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Susan Cain - Quiet - The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking

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-  Introversion—along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness—is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology.

-  Nor are introverts necessarily shy. Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating.

-  Finland is a famously introverted nation. Finnish joke: How can you tell if a Finn likes you? He’s staring at your shoes instead of his own.

-  The U.S. Army has a name for a similar phenomenon: “the Bus to Abilene.” “Any army officer can tell you what that means,” Colonel (Ret.) Stephen J. Gerras, a professor of behavioral sciences at the U.S. Army War College, told Yale Alumni Magazine in 2008. “It’s about a family sitting on a porch in Texas on a hot summer day, and somebody says, ‘I’m bored. Why don’t we go to Abilene?’ When they get to Abilene, somebody says, ‘You know, I didn’t really want to go.’ And the next person says, ‘I didn’t want to go—I thought you wanted to go,’ and so on. Whenever you’re in an army group and somebody says, ‘I think we’re all getting on the bus to Abilene here,’ that is a red flag. You can stop a conversation with it. It is a very powerful artifact of our culture.”

-  The lesson, says Collins, is clear. We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.

-  Grant says it makes sense that introverts are uniquely good at leading initiative-takers. Because of their inclination to listen to others and lack of interest in dominating social situations, introverts are more likely to hear and implement suggestions. Having benefited from the talents of their followers, they are then likely to motivate them to be even more proactive. Introverted leaders create a virtuous circle of proactivity, in other words.

-  Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read, to say that they can express the “real me” online, and to spend more time in certain kinds of online discussions. They welcome the chance to communicate digitally.

-   As the influential psychologist Hans Eysenck once observed, introversion “concentrates the mind on the tasks in hand, and prevents the dissipation of energy on social and sexual matters unrelated to work.”

-  A recent survey found that 91 percent of high-level managers believe that teams are the key to success. The consultant Stephen Harvill told me that of the thirty major organizations he worked with in 2010, including J.C. Penney, Wells Fargo, Dell Computers, and Prudential, he couldn’t think of a single one that didn’t use teams.

-   Young, GlaxoSmithKline, Alcoa, and H.J. Heinz.
The amount of space per employee shrank from 500 square feet in the 1970s to 200 square feet in 2010, according to Peter Miscovich, a managing director at the real estate brokerage firm Jones Lang LaSalle. “There has been a shift from ‘I’ to ‘we’ work,” Steelcase CEO James Hackett told Fast Company magazine in 2005. “Employees used to work alone in ‘I’ settings. Today, working in teams and groups is highly valued. We are designing products to facilitate that.”

-  The cooperative approach has politically progressive roots—the theory is that students take ownership of their education when they learn from one another—but according to elementary school teachers I interviewed at public and private schools in New York, Michigan, and Georgia, it also trains kids to express themselves in the team culture of corporate America. “This style of teaching reflects the business community,” one fifth-grade teacher in a Manhattan public school told me, “where people’s respect for others is based on their verbal abilities, not their originality or insight. You have to be someone who speaks well and calls attention to yourself. It’s an elitism based on something other than merit.

-  We failed to realize that what makes sense for the asynchronous, relatively anonymous interactions of the Internet might not work as well inside the face-to-face, politically charged, acoustically noisy confines of an open-plan office. Instead of distinguishing between online and in-person interaction, we used the lessons of one to inform our thinking about the other.

-  Deliberate Practice is best conducted alone for several reasons. It takes intense concentration, and other people can be distracting. It requires deep motivation, often self-generated. But most important, it involves working on the task that’s most challenging to you personally. Only when you’re alone, Ericsson told me, can you “go directly to the part that’s challenging to you. If you want to improve what you’re doing, you have to be the one who generates the move. Imagine a group class—you’re the one generating the move only a small percentage of the time.”

