Have you ever found yourself at a party and wished you were at home reading a book? Do you find social situations emotionally and physically exhausting? Do you feel happiest and most centred when alone in your favourite place, or with some of your closest friends and family? If so, you may be an introvert.
Introverts are not necessarily shy, or unconfident. They do not all struggle with low self-esteem or crippling self-consciousness. In fact, many introverts are thought to have a higher level of self-confidence than extraverts due to the time spent alone enjoying their own company and exploring their own capacity for thought and understanding. Extraverts on the other hand, need to surround themselves with other people in order to feel happy and fulfilled. This need for the reassurance and affirmation of others can lead to unease and unhappiness when an extravert finds him or herself alone.
There seems to be a world-wide corporate quest for ‘leaders’: confident, outgoing, assertive people with great communication skills and risk-taking personalities. Our world is run by these people – smooth-talking politicians, super-salesmen company directors and ruthless bank managers. The route to ‘success’ seems to value good talkers over good thinkers, confidence over reserve and pushiness over passiveness. Even schools encourage a ‘loudest voice gets heard’ philosophy, with classrooms set out for group-work and discussion rather than silent contemplation and individual work. In fact, introverted children are often punished for their desire to work independently – how many times are quiet children told to ‘speak up’ and ‘participate more’?
Schools are designed to cultivate extraverts, as are open-plan office spaces and the ‘brain-storm’ mentality of so many companies today.
Susan Cain asks: are we inadvertently suppressing a great undiscovered wealth of wisdom, knowledge and ideas purportedly hidden in the secret world of the introvert?
In the new book that has already taken the world by storm, Cain argues that it’s finally time to make room for introverts in a world built predominantly for extraverts. These ideas could potentially change the face of education, business and success, and ultimately give introverts their turn in the spotlight (the spotlight being, of course, a nice quiet nook in the corner).
It is now time to give introverts the space they need to be alone without having to feel guilty or inferior for their reclusive tendencies. Cain argues that many introverts become ill from trying so hard to be outgoing and confident because they’ve been taught that this is how you succeed. Really, these people are forcing themselves to be something they simply are not, which can only lead to feelings of worthlessness and unhappiness.
The introvert-extravert scale is rich and diverse. No one is ever one or the other. As much as deep-thinking and contemplation should be revered and encouraged in business, so should the enthusiasm and liveliness of the extravert.
To find out more about Susan Cain’s new book and to watch an inspiring video of this exceptional woman speaking at a conference, simply head over to the official website.
For life advice, contact a life coach here.
Click to read the original Guardian book review.