March 20th, 2019


Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Many years ago I was certain that I was an introvert. I didn't have many friends, wasn't much into getting out and socializing, liked spending time alone. Being around my husband solidified the idea... Marc is definitely an extrovert. I've known him for almost 15 years now and he's never once said he needed "time to himself". if I take the kids to the park and he has the house to himself, he doesn't see that as any kind of treat.

But I work with engineers, and the bar is at a different place there. Compared to other engineers I am the butterfly cheerleader, running around talking to people all day, doing presentations, training, mentoring, and choosing a desk out in the open to work at because my manager-rank office is boring and makes me feel isolated. Teamwork gets us to the finish line, above all things, I'm always saying. I don't care if you can design the greatest airplane in your head, if you can't convince the FAA it's safe we'll never build it. So get yourself some people skills, collaborate and bring everyone along with you, always!

I read this book "Quiet" and it was an amazing look at the world and our personality types. The spectrum between introversion and extroversion has all kinds of people along it. The trait has a lot to do with how much stimulation a person needs. Every human on the planet is looking for a sweet spot where they're not bored, but not overwhelmed. The balance falls at different places for all of us. They've even tested babies, at four months the babies with strong negative reactions to stimulation grew into kids and adults who needed time away from the hectic social world to recharge.

It's only someone related to shyness, a fear-based trait. Barely related to our ability to switch "modes" based on what other people want... there are introverts who can put on a show, be amazing presenters, work a room, but you'll find them hiding in the bathroom exhausted when it's all said and done. I think I am like that. I change my communication a lot based on who I'm talking to. You talk fast, I talk fast. You're from the south, I can throw in a "y'all".

The differences are great but in recent years western culture has been under-appreciating the talents of introverts. Being an introvert, being comfortable working by yourself, is great if you want to be an expert on some topic. Musicians who practice alone can go right to the part they're personally struggling with to work on it, then re-join their symphony with their part down pat. But in our team-oriented, take-a-stance, speak up culture we miss that. If you took your kid to a busy summer bbq and she hid in a corner chair reading a book, you'd have people ask what's wrong with your kid, shouldn't she be running and yelling? In eastern cultures everybody would tell you she's the best kid ever, smart and hardworking. There are even parents in the US who seek to treat kids who are quiet and enjoy building models in their bedrooms for hours... but they're not broken. They're just introverts.

Our business schools tell us that great leaders take a stand, command the room, and speak up. Learning confidence is more important than learning to ask the right questions or take the time you need to make the right decision. We're told that negotiating is all about forcefully convincing someone you're right... even though in practice, silence and listening can go a very long way.

I've SAID to employees that there's no point in doing a critical analysis if you can't present to upper management on it. I've judged people who eat lunch alone. This book made me realize though that if I like giving presentations, I can do the report out on their analysis. Isn't that a better way to advocate for teamwork? And I need to treasure the introvert side of myself, still. When I was a kid I'd tunnel into my room for hours to work on my little projects, I still enjoy quiet hobbies and crafts, and this book reminded me how healthy those hours are.