Unleash the Introverts!

I’m not sure when, but at some point in my life I became mildly obsessed with the Myers-Briggs personality test. I took an oh-so-official free online test (ISTJ, represent!) and then wanted to how everyone else fit into those 16 little types. It seemed to give organization to things, a reason for why people behaved in certain ways.

Mostly I was interested in introversion vs. extraversion. I remember first learning about introverts and thinking these are my people. So when a book came along that indulged my fascination, I had to pick it up. I’m not normally big on nonfiction — I want STORY, dammit! — but Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking was a good one. Although my friends and family probably weren’t thrilled that I was reading it, seeing as I made them all take the Myers-Briggs test.

quiet

This “definition” of introversion rang true ::

Introverts …. may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas …. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation.

Yup, that’s me. All hail introverts!

The book talks a lot about creativity and innovation (particularly as it applies to the workplace). This probably doesn’t surprise many of you, but introverts — the social weirdos — are often deemed more creative than their extrovert counterparts. The reason?

But there’s a less obvious yet surprisingly powerful explanation for introverts’ creative advantage — an explanation that everyone can learn from: introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation.

This does seem an argument for the closed-door policy — or maybe just having an actual physical door you can shut in the world’s face. Even if being out and about excites you, you need to hole up to actually get down to the business of being creative.

(Of course, I can think of examples where the “creative as introvert” theory doesn’t really hold true…Pablo Picasso was called a “vampire” by friends because he sucked the energy out of people.)

As I read the book and kept quoting sections to Byron, he grew dismayed. “I feel like this book may just be enforcing some of your tendencies,” he said. By which, of course, he  meant my tendency to avoid large crowds and crave time at home and what is this new thing you’re trying to make me do??

But the book doesn’t cast extroverts and introverts as the heroes and villains in The Battle for Universe Dominance. There needs to be a balancing act; extroverts and introverts can learn a lot from each other. Introverts don’t get a hall pass for checking out of society. Cain argues that when introverts are passionate about a project, they can push themselves in social situations and behave… well, like extroverts. And that doing so — getting out of the comfort zone — can even be good for them.

Oh, sorry — good for us. While it’s already exhausting me, I guess my Year of Yes is a good  thing after all.

Where do you see yourself on the scale of extraversion and introversion? Do you think it’s true that creative types tend to be introverts? And most importantly — does this book give me free rein to stay home all day in my sweatpants? (I think I sadly know the answer to that.)