Today, we live in a world where people can’t seem to stop talking. From a very young age, we were raised to believe that being energetic and talkative was normal, and being mellow or reserved, abnormal. Our culture dictates that extroversion is the ideal and that introversion is something to be ashamed of.
In her TED Talk entitled The Power of Introverts, lawyer turned author Susan Cain talks about how introversion should be encouraged and celebrated. She mentions how some of the world’s most influential leaders and innovators were introverts who embraced their quiet selves:
“Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Gandhi—all these peopled described themselves as quiet and soft-spoken and even shy. And they all took the spotlight, even though every bone in their bodies was telling them not to. And this turns out to have a special power all its own, because people could feel that these leaders were at the helm, not because they enjoyed directing others and not out of the pleasure of being looked at; they were there because they had no choice, because they were driven to do what they thought was right.”
Depending on which study you believe, a third to half of people in this world are introverts. But sadly, most of them live their entire lives following an extrovert ideal. In an attempt to change the worldview on introverts, Susan gives three calls to action at the end of her talk:
“Firstly, stop the madness for constant group work,” she says. Indeed, many of the worlds best ideas come from individuals who like to think, and are given the space and time to discover things on their own.
This is related to her second call: “Go to the wilderness. Be like Buddha, have your own revelations.” Today, groupthink is fast becoming the popular answer to all the world’s problems. Unfortunately, thinking in a group usually leads to everyone thinking alike—usually like the most outspoken member—and that opportunity for unique and possibly better insight is lost.
Lastly, she says: “take a good look at what’s inside your own suitcase and why you put it there.” Let’s say you’re going for a trip to the beach. What do you bring? A surfboard and Frisbee? Drinks and potato chips? Or perhaps some paperback novels and a diary?
“Whatever it is, I hope you take these things out every chance you get and grace us with your energy and your joy. But introverts, you being you, you probably have the impulse to guard very carefully what’s inside your own suitcase. And that’s okay. But occasionally, just occasionally, I hope you will open up your suitcases for other people to see, because the world needs you and it needs the things you carry.”
Susan Cain, herself an introvert, is the author of QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.