#WomanCrushEveryday - Susan Cain
A former Wall Street lawyer and graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, now a successful writer, who allowed quiet personality types everywhere to be seen in a new light.
After spending several years writing and researching, Susan’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, was published, becoming an instant best-seller. Translated into over thirty languages, Susan puts forward a persuasive and well-reasoned argument that wider society, in its bias towards extraversion, ought to do with listening more carefully to the voices of introverts. Her 2012 TED talk on the power of introversion was an instant hit and has garnered over 16 million views.
Susan Cain had always been an introvert. While at school, she often wondered why outgoing party-people were favoured over those who preferred more low-key environments, such as spending time alone, or socialising with just a couple of friends. It wasn't that Susan didn’t enjoy the company of others, she just didn’t understand why we had to be so loud.
It started at a summer camp where a nine-year-old Susan was encouraged to get in to spirit by being as loud as possible, as opposed to reading books and being "mellow". Perhaps the camp leaders believed that being loud was the way to have fun. But that’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with being quiet. This was one of first experiences in which Susan came to realise that there is a social pressure to be extraverted.
You see, the difference between introversion and extraversion all comes down to brain stimulation. Generally speaking, introverts feel most "alive" and "switched-on" when in quieter settings, such as when having deep and intimate conversations with just a small circle of friends. On the hand, extraverts require a much larger amount of stimuli, and are more likely to feel like their true self when amongst a large crowd.
Susan's book was the reason why introverts everywhere could breathe a collective sigh of relief. "There's nothing wrong with us after all!", is what we exclaimed. She made us see that a quiet temperament does not have to equal less value or creativity. In fact, Eleanor Roosevelt, Steve Wozniak and JK Rowling are just some of the many introverts who demonstrate that a quiet personality can be every bit as powerful as extraversion.
On a personal level, I remember countless school reports in which I was labelled, time and time again, as being "quiet". Why was I expected to be loud and talkative when I felt just fine listening and observing? Being quiet didn’t mean that I was any less engaged with class discussion. I was happy to share my views, but only when I had something important to say. It wasn’t that I didn’t like speaking up, I simply preferred to share my ideas with those around me, rather than addressing the whole class.
The book argues that wider society’s preference towards extraversion means that we are all missing out on the qualities and talents brought by introverts. Perhaps if we had paid more attention to introverts working on Wall Street during the 2008 financial crash, there would have been more skilled planning and consideration, to balance out some of the risk-taking and reward-seeking behaviours that contributed to the crash. This isn’t to say that introverts are any more intelligent that extraverts. Rather, introverts simply have a different way of going about things. Ultimately the argument that Susan puts forward is that those of us who are quiet have just as much to say as those who are loud.
Here is a fantastic Ted Talk by Susan about the power of introverts.