Quiet by Susan Cain

quiet-final-jacketAs a whole I found this book enlightening and well deserving of my “Must Reads” list.  For some it will provide insight into a community of like minded people. For others it will provide a fresh perspective on those they live with and work with. In addition to interesting stories and statistics on introverted and extroverted personality types, Susan offers ways she believes they may best interact, be it a parent/child relationship or between coworkers or spouses.

Some of the more interesting stories are of the author’s first hand experiences, as an introvert herself, where you follow how she deals with the extroverted world around her. She recounts stories of how she pushed herself to her boundaries by attending situations outside her comfort zone and paints a vivid picture of the emotions and thoughts that went through her mind while living them.

As a closet introvert myself, the stories bring a sort of comfort in knowing others have the same feeling and battles as I do, and, as a special bonus, they are told within a structure I can learn from. It is nice to know all those seemingly unrelated thoughts and emotions I’ve had can actually all be related to a more explicitly defined state of mind.

Those who know me well have been a part of many of my post (or pre) interaction stress, warm up time and exhaustion, and those who are shocked to hear it gives me a sense of pride that I have come so far. One event that is probably the most publicly noted, is the story of how I met Jackie (which she loves to tell) and goes, “I noticed Sean reading a book in the middle of a keg filled pool party when I wanted to walk over and say hi to him.” While writing this blog I found a Ted Talk of Susan Cain speaking of her book (below.) I couldn’t help but laugh a bit when she opened with a story explaining all the same feelings I had leading up to that moment.

Does it put me completely at ease that there is now a definition and even a positive perspective on these emotions?  Not quite. I have worked quite hard, like the Author, to constantly challenge myself to go against these anxieties and practice being a better extrovert. As such, there are stories I no longer relate to as much. Now, for example, when I need to give a presentation I write a script, rehearse it, and turn anxiety into a sort of adrenaline rush; like going skydiving. Though, afterwards, I still spend hours analyzing how badly I did and need a serious nap.

But have I beat it? Is it even something that I should consider needing to be beat? Have I changed or grown or just adapted slightly? On one hand, I don’t think I could have done all things I’ve done if I stayed in my introverted mindset. I mean, how can I fully embrace my introverted tendencies in a world where the writer of a pro-introversion book has to get on Ted Talk in front of thousands of people to get the word out?

I think the overarching lesson may be that it is okay to adapt, but it is even more important to know how to manage your emotions and energy and not ignore them so you can find time to decompress and process your day without guilt. I think I can find a bit of closure on that.

Books I found relating topic in:

Some highilights, and notes, from my Kindle:

Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, said Jung, extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough.

Many introverts are also “highly sensitive,” which sounds poetic, but is actually a technical term in psychology. If you are a sensitive sort, then you’re more apt than the average person to feel pleasantly overwhelmed by Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” or a well-turned phrase or an act of extraordinary kindness. You may be quicker than others to feel sickened by violence and ugliness, and you likely have a very strong conscience. When you were a child you were probably called “shy,” and to this day feel nervous when you’re being evaluated, for example when giving a speech or on a first date.

we know that 70 percent of sensitives are introverts, and the other 30 percent tend to report needing a lot of “down time.”)

Americans found themselves working no longer with neighbors but with strangers. “Citizens” morphed into “employees,” facing the question of how to make a good impression on people to whom they had no civic or family ties.

In the increasingly anonymous business and social relationships of the age, one might suspect that anything—including a first impression—had made the crucial difference.”

One of the most interesting findings, echoed by later studies, was that the more creative people tended to be socially poised introverts. They were interpersonally skilled but “not of an especially sociable or participative temperament.” They described themselves as independent and individualistic. As teens, many had been shy and solitary.

introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation.

Deliberate Practice is best conducted alone for several reasons. It takes intense concentration, and other people can be distracting. It requires deep motivation, often self-generated. But most important, it involves working on the task that’s most challenging to you personally. Only when you’re alone, Ericsson told me, can you “go directly to the part that’s challenging to you. If you want to improve what you’re doing, you have to be the one who generates the move.

Here I thought I just loved to work at night when everyone was asleep. And, my desires of working on an isolated farm no longer seem as random as I once thought.

Open-plan offices have been found to reduce productivity and impair memory. They’re associated with high staff turnover. They make people sick, hostile, unmotivated, and insecure.

He also suggests “No-Talk Thursdays,” one day a week in which employees aren’t allowed to speak to each other.

Indeed, after all these years of evidence that conventional brainstorming groups don’t work, they remain as popular as ever. Participants in brainstorming sessions usually believe that their group performed much better than it actually did, which points to a valuable reason for their continued popularity—group brainstorming makes people feel attached. A worthy goal, so long as we understand that social glue, as opposed to creativity, is the principal benefit.

This is a very controversial topic she drops into. It is so counterintuitive to what we learn these days in the workplace it challenges so much of the ideation sessions we have become accustomed to. Not sure if it changes my mind just yet, but it does answer a lot of questions I’ve had internally about working alone or in groups.

