Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Quiet can be Loud

Are you an introvert or extrovert? Author Susan Cain explores how introverts can be powerful in a world where being an extrovert is highly valued.

From Left to Write on January 19 as we discuss Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain. We'll also be chatting live with Susan Cain at 9PM Eastern on January 26. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

Are you an extrovert or introvert or a balance of the two, an ambivert?

Growing up, I would say I was an extrovert. I loved socializing, so much so, almost every school report card I had said, "Talks too much," and most people I'm friendly with today might even say the same thing. Yes, I can be quite chatty. I loved singing in choirs, playing in band, summer school drama classes, and definitely did not shy from attention.

Fast forward to my twenties. Something changed in me. I don't like being the center of attention, I prefer one on one or small groups, and I actually enjoy time alone now.

I'd even venture to say I'm more of an ambivert or possibly an introvert.  So, I wasn't overly surprised when I took Susan Cain's Introvert Quiz and did indeed score as an Introvert. Whatever the reasons may be, I definitely no longer feel those extrovert qualities singing out.

There are lots of ways I've seen this shift factor into my life in the fifteen years since the shift began.  I won't bore you with a long list, promise.  Let's just stick to one way here:  the creative growth in independent thought.

Susan Cain discusses the New Groupthink in her book in terms of how we as a society have jumped into that pool of thought that working in groups is better, more productive, more creative.  Schools and companies have all jumped on this bandwagon.

I remember when group assignments in college went from on occasion to the norm during the 1990s.  And I was never a fan.  When working in groups, there was always a pack mentality and independent thought was watered down.

Cain shares Steve Wozniak's creative tech innovation and how it did not come to fruition in committee as an example of what an introverted thought process can bring to the table...after working independently.

For me, in these years since becoming more introverted, I've experienced a kind of creative rebirth.  I absolutely love the creative energy that is shared in all directions being with creative friends.  That energy is almost palpable and definitely inspiring.  But, it is when I am on my own that I take that inspiration and try new things, take creative risks.  It's where I feel free to explore a new medium, a new process, a new idea.  When I have pulled it together, then I share.

Whether my old extroverted self will continue to haunt me in the shadows, pop out for some play on occasion or I develop my newer introverted nature or even learn to enjoy the best of both worlds, Susan Cain's Quiet has given me a lot of food for thought.

What about you?  Are you an introvert?  An extrovert?  An ambivert?  And whether you are a writer, a scientist, a rockin' awesome mama, an attorney, an artist, does it have an effect on your independent creative thought?


  1. I'm an introvert and found the GroupThink concept fascinating. At my former job, our boss hired someone to come in for a day to teach us to work in teams and present to sell. I couldn't have been less comfortable and I'm generally a creative person. It stifled me to work that way. I love hearing that I'm not alone!

  2. I was never a fan of the pack mentality either. I hated group projects because there was always too much talk and not enough action.

  3. I had the same report cards growing up! But, I agree, as I start to age and am married to an introvert, I've developed some introvert tendencies.

    For now, I'm still an extrovert, but in ten years, I may not be anymore.

  4. I had the same report cards growing up! But, age is definitely changing me to be more an introvert. Being married to one is also a factor.

    For now I'm an extrovert, but in ten years that could be different!

  5. I get to hear almost daily about how my oldest doesn't like the prominence of the new group think. Often, they work in groups and the most popular girl dominates--even when it means the group is going to fail in that assignment by following her lead.

  6. I have always been an introvert unless I am on "stage". Meaning, I'd rather perform for an audience of 3,000 than talk to a group of three. (Possible intimacy issue ;)). There is a lot of preparation and quiet time that goes into preparing to perform. I can see how quiet time is beneficial and maybe necessary before entering into a group project situation.

  7. Love this, Karen! I am *such* an introvert! Oh my, no question about it!

  8. Great post. I am an introvert through and through. Always have been and always will be I guess. I took the quiz and ALL my responses were true. I personally FUNCTION better as an individual without a group around, so my creative energy definitely feeds off my individual thoughts.

    This book sounds so interesting to me! Thanks for writing about it. I may have to check it out.

  9. Turns out I'm an extrovert, no surprise here! LOL! but the funny thing is, I do realize that when I socialize in big groups I do not get the "quality" visit I sometimes need. Even if I have seen a friend recently, sometimes we didn't really get to talk because there were too many people around. I really love hanging with my friends one on one or in small groups of max 3 people so I can really catch up. And working...I prefer to work alone, independently and self directed. That is how I am happiest.

  10. Is an 'ambivert' the technical term for this Jekyll and Hyde persona of horribly shy but gregarious?! Thanks for sharing the word. :)

  11. My first year of law school was tough because everyone had these study groups and I just wanted to do the work myself. I just felt like it wasn't the best use of my time. I think better when I'm by myself. But of course you had to do it because otherwise you're some freak that no one wants to know. How many really great breakthroughs come through group work, not many!

  12. Just the mention of "group project" sends me into a state of chills...ugh! I so hear your statements on that one! I do so love my peeps and talking, creating, evolving with them but give me a room full of people I don't know and I prefer to observe not entertain ;) I *heart* QUIET...good share, friend


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