So, a world created by extroverts? Marti Olsen Laney’s claim is that the world is 75% full of extroverts and that introverts have a challenging time functioning in this out there world. In a recent book, Susan Cain explores how our extroverted world came to be with the rise of our corporate culture. With this rise, an “out there” personality became the needed norm, perhaps even for survival. But, where does that leave the naturally quiet? Where does it leave those who naturally live in a world that is largely composed of thought? Cain presumably argues in her new book that we’ve [simply] become out of balance.
I am a self-proclaimed introvert. As such, I like observing. For example, often, while I’m on the bus, I simply see all the personalities with whom I share space. And in the midst of this observation, I can see how the extroverted world is being put to the test. I can see how the extroverted world is being pushed away and forced aside. What happens on a bus that supports my argument? Let me show you.
- One day, I counted 3 of 4 headphones on one last surge of people getting on the bus.
- No one is speaks to each other. They all take part in the proper bus etiquette. This has likely happened for years. Perhaps the bus is one of those sacrosanct spaces that the extroverted world will never touch.
- Usually, half of those in my view have their heads down engaged in some activity: reading, using their smart phone, texting, listening to music, or occasionally writing a handwritten note.
- If I enter a crowded bus, I usually don’t even know what my seat partner looks like until they have to get up and move in my way. I also often don’t see people I know when they board the bus – lost in my world.
I’ve heard two decent definitions of introverts and extroverts. The first definition usually referenced has to do with where one gets their energy. That is, if you get your energy with other people than you are likely an extrovert. Conversely, if you get your energy, for example, in the woods, alone, you are likely an introvert. Cain offered another definition that relies on environmental preferences. If you prefer quiet, low stimulant environments, then likely you are an introvert. If you prefer an environment ripe with stimulation, like a party, than you might be an extrovert. Every author qualifies these definitions with a spectrum description stating that no one person is all one thing or another. Cain even referenced a Carl Jung quote, the psychologist and thinker who first defined introverts and extroverts, as saying that anyone who is all one or another should probably find themselves a home in an asylum.
While I’ve been processing this pattern, I bounced a few ideas off a friend. I argued to her that maybe the world is more 50% of each. She didn’t feel that the world split itself so evenly, and I’d have to agree. I think the simple answer is Cain’s – that pendulum is likely righting itself. And, I’m seeing a select, dramatic swing on things like my bus rides where it seems introvert dominated.
Growing up, I didn’t know I was an introvert. I was labeled things like shy. I knew I hated raising my hand in class. I would rather be quiet. But, I don’t bemoan any misguided raising I may have experienced. I think it’s great coaching for anyone to know thyself and learn to speak their mind. I think it’s especially important for us quiet introverts to find that courage because we do have a world of thoughts spinning. And often, I just want the extroverts to stop talking so we can speak, uninterrupted. That said, I love all this literature talking about introverts. I love that the pendulum is swinging and my people are given a safe space to … be quiet.
- Saturday Night (michellelasley.net)
- The Introvert Advantage (michellelasley.net)
- Quiet, Please: Unleashing ‘The Power Of Introverts’ (npr.org)
- Survey Says: Introverts Don’t Mind Being Chatted Up, Sometimes (my.psychologytoday.com)
- The Power of Introverts: A Manifesto for Quiet Brilliance (scientificamerican.com)