Saturday, July 19, 2014

Bring Back The Introverts

In Quiet The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain convincingly argues that introverts are the thinkers and the innovators of society. Yet, since the world has become too extrovert, they are undervalued in spite of their contribution to their community.

Cain's  book which was published in 2012 illustrates the change in the attitude to introverts in the last decades. In the mid-1980s when my husband was a young professor he visited with his students a factory. In order to learn about creating effective teams at work the students took the Myers–Briggs test. That test classifies personalities according to 4 scales one of them is introversion vs. extroversion

 That evening my husband, an introvert, came home very excited, he too took the test and it made him realized what it meant to be an introvert. At that time it was taken for granted that any team at work will include both extroverts and introverts. The test itself acknowledged their existence and their contribution to their team was unquestioned and appreciated.

Today the situation has changed; with the tight job market  introverts seem to suffer the most.  When applying to a new job they are at a disadvantage as they do not interview well. As a result there are workshops, special coaching and simulations to help introverts turn into extroverts.  Introversion has become a liability: to the typical interview question “what are your weak points” a candidate might answer “I am an introvert” and the  interviewer would agree that this is indeed a big problem, as though the candidate has just admitted to being a shop lifter.

If a closet introvert has “passed” and got the job he/she is not always welcome as a contributing members of the team because she would rather eat at her desk than going out for lunch with colleagues, or go home at the end of the day and not join everybody at “happy hour”.

I believe that Susan Cain's insightful book (with the book and her Ted talk).

would be able to convince real and closet introverts to feel proud of who they are. I also hope that educators would stop insisting on group work as the preferred activity since many children could get much better results thinking quietly and working on their own

And most of all I wait for the day when our society learns from those who know how to think.  To reflect, then act and then reflect again is natural to introverts but it will be a boon to those who just act.

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