-  #Ericsson says that it takes approximately ten thousand hours of Deliberate Practice to gain true expertise, so it helps to start young

-   He would never have learned so much about computers, Woz says now, if he hadn’t been too shy to leave the house.#

-  Another study, of 38,000 knowledge workers across different sectors, found that the simple act of being interrupted is one of the biggest barriers to productivity. Even multitasking, that prized feat of modern-day office warriors, turns out to be a myth. Scientists now know that the brain is incapable of paying attention to two things at the same time. What looks like multitasking is really switching back and forth between multiple tasks, which reduces productivity and increases mistakes by up to 50 percent

-  You once said that you would like to sit beside me while I write. Listen, in that case I could not write at all. For writing means revealing oneself to excess; that utmost of self-revelation and surrender, in which a human being, when involved with others, would feel he was losing himself, and from which, therefore, he will always shrink as long as he is in his right mind.… That is why one can never be alone enough when one writes, why there can never be enough silence around one when one writes, why even night is not night enough

-  Alex Osborn invented the concept of brainstorming, a process in which group members generate ideas in a nonjudgmental atmosphere. Brainstorming had four rules:

1. Don’t judge or criticize ideas.
2. Be freewheeling. The wilder the idea, the better.
3. Go for quantity. The more ideas you have, the better.
4. Build on the ideas of fellow group members.

-  The one exception to this is online brainstorming. Groups brainstorming electronically, when properly managed, not only do better than individuals, research shows; the larger the group, the better it performs.

-  What created Linux, or Wikipedia, if not a gigantic electronic brainstorming session? But we’re so impressed by the power of online collaboration that we’ve come to overvalue all group work at the expense of solo thought. We fail to realize that participating in an online working group is a form of solitude all its own. Instead we assume that the success of online collaborations will be replicated in the face-to-face world.

-  We also need to create settings in which people are free to circulate in a shifting kaleidoscope of interactions, and to disappear into their private workspaces when they want to focus or simply be alone. Our schools should teach children the skills to work with others—cooperative learning can be effective when practiced well and in moderation—but also the time and training they need to deliberately practice on their own.

-  Temperament refers to inborn, biologically based behavioral and emotional patterns that are observable in infancy and early childhood; personality is the complex brew that emerges after cultural influence and personal experience are thrown into the mix. Some say that temperament is the foundation, and personality is the building.

-  When writers and journalists talk, they want to see a one-to-one relationship—one behavior, one cause. But it’s really important that you see, for behaviors like slow-to-warm-up, shyness, impulsivity, there are many routes to that.”

-  Free will can take us far, suggests Dr. Schwartz’s research, but it cannot carry us infinitely beyond our genetic limits. Bill Gates is never going to be Bill Clinton, no matter how he polishes his social skills, and Bill Clinton can never be Bill Gates, no matter how much time he spends alone with a computer.
We might call this the “rubber band theory” of personality. We are like rubber bands at rest. We are elastic and can stretch ourselves, but only so much.

-  Stimulation is the amount of input we have coming in from the outside world. It can take any number of forms, from noise to social life to flashing lights.

-  Your sweet spot is the place where you’re optimally stimulated. You probably seek it out already without being aware that you’re doing so.

-  In fact, according to some of the scientists I spoke to, this is where our notion of being socially “cool” comes from; the lower-reactive you are, the cooler your skin, the cooler you are. (Incidentally, sociopaths lie at the extreme end of this coolness barometer, with extremely low levels of arousal, skin conductance, and anxiety. There is some evidence that sociopaths have damaged amygdalae.)

-  The type that is ‘sensitive’ or ‘reactive’ would reflect a strategy of observing carefully before acting,” she writes, “thus avoiding dangers, failures, and wasted energy, which would require a nervous system specially designed to observe and detect subtle differences. It is a strategy of ‘betting on a sure thing’ or ‘looking before you leap.’ In contrast, the active strategy of the [other type] is to be first, without complete information and with the attendant risks—the strategy of ‘taking a long shot’ because the ‘early bird catches the worm’ and ‘opportunity only knocks once.’ ”

-  From fruit flies to house cats to mountain goats, from sunfish to bushbaby primates to Eurasian tit birds, scientists have discovered that approximately 20 percent of the members of many species are “slow to warm up,” while the other 80 percent are “fast” types who venture forth boldly without noticing much of what’s going on around them.

-  The trade-off theory seems to apply equally to humans.

