Loud society fails to capitalize on introverts: author
Published Thursday, March 15, 2012 9:26AM EDT
In a world where the loudest voices quickly rise to the top, we're missing chances to capitalize on people who prefer quiet contemplation to conversation domination, says an advocate for introverts.
In her new book: "Quiet: The Power of Introverts," Susan Cain argues that society's emphasis on those who command attention can have a negative impact on business and beyond. Failure to promote the most thoughtful among us can lead to missed innovation opportunities and an office culture where only half of a company's employees' needs are being met, she says.
"Many of the great achievements of the 20th century and beyond have come from people who were more introverted and had this need to go off by themselves and think deeply," Cain told CTV's Canada AM on Thursday.
She says the modern paradigm of open office environments and collaborative projects makes work more difficult for people who make up a large segment of society that function best on their own.
Workplaces that allow for more solitude for more introverted employees would allow them to produce better work, she says. The same goes for the classroom, where children learn from an early age that it's "better" to be an extrovert.
While extroverts feed off of social time and interaction, introverts require lots of time alone to recharge themselves and think. They often appear quiet and calm, and can feel drained after long periods in the company of others.
So why do introverts get the short shrift in Western culture, unlike many Eastern cultures where introversion is the norm?
"We're societies based on Greco-Roman ideal where oratory was praised," Cain explained. "We've always praised action over contemplation."
But even in our society, quiet time was much easier to find before big business became the centre of daily life.
"It became important to stand out in job interviews and sales calls," said Cain. "We started to emulate people who were magnetic and dominant and charismatic."
That said, plenty of introverts have found ways to carve out their niche in our loud and chaotic society. Former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore, comedian David Letterman and news interviewer Barbara Walters are among the uber-successful who have acknowledged a tendency toward introversion.
But Cain believes even the most boisterous among us require quiet time sometimes, which could be responsible for the popularity of communication by text message.
"It's a way for us to stay connected without having to be so ‘on' all the time, and not so out there," she said. "That's something everybody is craving."