The importance of quiet in a world of extroversion

I’ve always been interested in what makes people tick and why we behave the way we do.  What is it that drives us to want to be around some people more than others? What informs the way that we make decisions?  What’s at the heart of humanity?  What makes us different from other species?  In what ways are we evolving?  What makes us different from one another?

Imagine my excitement at learning that we all have different preferences for how we like to live our lives, take in information, and make decisions. I didn’t really have a way of understanding or describing it until I came across the Myers Briggs Type Indicator about 20 years ago.  It’s based on Jung’s work and it gave me a way into appreciating and understanding that we are all different, but through this difference we ignite the world in which we live. You’ll be relieved to know that I am not an evangelist;  I would describe myself as a healthy sceptic.

Where we get our energy from and what stimulates us, in my opinion, is a really interesting topic to debate.  Increasingly, I have become troubled by the expectations of those around me who seem to want what seem to me to be an unrealistic list of qualities from their leaders.  I was working with a group recently who bemoaned the leader in their organisation, saying ‘well his strategy is right, we need to be planned and considered, but he has no charisma, no energy or enthusiasm.’

Recently I stumbled across a book by Susan Cain, ‘The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’.  Cain shares her learning and understanding of the impact of extroversion on our society.  How it has moulded our expectations of how our leaders need to be, often at the expense and exclusion of the balancing force and quality of a more introverted style and way of thinking.  Clearly, I can’t do the subject matter any justice here so I would urge you to go and listen to the her Ted Talk.

Back in the world of work, I notice that there are sets of new cultural norms coming into play.  Occasionally, I hear myself saying things like “finding a way to contribute in meetings early on is important.” Why is it important?  Do I actually believe that it is?  Is speaking up quickly and in-the-moment responsible?  What about the importance of taking time to think things through, to reflect and consider different perspectives?  In a life where increasingly there is no ‘quiet’, what is the impact or encouraging others to act this way?

I’ve just moved into my new office and, guess what, I’m on my own and relishing the quiet!  Leave a comment to let me know how you keep your quiet in this extroverted world we live in.

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