warns us not to fall into the trap of defining an introvert as a hermit, and describes how our personalities shape our social styles.
Extroverts are the people who will add life to your dinner party and laugh generously at your jokes. They tend to be assertive, dominant, and in great need of company. Extroverts think out loud and on their feet; they prefer talking to listening, rarely find themselves at a loss for words; and occasionally blurt out things they never meant to say.
Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish there were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than talk, think before speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.
The extrovert ideal
The author of Quiet explains that the extrovert ideal is not a modern invention.
America had shifted from what the influential cultural historian Warren Susman called a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality—and opened up a Pandora’s Box of personal anxieties from which we would never quite recover.
In the Culture of Character, the ideal self was serious, disciplined, and honorable. What counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved in private.
But when they embraced the Culture of Personality, Americans started to focus on how others perceived them. They became captivated by people who were bold and entertaining.
The Myth of Charismatic Leadership
Susan Cain visited Harvard Business School, a place once called the ‘Spiritual Capital of Extroversion,’ to search for an introvert with interesting outcomes.
Even at Harvard Business School there are signs that something might be wrong with a leadership style that values quick and assertive answers over quiet, slow decision-making.
In one study, groups of college students were asked to solve math problems together and then to rate one another’s intelligence and judgment. The students who spoke first and most often were consistently given the highest ratings, even though their suggestions were not better than those of the less talkative students.
What do introverted leaders do differently from—and sometimes better than—extroverts?
Introverted leaders create a virtuous circle of proactivity. Extroverts, on the other hand, can be so intent on putting their own stamp on events that they risk losing others’ good ideas along the way and allowing workers to lapse into passivity.
Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read. The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice.
When collaboration kills creativity
Quiet tells how from 1956 to 1962, the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research at the University of California conducted a series of studies on the nature of creativity.
One of the most interesting findings, echoed by later studies, was that the more creative people tended to be socially poised introverts. They were interpersonally skilled but ‘not of an especially sociable or participative temperament.’ They describe themselves as independent and individualistic. As teens many had been shy and solitary.
These findings don’t mean that introverts are always more creative than extroverts, but they do suggest that in a group of people who have been extremely creative throughout their lifetimes, you’re likely to find a lot of introverts.
But there’s a less obvious yet surprisingly powerful explanation for introverts’ creative advantage—an explanation that everyone can learn from: introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation.
In other words, if you’re in the backyard sitting under a tree while everyone else is clinking glasses on the patio, you’re more likely to have an apple fall on your head. (Newton was one of the world’s great introverts.)