Psychologists usually offer three explanations for the failure of group brainstorming. The first is social loafing: in a group, some individuals tend to sit back and let others do the work. The second is production blocking: only one person can talk or produce an idea at once, while the other group members are forced to sit passively. And the third is evaluation apprehension, meaning the fear of looking stupid in front of one’s peers.

the question of how your inborn temperament interacts with the environment and with your own free will. To what degree is temperament destiny?

Enjoyment appears at the boundary between boredom and anxiety, when the challenges are just balanced with the person’s capacity to act.

realize it’s not true that I’m no longer shy; I’ve just learned to talk myself down from the ledge (thank you, prefrontal cortex!). By now I do it so automatically that I’m hardly aware it’s happening.

Imagine how much better you’ll be at this sweet-spot game once you’re aware of playing it.

sweet spots have the power to leave jobs that exhaust them and start new and satisfying businesses.

I also speak on topics that matter to me deeply, and have found that I feel much more centered when I truly care about my subject.

This touched me as well. I have always said I would be an awful salesman since after the initial feeling of an idea or concept is revealed it no longer is as interesting to me and that loss of interest can hurt a sale. My former co-founder, who is an awesome salesman, can give the same pitch with the same intensity multiple times a day. I’ve always admired that, but this puts it into more perspective. I just simply enjoy depth and so I should follow that preference in what I do.

Sometimes speakers need to talk about subjects that don’t interest them much, especially at work. I believe this is harder for introverts, who have trouble projecting artificial enthusiasm.

The highly sensitive tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive (just as Aron’s husband had described her).
They feel exceptionally strong emotions—sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear.

Amazing. It is like she gets inside my thoughts. Things I don’t talk about openly and have always had since I was kid. My love of philosophy, my aversion to getting drunk and a like, and myself regulation of my emotions on big events. While others rave about an event they always ask why I am not more excited – and I never could answer it. I’ve always disliked that question…

sensitive people also process information about their environments—both physical and emotional—unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss—another person’s shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly.

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.”

scientists have discovered that approximately 20 percent of the members of many species are “slow to warm up,”

Remind me of how my cousin Reza would mention my slowness to warm up, and as we got older he would play into it and almost study it when we would hangout with new groups.

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.”

In short, introverts just don’t buzz as easily.

extroverts are more likely than introverts to be killed while driving, be hospitalized as a result of accident or injury, smoke, have risky sex, participate in high-risk sports, have affairs, and remarry.

In one study, scientists gave participants the choice of a small reward immediately (a gift certificate from Amazon) or a bigger gift certificate in two to four weeks. Objectively, the bigger reward in the near but not immediate future was the more desirable option. But many people went for the “I want it now” choice—and when they did, a brain scanner revealed that their reward network was activated. Those who held out for the larger reward two weeks hence showed more activity in the prefrontal cortex—the part of the new brain that talks us out of sending ill-considered e-mails and eating too much chocolate cake.

Introverts seem to be specifically wired or trained so when they catch themselves getting excited and focused on a goal, their vigilance increases.”

According to IQ scores, the two types are equally intelligent.

Extroverts are better than introverts at handling information overload.

Introverts’ reflectiveness uses up a lot of cognitive capacity, according to Joseph Newman.

This is because most tasks are goal-directed. Extroverts appear to allocate most of their cognitive capacity to the goal at hand, while introverts use up capacity by monitoring how the task is going.

If you are threat-oriented: 1. Criticism or scolding hurts me quite a bit. 2. I feel pretty worried or upset when I think or know somebody is angry at me. 3. If I think something unpleasant is going to happen, I usually get pretty “worked up.” 4. I feel worried when I think I have done poorly at something important. 5. I worry about making mistakes.

But when you’re focused on a project that you care about, you probably find that your energy is boundless.

If you’re the kind of person who frets every time the quarter is good, you may have trouble rising to the top of a corporate pyramid.

Johnson, who is a frequent public speaker on education despite a lifelong public speaking phobia, knows firsthand how well this works. “I haven’t overcome my shyness,” she says. “It is sitting in the corner, calling to me. But I am passionate about changing our schools, so my passion overcomes my shyness once I get started on a speech. If you find something that arouses your passion or provides a welcome challenge, you forget yourself for a while. It’s like an emotional vacation.”

I have to work far less when presenting on a topic I care about. Instead of fighting it I think the lesson it to find things you enjoy being “extroverted” about.

Figure out what you are meant to contribute to the world and make sure you contribute it. If this requires public speaking or networking or other activities that make you uncomfortable, do them anyway. But accept that they’re difficult, get the training you need to make them easier, and reward yourself when you’re done.

Here’s a rule of thumb for networking events: one new honest-to-goodness relationship is worth ten fistfuls of business cards. Rush home afterward and kick back on your sofa. Carve out restorative niches.

If you’re a manager, remember that one third to one half of your workforce is probably introverted, whether they appear that way or not. Think twice about how you design your organization’s office space. Don’t

If it’s creativity you’re after, ask your employees to solve problems alone before sharing their ideas. If you want the wisdom of the crowd, gather it electronically, or in writing, and make sure people can’t see each other’s ideas until everyone’s had a chance to contribute.