Why It's Ok to be Introverted, and an Interview with Writer Susan Cain

Why It's Ok to be Introverted, and an Interview with Writer Susan Cain

June 2, 2012 by

I’m someone who could be considered ‘in his head’ a great deal and definitely what one might call an ‘introvert‘. When Susan Cain’s book, ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking’, came along, I dove into it with some enthusiasm, possibly as a means to find some comfort in dealing with and understanding the ‘affliction’.

Susan and her book have made great strides in spreading an understanding and a well-researched insight into this important area of what it is to be human.

As the book shows, introversion is by no means an ‘affliction’ but a true blessing to those that possess the trait, and there is much we can learn about people through understanding it better.

Susan, an introvert herself, spent many years researching for the book, and this shows, as the book is rich in citation, reference and concrete facts. The book’s ‘manifesto’ serves as a neat little overview of some of what’s inside, including these points:

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  • There’s a word for “people who are in their heads too much”: thinkers.
  • Everyone shines, given the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.
  • Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.
  • It’s OK to cross the street to avoid making small talk.
  • “Quiet leadership” is not an oxymoron.

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With Red Lemon Club’s mostly creative readership, and with the seemingly large proportion of people in creative industries likely to be ‘thinkers’ more than loud bubbly types (though don’t quote me on this, and it all depends on one’s environment), these insights might provide some interest, even relief.

Susan was kind enough to respond to a few questions surrounding the book, introversion and creativity.

What was the main purpose or drive for you when you set out to write this book?

This is a kind of civil rights mission for me. Introverts are to extroverts what women were to men in 1950s America–second-class citizens with gigantic amounts of untapped talent.

Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts, and many introverts believe that there is something wrong with them and that they should try to “pass” as extroverts.

You touch briefly on the link between creativity, creative people and introversion in the book. How far do you think this association really goes? Are all true creatives introverts?

Well, when psychologists look at the lives of the most creative people, they almost always find serious streaks of introversion. The people are usually extroverted enough to exchange and advance ideas. But they also crave solitude, and solitude is a crucial ingredient of creativity.

Unfortunately, we’re currently living with a value system that I called the ‘New Groupthink,’ which is the idea that creativity and productivity comes from an oddly gregarious place. The idea is that being social can help creativity — you have an important conversation and this gives you an idea about how to do things differently. This is true to some extent.

The problem is that we take that too far and try to structure things so that everybody is out and circulating all day long. We leave very little place for deep thought, for focus, and a work space where you can’t be interrupted. We don’t allow people to have solitude anymore.

And that’s what we’re missing — because solitude is equally a crucial ingredient of creativity. We need both — the solitude and the chance encounters.

What do you think this book can do for people who work in ‘creative’ professions?

The book is a gigantic permission slip to finally be yourself in a culture that has always told us that we need to be extroverted in order to be happy, successful — and creative.

How have you changed at a personal and professional level in writing the book?

The little voice in my head that said there was something wrong with being an introvert? That voice is pretty much gone now.

Any words of encouragement for the more introspective amongst us?

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Gandhi

More information about the book is here.

Your comments on the book and ideas in the post are welcome!

 

About the Author: Alex Mathers

Alex is a project starter, sometimes finisher, writer and illustrator. He started Red Lemon Club in 2009 with the aim of helping talented creative people leave their mark.

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"Your blog inspires me so much, and helps me feel somehow not as insignificant, despite the plethora of artists around the world."Natalie, artist

  • http://whoopidooings.blogspot.co.uk Carmen

    Oh I definitely need to get a hold of this book :)

  • Alex Mathers

    Enjoy the read, Carmen!

  • http://sarahpalisi.com Sarah Palisi

    This is going straight on m goodreads list so I don’t forget about it again.

    Not having time or feeling like not having time for deep thoughts and craving solitude, that speaks to me a lot right now.

  • Alex Mathers

    Have some ‘you time’ Sarah!

