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).
In the gripping conclusion of the movie The Interpreter, Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman) has a gun at the head of former liberator turned genocidal murderer Zuwanie (Earl Cameron), dictator of the fictional African country Matobo. She forces Zuwanie to read from his own autobiography, which opens on the dedication page with these words:
The gunfire around us makes it hard to hear.
But the human voice is different from other sounds.
It can be heard over noises that bury everything else.
Even when it’s not shouting.
Even if it’s just a whisper.
Even the lowest whisper can be heard over armies…
when it’s telling the truth.
Silvia Bloome longs for Quiet.
I thought of this movie as I selected Susan Cain’s new book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking for the March First Friday Book Synopsis. Susan Cain starts with an obvious acknowledgement – an all-too-obvious contemporary reality:
We live with a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal – the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight.
Or, to put it another way, we seem to value “loud,” not “quiet.”
Maybe we are simply too loud. We need some quiet.
Now, people who know me can attest to the fact that I fall into the “too loud” category. I speak loudly. I like to meet new folks, to engage in conversation with any/many “new folks.” It is not my nature to “hang back,” and be “quiet.”
But, as this book affirms, it is clear that the quiet folks have so very much to offer. And it is in the “inner worlds, the “quiet places,” that some great insights are found.
There is, in Cain’s words, “a bias against quiet.” But, as the book argues, we rob ourselves of so much if we make the introverts pretend that they are extroverts. (And there is great pressure for introverts to, in fact, pretend that they are extroverts).
Among many other strengths, Cain states:
Introverts often work more slowly and deliberately. They like to focus on one task at a time, and can have mighty powers of concentration.
In this bombastic age, with loud noises coming from every direction, there are times that I hunger for the Quiet. I think this book is hitting a hungry nation at just the right time.
“There’s another word for such people (introverts): thinkers.”