I have really enjoyed reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. (I am presenting my synopsis of this book at our First Friday Book Synopsis this Friday). It is a terrific book, reminding us that nearly half of the people around us are introverts — many of them “faking” a little extroversion, because such extroversion is so expected and demanded in an extroversion heavy world.
Ms. Cain argues persuasively that we need to let introverts be a little more like introverts in the workplace. I was especially struck by her description of the rise of Dale Carnegie (the person, and then his still-prominent “industry,” found in the the Dale Carnegie books and courses. Take a look:
Dale observes that the students who win campus speaking contests are seen as leaders, and he resolves to be one of them. He signs up for every contest and rushes home at night to practice.
The new economy calls for a new kind of man—a salesman, a social operator, someone with a ready smile, a masterful handshake, and the ability to get along with colleagues while simultaneously outshining them. Dale joins the swelling ranks of salesmen, heading out on the road with few possessions but his silver tongue. Dale’s last name is Carnegie (Carnagey, actually; he changes the spelling later, likely to evoke Andrew, the great industrialist).
…the class is an overnight sensation, and Carnegie goes on to found the Dale Carnegie Institute.
“In the days when pianos and bathrooms were luxuries,” Carnegie writes, “men regarded ability in speaking as a peculiar gift, needed only by the lawyer, clergyman, or statesman. Today we have come to realize that it is the indispensable weapon of those who would forge ahead in the keen competition of business.”
Carnegie’s metamorphosis from farmboy to salesman to public-speaking icon is also the story of the rise of the Extrovert Ideal.
It’s this line that is so telling:
The new economy calls for a new kind of man—a salesman, a social operator, someone with a ready smile, a masterful handshake, and the ability to get along with colleagues while simultaneously outshining them.
Dale Carnegie rose to the opportunity and circumstances of his new era. He became more extroverted personally, and in the process helped many others, for decades to come, also become more extroverted. But in so doing, he set in motion a set of expectations that, to this day, leave us just a little “out-of-balance.” And, partly with Susan Cain’s help, we are learning that there is a great need for the Quiet, the reflective, the solitary worker, to work in his/her “natural zone” to get some serious work done. Even for the extroverts among us (yes, I fall pretty far toward the extroversion end of the spectrum), we need some “quiet disciplines.” We need the introverts to help us get our work done, in business and in life.
If you are an introvert, and/or if you work with some introverts, or are married to one, read this book. It will help you understand, and work better with, those who fit at that introversion end of the spectrum.
If you are in the DFW area, come join us for this is synopsis. (Click here to register).