  • Pingback: The Turndog Tales: 03/06/2012 – 08/06/2012 | Strategic Marketing for Writers & Businesses |

  • Theresa

    Hi Alex. I am putting this on my reading list. Thanks for sharing.

  • Alex Mathers

    enjoy the read, Theresa!

  • http://tothedepthsillustration.blogspot.co.uk Rosie

    Loved this post and really enjoyed reading it, I feel really guilty sometimes because I feel like I don’t circulate enough on social networking and things like that, and when I think of presenting my illustration work to clients I just know Ill be too nervous to present my ideas properly!

    But as time has gone on I have realised; ‘Im not just one of these people who socialises lots’ and if thats the way I work then thats that..

  • Alex Mathers

    Thanks for the comment Rosie! Many of us can relate…

  • http://adamgarlinger.com Adam Garlinger

    Any advice to turn it on/off for musts like “live” networking groups?

  • http://www.pureinkcreative.com Sarah Evans

    What a lovely quote: “Everyone shines, given the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.”
    As an introvert I’m definitely the latter! It’s great to hear that it’s OK to just want to work alone now and then and come up with ideas and creative thoughts. I feel that the business world has been taken over by social ‘noise’ and although it’s important to interact and make contacts, it’s also vital just to be quiet now and then. I always strive to be myself and this is often harder as an introvert, especially when faced with ‘big personalities’ at networking events, meetings or conferences.
    It’s reassuring to hear that being yourself, even you’re quieter than others, is OK :-)

  • http://Www.shireendew.com Shireen Dew

    I bought this book on recommendation and it’s sitting on my bookshelf for ‘when I’ve got time to read it’. On reading your piece, I have moved it along the conveyor belt and it has jumped the queue to second place!

    The world is full of quiet talent clammoring to be noticed and this book is an eye and ear opener to the less obvious players on the stage. What is also clear from Susan Cain’s study is that neither introversion nor its counterpart are quite so clear-cut. The impression I have is that the book dispels any ideas we may have of stereotypes.

    Really looking forward to reading my copy now and understanding the different kinds of light that make people shine. Thanks for your review!

  • Alex Mathers

    Thank you Shireen for an equally inspiring comment – good to hear the post bumped up the book’s priority. It certainly is one to make you think about it differently.

    Thanks!

  • Carol-Anne

    Thank you for sharing this Alex. I will definitely put this on my list to read. I can relate to so much of what Susan has said in response to your questions. I definitely agree with being social is important to some extent and also a certain amount of solitude. I do think one learns a lot more by listening than talking too.

    Carol-Anne

  • Alex Mathers

    Pleasure, Carol-Anne! You’re totally right about the listening being important too! Alex

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chelotic Cheryl

    I am glad this article is on your blog to reach out to the introverted creative. Had to post this on Twitter to shed light on the topic and break out of that stereotype for those who are still in that mentality. Thanks for sharing and will definitely add this to the top of my book list!

  • Eric Leuliet

    She talked at a TED session. It was clever and funny.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html

  • michelle

    People seem to think anti-social is introvert and call it a personality disorder. As a teenager,my mother would get angry because i wouldnt socialise like herself. It is a problem in my life as i am very nervous of people,this affects job interviews, things like that,n u get despondant. I find people exhausting,and that maintaining this front of normality to please others in my life takes me away from what i want to do to feel any sense of achievement. People just dont understand, introverts like myself can be great workers and perfectionists, we just may not see the sense in having to sit and listen to people say the same things over n over again, just maintain a sense of ‘team’ that is so in the fashion of this time.

  • http://twitter.com/wolfpacklovin Jody Kristina

    I want this book! I always feel so guilty about needing alone time and honestly, a lot of times I’d rather not talk. I am a waitress so I have to be bubbly and that’s fine, but I’m getting paid so that’s where the drive comes in(haha.) It’s nice to know there are others out there who see that personality type as a positive, because introverts are usually seen as anti-social. Which sucks because I am really social, but only when I want to be. :)