-  human extroverts have more sex partners than introverts do—a boon to any species wanting to reproduce itself—but they commit more adultery and divorce more frequently, which is not a good thing for the children of all those couplings. Extroverts exercise more, but introverts suffer fewer accidents and traumatic injuries. Extroverts enjoy wider networks of social support, but commit more crimes. As Jung speculated almost a century ago about the two types, “the one [extroversion] consists in a high rate of fertility, with low powers of defense and short duration of life for the single individual; the other [introversion] consists in equipping the individual with numerous means of self-preservation plus a low fertility rate.”

-  A reward-sensitive person is highly motivated to seek rewards—from a promotion to a lottery jackpot to an enjoyable evening out with friends. Reward sensitivity motivates us to pursue goals like sex and money, social status and influence. It prompts us to climb ladders and reach for faraway branches in order to gather life’s choicest fruits.
But sometimes we’re too sensitive to rewards. Reward sensitivity on overdrive gets people into all kinds of trouble. We can get so excited by the prospect of juicy prizes, like winning big in the stock market, that we take outsized risks and ignore obvious warning signals.

-  The introverts are much better at making a plan, staying with a plan, being very disciplined.

-  our limbic system, which we share with the most primitive mammals and which Dorn calls the “old brain,” is emotional and instinctive. It comprises various structures, including the amygdala, and it’s highly interconnected with the nucleus accumbens, sometimes called th
е brain’s “pleasure center.” We examined the anxious side of the old brain when we explored the role of the amygdala in high reactivity and introversion. Now we’re about to see its greedy side.
The old brain, according to Dorn, is constantly telling us, “Yes, yes, yes! Eat more, drink more, have more sex, take lots of risk, go for all the gusto you can get, and above all, do not think!”

-  We also have a “new brain” called the neocortex, which evolved many thousands of years after the limbic system. The new brain is responsible for thinking, planning, language, and decision-making—some of the very faculties that make us human. Although the new brain also plays a significant role in our emotional lives, it’s the seat of rationality. Its job, according to Dorn, includes saying, “No, no, no! Don’t do that, because it’s dangerous, makes no sense, and is not in your best interests, or those of your family, or of society.”

-  Extroverts, in other words, are characterized by their tendency to seek rewards, from top dog status to sexual highs to cold cash. They’ve been found to have greater economic, political, and hedonistic ambitions than introverts; even their sociability is a function of reward-sensitivity, according to this view—extroverts socialize because human connection is inherently gratifying.

-  Extroverts tend to experience more pleasure and excitement than introverts do—emotions that are activated

-  The neurons that transmit information in the reward network operate in part through a neurotransmitter—a chemical that carries information between brain cells—called dopamine. Dopamine is the “reward chemical” released in response to anticipated pleasures. The more responsive your brain is to dopamine, or the higher the level of dopamine you have available to release, some scientists believe, the more likely you are to go after rewards like sex, chocolate, money, and status.

-  Extroverts’ dopamine pathways appear to be more active than those of introverts.

-  Kellogg School of Management Professor Camelia Kuhnen has found that the variation of a dopamine-regulating gene (DRD4) associated with a particularly thrill-seeking version of extroversion is a strong predictor of financial risk-taking. By contrast, people with a variant of a serotonin-regulating gene linked to introversion and sensitivity take 28 percent less financial risk than others. They have also been found to outperform their peers when playing gambling games calling for sophisticated decision-making. (When faced with a low probability of winning, people with this gene variant tend to be risk-averse; when they have a high probability of winning, they become relatively risk-seeking.) Another study, of sixty-four traders at an investment bank, found that the highest-performing traders tended to be emotionally stable introverts.

-  Introverts also seem to be better than extroverts at delaying gratification, a crucial life skill associated with everything from higher SAT scores and income to lower body mass index. In one study, scientists gave participants the choice of a small reward immediately (a gift certificate from Amazon) or a bigger gift certificate in two to four weeks. Objectively, the bigger reward in the near but not immediate future was the more desirable option. But many people went for the “I want it now” choice—and when they did, a brain scanner revealed that their reward network was activated. Those who held out for the larger reward two weeks hence showed more activity in the prefrontal cortex—the part of the new brain that talks us out of sending ill-considered e-mails and eating too much chocolate cake. (A similar study suggests that the former group tended to be extroverts and the latter group introverts.)

