The (quiet) power of the introvert

First aired on Tapestry (03/01/12)

Embarking on a major book tour may not seem like the most comfortable way for an introvert to spend her time.

But author (and self-professed introvert) Susan Cain has a message to spread: that she and her fellow introverts are a largely misunderstood bunch.

First of all, she really enjoys talking to people -- even radio show hosts -- about her book.

quiet-susan-cain-200.jpg"I think this is true for many introverts, that when you are really engaged in what you are doing, it kind of transcends your normal aversion to the spotlight to being out there because you're focusing more on the thing itself and a little bit less on what your preferences are," she told Tapestry's Mary Hynes during a recent interview.

Her second message forms the crux of her new book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts, in which makes a compelling case that the modern world has been designed for extroverts to succeed, and the world should embrace its quieter, but often more creative, people.

After all, she says, history seems to suggest that solitude can be essential when developing ideas. Numerous historical figures have been said to have used solitude to help them find enlightenment, from Socrates to Jesus to Siddhartha Gautama meditating under the Bodhi Tree. Yet society seems to be under the impression that being an introvert is a little abnormal.

"From the time [introverts] are very young, really, from like age two and three, they start getting the message that they should be more extroverted, and any preferences they might have to be off by themselves, or socializing in very quiet ways, that there's something wrong with that and they should be always pushing through it," Cain said.

However, introverts should never shy away from seeking hobbies or careers that may be largely occupied (or perceived to be occupied) by their extrovert counterparts. Cain believes that introverts can bring a unique perspective to these positions. Take hosting a radio show, for example.

"More than 50 per cent of radio hosts who have interviewed me while I've been on my book tour have said they are introverts. It seems surprising at first but it's really not. Because introverts often, in conversation, what they do is they learn to ask really great questions of the other person. And then they learn to listen really well to the answers. And that, of course, is what a great radio host does. So in a way, you're actually being your best you. And taking it with you into your job, as opposed to coming into your job every day and saying 'Now I have to act like more of an extrovert than I really am.'"