I had the pleasure today of meeting Susan Cain when she participated in an Authors@Google event hosted at our Mountain View headquarters. Her stimulating new release Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking has made it to the top of The New York Times Bestseller list.
Before becoming an acclaimed author, Susan practiced corporate law for seven years and then worked as a negotiations consultant. Her list of clients includes well-known firms like JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch, One Hundred Women in Hedge Funds and many more. However, far from being the self-confident person that her career might make her appear to be, Susan declares herself an introvert. She prefers listening to talking and reading to socializing. Watch her presentation at Google here:
In her talk, Susan said that our style as introverts or extroverts is embedded in ourselves, just like our gender; and it makes us react to stimulation in different ways. Susan said that while extroverts seek stimulation, introverts tend to react more to light, sound and and other types of stimulation, preferring less of it.
From as early as our childhood days, Susan said, we are constantly exposed to extrovert environments: playgrounds in which we are made to join in games with other kids, school classes where we have to read out loud and participate in team assignments to obtain good grades. And yet, she asserted, some children stay on their parents’ laps instead of running around with others or seek quiet spots to do their homework. This attitude accompanies us through adulthood, where we're exposed to workplaces that promote open working spaces, teamwork and social gatherings.
Susan’s book asks how introverts can cope and succeed, and suggests that we try to achieve a balance between our introvert and extrovert impulses. She points out that the most successful teams and marriages include both an introvert and extrovert. "No man is an island," she stated, "...we need people around us."
At the end of her talk, Susan shared with the attendees three important takeaways that resonated, personally, with me:
- Give yourself time for quiet. Guilt-free. We’re all entitled to it.
- Think differently about the next generation of introvert children. Solitude is a catalyst to creativity.
- Think hard about what the essence to your great power is. Susan joked that it might be the ability to fly, go back in time, win a wizard scholarship or even find the key to a secret garden, but whatever it is - she urges us to use that power, well and brilliantly.