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The Power of Introverts

There are many impressive lectures on the TED web site. If you’ve never heard of TED, allow me to explain: it’s a huge collection of lectures, given at various conferences around the world and across a myriad of subjects. Many are thought provoking, a large number are interesting, but all are free.

One such lecture is by Susan Cain named The Power of Introverts.

If you’re a parent, it will be of interest to you. If you’re a teacher, it will be too. If you work in pretty much any industry, in fact, it will be of interest.

Before you continue reading this, please watch the video itself. You’ll probably better understand what I’m waffling about afterwards:

I’ll be honest, during the first 10 minutes of this video I was rather frustrated – was Cain stating that being an extrovert was a bad thing, or to be discouraged? I sought to hear the opposing view, with the many examples of where being an extrovert is of benefit.

But then I realised she was merely setting the stage, and explaining that in more recent times the more introverted were being sidelined; left behind by a society that values those who stand up and shout over those who sit back and consider.

I certainly recall the occasional “Thought Shower” in my former corporate life, where those few people that speak loudest and . Also, “meeting etiquette” suggests that one should speak up early in meetings in order to be listened to later (point 3).

She brings up an interesting point regarding “extrovert”-like behaviour being encouraged in education: more group activities, fewer self-study exercises. Surely this has an impact on those people who work better on their own, but then as a counter argument, surely the group activities give children an opportunity to improve upon their confidence working in groups.

This is where it started to get a little unclear for me.

Just what exactly classes as being an introvert versus an extrovert? Are they key personality traits that influence others, or are they just one measure of many other areas of one’s personality? Can one become one or the other? Should one try to become more of one than the other?

Through researching this online, I’ve learned that:

  • The concepts of introversion and extroversion are included in most psychological theories.
  • There is a scale of introvert-to-extrovert, and we are all more or less of both – a person who’s in the centre of the scale is known as an “ambivert”.
  • Some theorists (such as Carl Jung) state we each have separate introvert and extrovert parts of our personality, with one usually dominating the other.
  • You can change from an introvert to an extrovert, as per Steve Pavlina’s Experience.

So, if one can become an extrovert, should one? Well, in our current society I am inclined to say yes, because it would help one can easier make a difference / have an impact in this extrovert-favouring society. Of course, on the other hand, perhaps society should instead better support those of us who are more introverted.

Personally I consider myself an ambivert: I enjoy social interactions but I also very much appreciate time to myself when it all gets a bit too much. Heck, I love going walking by myself (and frequently do) and am happy in my own company for days at a time, but then when we watched Cain’s lecture at University I happy to openly discuss it in discussions afterwards.

I’d be very interested to hear the thoughts of those who watched it who considered themselves introverts, but for some reason they didn’t seem keen to discuss it in a group.




Posted on Wed 28 Mar in Thoughts with No Comments

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