Quiet: The Power of Introverts

Susan Cain


  • A well-known study out of UC Berkeley by organizational behavior professor Philip Tetlock found that television pundits—that is, people who earn their livings by holding forth confidently on the basis of limited information—make worse predictions about political and economic trends than they would by random chance.
  • We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.
  • Schwartz’s research suggests something important: we can stretch our personalities, but only up to a point.
  • sensitive types think in an unusually complex fashion. It may also help explain why they’re so bored by small talk. “If you’re thinking in more complicated ways,” she told me, “then talking about the weather or where you went for the holidays is not quite as interesting as talking about values or morality.”
  • In other words, you want to make sure that your spouse cares what other people think. It’s better to mind too much than to mind too little.
  • In most settings, people use small talk as a way of relaxing into a new relationship, and only once they’re comfortable do they connect more seriously. Sensitive people seem to do the reverse. They “enjoy small talk only after they’ve gone deep,” says Strickland. “When sensitive people are in environments that nurture their authenticity, they laugh and chitchat just as much as anyone else.”
  • extroverted clients are more likely to be highly reward-sensitive, while the introverts are more likely to pay attention to warning signals.
  • Extroverts tend to experience more pleasure and excitement than introverts do—emotions
  • Extroverts’ dopamine pathways appear to be more active than those of introverts.
  • “It’s not that I’m so smart,” said Einstein, who was a consummate introvert. “It’s that I stay with problems longer.”
  • anticipating rewards—any rewards, whether or not related to the subject at hand—excites our dopamine-driven reward networks and makes us act more rashly.
  • “The Americans emphasize sociability and prize those attributes that make for easy, cheerful association. The Chinese emphasize deeper attributes, focusing on moral virtues and achievement.”
  • (Taking shelter in bathrooms is a surprisingly common phenomenon, as you probably know if you’re an introvert.
  • In other words, introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love, or anything they value highly.
  • Free Trait Theory explains why an introvert might throw his extroverted wife a surprise party or join the PTA at his daughter’s school. It explains how it’s possible for an extroverted scientist to behave with reserve in her laboratory, for an agreeable person to act hard-nosed during a business negotiation, and for a cantankerous uncle to treat his niece tenderly when he takes her out for ice cream.
  • there are three key steps to identifying your own core personal projects.
  • First, think back to what you loved to do when you were a child.
  • Second, pay attention to the work you gravitate to.
  • But the goals of those committees lit me up, so that’s what I did. Finally, pay attention to what you envy. Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth. You mostly envy those who have what you desire.
  • Introverts should ask themselves: Will this job allow me to spend time on in-character activities like, for example, reading, strategizing, writing, and researching? Will I have a private workspace or be subject to the constant demands of an open office plan? If the job doesn’t give me enough restorative niches, will I have enough free time on evenings and weekends to grant them to myself?
  • A Free Trait Agreement acknowledges that we’ll each act out of character some of the time—in exchange for being ourselves the rest of the time.
  • Probably the most common—and damaging—misunderstanding about personality type is that introverts are antisocial and extroverts are pro-social. But as we’ve seen, neither formulation is correct; introverts and extroverts are differently social.
  • Your degree of extroversion seems to influence how many friends you have, in other words, but not how good a friend you are.
  • This was a painfully common dynamic in the introvert-extrovert couples I interviewed: the introverts desperately craving downtime and understanding from their partners, the extroverts longing for company, and resentful that others seemed to benefit from their partners’ “best” selves.
  • In couples where the man is introverted and the woman extroverted, as with Sarah and Bob, we often mistake personality conflicts for gender difference, then trot out the conventional wisdom that “Mars” needs to retreat to his cave while “Venus” prefers to interact. But whatever the reason for these differences in social needs—whether gender or temperament—what’s important is that it’s possible to work through them.
  • When she and Greg disagree, her voice gets quiet and flat, her manner slightly distant. What she’s trying to do is minimize aggression—Emily is uncomfortable with anger—but she appears to be receding emotionally. Meanwhile, Greg does just the opposite, raising his voice and sounding belligerent as he gets ever more engaged in working out their problem. The more Emily seems to withdraw, the more alone, then hurt, then enraged Greg becomes; the angrier he gets, the more hurt and distaste Emily feels, and the deeper she retreats. Pretty soon they’re locked in a destructive cycle from which they can’t escape, partly because both spouses believe they’re arguing in an appropriate manner.
  • introverts like people they meet in friendly contexts; extroverts prefer those they compete with.
  • Scores of studies have shown that venting doesn’t soothe anger; it fuels it.
  • We’re best off when we don’t allow ourselves to go to our angry place.
  • Introverts may be hesitant to cause disharmony, but, like the passive snake, they should be equally worried about encouraging vitriol from their partners. And fighting back may not invite retaliation, as Emily fears; instead it may encourage Greg to back off. She need not put on a huge display. Often, a firm “that’s not OK with me” will do.
  • In other words, extroverts are sociable because their brains are good at handling competing demands on their attention—which is just what dinner-party conversation involves. In contrast, introverts often feel repelled by social events that force them to attend to many people at once.

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