“Quiet” by Susan Cain: Part One

In-depth look at the differences between introverts and extroverts. After reading this, I am undoubtedly and introvert. Moreover, this book helped me define my personality and provided some insight into how I can find happiness for myself. Anytime I read a psychology-themed book I become ruminative but I know that this level of thoughtfulness helps me discover who I am and what I value.

  1. The Introvert-Extrovert Spectrum: Our place on this continuum influence our choice of friends and mates, and how we make conversation, resolve differences, and show love. It affects the careers we choose and whether or not we succeed at them. It governs how likely we are to exercise, commit adultery, function well without sleep, learn from our mistakes, delay gratification, be a good leader, and ask “what if?” (See “The Social Animal“)
  2. Closet introverts pass undetected on playgrounds, and in the corridors of corporate America. Some fool even themselves, until some life event– a layoff, an empty nest, an inheritance that frees them to spend time as they like– jolts them into taking stock of their true nature.
  3. 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. The archetypal extrovert prefers action to contemplation, risk-taking to heed-taking, certainty to doubt. He favors quick decisions, even at the risk of being wrong.
  4. 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. Introverts feel “just right” with less stimulation, as when they sip wine with a close friend, solve a crossword puzzle, or read a book. Extroverts enjoy the extra bang that comes from activities like meeting new people, skiing slippery slopes, and cranking up the stereo.
  5. Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while, wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing that in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.
  6. In the Culture of Character, the ideal self was serious, disciplined, and honorable. What counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved in private. The word ‘personality’ didn’t exist in English until the 18th century, and the idea of ‘having a good personality’ was not widespread until the 20th. But when they embraced the Culture of Personality, Americans started to focus on how others perceived them. They became captivated by people who were bold and entertaining. During the Culture of Character, the slavish attention now paid towards entertainers would have been considered indecorous; now they had become “such a large part of the life of society that it has become a topic of conversation among all classes.”
  7. If you don’t have all the facts– and often you won’t– should you wait to act until you’ve collected as much data as possible? Or, by hesitating, do you risk losing others’ trust and your own momentum? The answer isn’t obvious. If you speak firmly on the basis of bad information, you can lead your people into disaster. But if you exude uncertainty, then morale suffers, funders won’t invest, and your organization can collapse.
  8. The “Bus to Abilene” anecdote reveals our tendency to follow those who initiate action– any action. We are similarly inclined to empower dynamic speakers.
  9. Colleagues often fail to distinguish between good presentation skills and true leadership ability. “I worry that there are people who are put in positions of authority because they’re good talkers, but they don’t have good ideas.” Someone seems like a good presenter, easy to get along with, and those traits are rewarded. Well, why is that? They’re valuable traits, but we put too much of a premium on presenting and not enough on substance and critical thinking.”
  10. Level-5 Leaders: These exceptional CEOs were not known for their flash or charisma but for extreme humility coupled with extreme and intense professional will. Those who worked with these leaders tended to describe them with the following words: quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated. (See “Work Happy“)
  11. He was more interested in listening and gathering information than in asserting his or dominating a conversation.
  12. People respected not just his formal authority, but also the way he led: by supporting his employees’ efforts to take the initiative. He gave subordinates input into key decisions, implementing the ideas that made sense, while making it clear that he had the final authority. He wasn’t concerned with getting credit or even with being in charge; he simply assigned work to those who could perform it best. This meant delegating some of his most interesting, meaningful, and important tasks– work that other leaders would have kept for themselves.
  13. Einstein said, “I am a horse for a single harness, not cut out for tandem or teamwork… for well I know that in order to attain any definite goal, it is imperative that one person do the thinking and the commanding.”
  14. Introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation. (See “Autopilot“)
  15. What’s so magical about solitude: In many fields, it’s only when you’re alone that you can engage in DELIBERATE PRACTICE, which he has identified as the key to exceptional achievement. When you practice deliberately, you identify tasks or knowledge that are just out of your reach, strive to upgrade your performance, monitor your progress, and revise accordingly.
  16. The simple act of being interrupted is one of the biggest barriers to productivity. Even multi-tasking, that prized feat of modern day office warriors, turns out to be a myth. Scientists now know that the brain is incapable of paying attention to two things at the same time. What looks like multitasking is really switching back and forth between multiple tasks, which reduces productivity and increases mistakes by up to 50%. (See “The Organized Mind“)
  17. Studies have shown that performance gets worse as group size increases: groups of nine generate fewer and poorer ideas compared to groups of six, which do worse than groups of four.
  18. Social Loafing: in a group, some individuals tend to sit back and let others do the work.
  19. Production Blocking: only one person can talk or produce an idea at once, while the other group members are forced to sit passively.
  20. Evaluation Apprehension: the fear of looking stupid in front of one’s peers.

Read more thoughts on “Quiet” in Part Two
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

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