What do John Boy Walton and the Seth Rogan character on Freaks and Geeks have in common?
What about Eleanor Roosevelt and Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice)?
Johnny Carson, Meryl Streep, and Steve Martin?
All are either considered and/or self described introverts.
I did an informal Facebook poll this past week to see whether people consider me to be an introvert or an extrovert. It included an interesting cross section of people from the many stages of life and places that I have lived.
The results were mixed.
I was not surprised. I have moved around a lot, and have been a part of many different groups, and interact accordingly. I like how my friend Carol described it--I am a very outgoing introvert. Most people tend to think in very simple terms, such as introverts are quiet and shy, and extroverts are talkative and confident in group settings. However, those ideas are stereotypical, and not necessarily reality based. It basically boils down to how a person recharges their batteries, so to speak. When a person is most tired or stressed out, do they regroup best by being alone, or by being around other people? Using that definition, I would most definitely be an introvert. A confident, social, love to speak in front of an audience, introvert. It comes from a position of power, not of weakness or lack of self-confidence.
The general consensus is that if a person is quiet, or not very talkative in a group setting, then they are not the ones in control, or don't have the best ideas. However, Susan Cain, in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking goes to great lengths to discuss introversion as a cultural, psychological, sociological, and personal phenomenon. I love looking at things that way. She shows how it is the particular insights of people who are quiet enough to study and articulate problems and circumstances that have the power to change things and make big things happen. Unfortunately, our culture is designed to encourage and reward extroverts and their contributions, which may not necessarily be the most well thought out or beneficial for society. The ramifications for this are also explored in detail.
One of the most interesting threads for me was the discussion of how churches are set up and geared almost exclusively toward extroverts. One example--the 'meet and greet' time that is part of the worship service of churches all over. I HATE this. Absolutely hate it. And it has nothing to do with being an introvert. I just know that it makes all kinds of people uncomfortable, and gives them yet another reason to check out of church. I mean, seriously, how does that make people feel comfortable and welcome? If people want to talk to or 'visit with their neighbor', then they will make a point of doing on their own, not because someone in the front instructed everybody to do it at the specified time.
Quiet was an interesting book, and one that I think is of particular importance for people in organizational leadership. Diverse voices may be quiet, but those voices are important nonetheless.
You can read from the first few pages of Quiet here.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah for review purposes. No other compensation was received.