The one-sentence summary
Introverts have a powerful role to play in a world that can’t stop talking, so nurture them and pay attention to what they say.
· For far too long, those who are naturally quiet, serious or sensitive have been overlooked. The loudest have taken over – even if they have nothing to say.
· It’s time for everyone to listen, and understand the power of introverts. Quiet can be good.
· Business, and society in general, predominantly favours ‘loud’ people. That usually means being ‘outgoing and fun’, being able to pitch well, and offering up a ‘takeaway box’ of what you are going to contribute. It’s like selling yourself via an extrovert personality.
· And yet around a third of us are introverts. Where it gets confusing is that many true introverts often behave in an unnaturally (for them) extrovert way (particularly at work) simply in order to fit in, but this usually makes them very uncomfortable.
· This is Free Trait Theory, in which character traits have a certain amount of freedom depending on your circumstances.
· They can also be extremely convincing at it, particularly if they are high Self-Monitors – they have a keen awareness of what they like and regularly fine-tune their behaviour, but there can also be Behavioural Leakage, in which tell-tale introvert signs, such as a quick glance, can be detected by the most observant.
· Introverts can only manage ‘extrovert’ behaviour in short bursts, after which they desperately need a Restorative Niche, in which they can retreat from the spotlight and be their natural selves again. For example, they are inclined to be emotionally exhausted after a daunting presentation, and have no desire to hang around and get the plaudits, even if the news is good.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT IT
· There are some myths around extroverts which aren’t right:
1. Leaders need to be charismatic: they don’t. In fact, loud leaders are often disguising other failings. But the Cult of Personality means these types are more common in leadership roles than introverts.
2. Collaboration leads to improved creativity: it doesn’t. Since communal ‘brainstorms’ were conceived by Alex Osborn (the ‘O’ in the ad agency BBDO) in the 50s, it has consistently been proven that individuals working alone generate better ideas.
3. Open plan offices improve interaction: not really. Most harassed executives crave peace and quiet so they can get on with their stuff.
4. Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt are bad: not at all. The more humble orientation of these emotions would most likely have prevented the Wall Street Crash. Promoting relentless apparent certainty is an extrovert trait that often leads to trouble.
WHAT YOU HAVE TO WATCH
· Nothing. This perspective is highly interesting and could be a useful counterpoint to so many macho business cultures and approaches.