In a world where the loudest voices quickly rise to the top, we're
missing chances to capitalize on people who prefer quiet contemplation
to conversation domination, says an advocate for introverts.
In her new book: "Quiet: The Power of Introverts," Susan Cain argues
that society's emphasis on those who command attention can have a
negative impact on business and beyond. Failure to promote the most
thoughtful among us can lead to missed innovation opportunities and an
office culture where only half of a company's employees' needs are being
met, she says.
"Many of the great achievements of the 20th century and beyond have
come from people who were more introverted and had this need to go off
by themselves and think deeply," Cain told CTV's Canada AM on Thursday.
She says the modern paradigm of open office environments and
collaborative projects makes work more difficult for people who make up a
large segment of society that function best on their own.
Workplaces that allow for more solitude for more introverted
employees would allow them to produce better work, she says. The same
goes for the classroom, where children learn from an early age that it's
"better" to be an extrovert.
While extroverts feed off of social time and interaction, introverts
require lots of time alone to recharge themselves and think. They often
appear quiet and calm, and can feel drained after long periods in the
company of others.
So why do introverts get the short shrift in Western culture, unlike many Eastern cultures where introversion is the norm?
"We're societies based on Greco-Roman ideal where oratory was
praised," Cain explained. "We've always praised action over
But even in our society, quiet time was much easier to find before big business became the centre of daily life.
"It became important to stand out in job interviews and sales calls,"
said Cain. "We started to emulate people who were magnetic and dominant
That said, plenty of introverts have found ways to carve out their
niche in our loud and chaotic society. Former U.S. Vice-President Al
Gore, comedian David Letterman and news interviewer Barbara Walters are
among the uber-successful who have acknowledged a tendency toward
But Cain believes even the most boisterous among us require quiet
time sometimes, which could be responsible for the popularity of
communication by text message.
"It's a way for us to stay connected without having to be so ‘on' all
the time, and not so out there," she said. "That's something everybody