In Praise of Introverts


Quiet woman

“In our culture, snails are not considered valiant animals — we are constantly exhorting people to ‘come out of their shells’ — but there’s a lot to be said for taking your home with you wherever you go.” — Susan Cain


I suppose it’s time I came out of the closet: I’m an introvert. And I’m a proud one too.

Recently I’ve been reading a book called Quiet, by Susan Cain, about introverts and what she calls the “extrovert ideal” that seems so prevalent in our culture.

The other day I was telling someone about her ideas about the rise of the extrovert ideal in the U.S. and how some introverted business gurus were putting that ideal on it’s head. I was mentioning how some quieter people can bring thoughtful analysis and inquiry to the table. She began talking over me lamenting how much it drove her crazy when people took forever to make a decision. Is that what some people think introverts do–slow things down in painstaking and unnecessary ways? I would like to think not.

It got me thinking about introverted people I know–or know of–that I admire. I thought about the qualities I think are so aspirational about them.

Introvert Power at its Finest

Jane Goodall

As you know, Jane Goodall studied primates in Africa, despite not being a primatologist. She was passionate about her studies though and offered the Science world insights into apes that no one had previously studied.

She was comfortable working in the jungle alone or with a group of others. But when she heard at a primatology conference about the degradation of the landscape the apes inhabited, about the war and poverty that was impacting them, she knew she had to leave the jungle and inspire the public to protect these beautiful animals, their environment, and the people that lived near them.

Goodall is on the road for something like 340 days a year and has been so for over 25 years. She quietly shares stories of these incredible creatures and motivates people to act on behalf of them.

The Dalai Lama

I had the good fortune a couple of years ago to hear the Dalai Lama speak in Calgary. One of the ways he introduces himself to the audience is by saying, “You’re not strangers, just friends I haven’t met yet.” He invites a heart-felt connection as he talks and seems to strengthen the bond between all of us.

He does this in a quiet, thoughtful, and well-spoken manner. He doesn’t ooze in-your-face confidence or suave sophistication. He talks to a large audience the way he probably would a single person. His quiet, jovial, good-hearted nature is infectious.

Like Goodall, he’s really believes in the message he’s giving. He’s really thought about what ideas we Westerner’s might find appealing and he has educated the west about the plight of the Tibetan people while advocating peaceful resolution.

And you?

Are you, or do you know people who are quieter that offer unique talents, skills and ideas? How can you appreciate these abilities in yourself or those you know? Do you think there’s an introvert advantage? I’d love to hear your comments!