I just finished the book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” by Susan Cain. Reading it was like entering a intellectual zone the political turmoil of the past decade had been obliterated — a space where differences are explored and puzzled out, rather than politicized, weaponized, or attacked.
It’s a comparatively calm experience to read a book from pre-2015.
I’ve since mentioned the book to friends and acquaintances in a variety of settings. Each conversation yielded immediate and happy responses. Some knew and respected the book, while others were captivated by the idea that such a book exists and is very good.
I recently wrote about how the topics raised by the book relate to modern science communication. If scientists and scholars tend toward introversion, how is a performative, extroversion-heavy communications world working for them?
Shortly thereafter, my email box lit up with notes from people who felt that an important and under-appreciated topic in the current media space had been raised.
It also reminded me that we always need to talk a little about what might come to mind when we use words like “introvert” and “extrovert.”
Introverts aren’t necessarily shy, and extroverts can be reticent or nervous about social interactions. The definition isn’t at that level. Instead, the defining characteristic of each pertains to what recharges them — for introverts, it’s time by themselves or with limited stimulation; for extroverts, it’s time with others and a lot of stimulation.
Based on the response I received to the first post, I’d like your help to go a little further via a brief (2-minute) and anonymous survey. The purpose of this is to gauge in this audience what mix exists, how well-understood we feel, and how these things might bear on careers and relationships in a world tilted for 120+ years in favor of extroverts.
We all live and work in a world in which extroversion is celebrated. In scholarly publishing, introversion may be more successful than elsewhere, but as media has shifted into a highly performative zone, it is still marginalized and misunderstood. For example, observing the Twitter coverage of the Frankfurt Book Fair so far, it’s clear that extroverts are enjoying the spotlight while revealing one other aspect of extroversion — they aren’t as insightful as they think they are. (Introverts are generally more sensitive, more observant, and more refined in their analytical abilities, which is why the world loses out if extroverts bulldoze them.)
I’ll leave the survey open for about a week, and then present the results in a future post.
(BTW, I’m an ambivert, a newish and not completely settled category. Every Myers-Briggs I’ve taken places me right in the middle on this scale, not a point either way. And, as a sign of how the world currently indexes toward extroverts, landing in the middle — precisely in the middle — makes me an “E” according to the MBTI scheme, apparently because that seems more flattering. I’m appropriately ambivalent on that point.)