-  But the more interesting aspect of this puzzling behavior is not what the extroverts do before they’ve hit the wrong button, but what they do after. When introverts hit the number nine button and find they’ve lost a point, they slow down before moving on to the next number, as if to reflect on what went wrong. But extroverts not only fail to slow down, they actually speed up. Yet this is a crucially important misstep, because the longer you pause to process surprising or negative feedback, the more likely you are to learn from it. If you force extroverts to pause, says Newman, they’ll do just as well as introverts at the numbers game. But, left to their own devices, they don’t stop. And so they don’t learn to avoid the trouble staring them in the face.

-  Extroverts get better grades than introverts during elementary school, but introverts outperform extroverts in high school and college. At the university level, introversion predicts academic performance better than cognitive ability. One study tested 141 college students’ knowledge of twenty different subjects, from art to astronomy to statistics, and found that introverts knew more than the extroverts about every single one of them. Introverts receive disproportionate numbers of graduate degrees, National Merit Scholarship finalist positions, and Phi Beta Kappa keys. They outperform extroverts on the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal test, an assessment of critical thinking widely used by businesses for hiring and promotion. They’ve been shown to excel at something psychologists call “insightful problem solving.

-  And on many kinds of tasks, particularly those performed under time or social pressure or involving multitasking, extroverts do better. Extroverts are better than introverts at handling information overload. Introverts’ reflectiveness uses up a lot of cognitive capacity, according to Joseph Newman. On any given task, he says, “if we have 100 percent cognitive capacity, an introvert may have only 75 percent on task and 25 percent off task, whereas an extrovert may have 90 percent on task.” This is because most tasks are goal-directed. Extroverts appear to allocate most of their cognitive capacity to the goal at hand, while introverts use up capacity by monitoring how the task is going.

-  Introverts think before they act, digest information thoroughly, stay on task longer, give up less easily, and work more accurately. Introverts and extroverts also direct their attention differently: if you leave them to their own devices, the introverts tend to sit around wondering about things, imagining things, recalling events from their past, and making plans for the future. The extroverts are more likely to focus on what’s happening around them. It’s as if extroverts are seeing “what is” while their introverted peers are asking “what if.”

-  anticipating rewards—any rewards, whether or not related to the subject at hand—excites our dopamine-driven reward networks and makes us act more rashly. (This may be the single best argument yet for banning pornography from workplaces.)

-  The body’s reward and threat systems also seem to work independently of each other, so that the same person can be generally sensitive, or insensitive, to both reward and threat

-  The key to flow is to pursue an activity for its own sake, not for the rewards it brings. Although flow does not depend on being an introvert or an extrovert, many of the flow experiences that Csikszentmihalyi writes about are solitary pursuits that have nothing to do with reward-seeking: reading, tending an orchard, solo ocean cruising. Flow often occurs, he writes, in conditions in which people “become independent of the social environment to the degree that they no longer respond exclusively in terms of its rewards and punishments.

-  Western culture, by contrast, is organized around the individual. We see ourselves as self-contained units; our destiny is to express ourselves, to follow our bliss, to be free of undue restraint, to achieve the one thing that we, and we alone, were brought into this world to do. We may be gregarious, but we don’t submit to group will, or at least we don’t like to think we do.


Other studies have also found unusual levels of persistence in even very young Asian children. For example, the cross-cultural psychologist Priscilla Blinco gave Japanese and American first graders an unsolvable puzzle to work on in solitude, without the help of other children or a teacher, and compared how long they tried before giving up. The Japanese children spent an average of 13.93 minutes on the puzzle before calling it quits, whereas the American kids spent only 9.47 minutes. Fewer than 27 percent of the American students persisted as long as the average Japanese student—and only 10 percent of the Japanese students gave up as quickly as the average American. Blinco attributes these results to the Japanese quality of persistence

-  A man has as many social selves as there are distinct groups of persons about whose opinion he cares. He generally shows a different side of himself to each of these different groups.
—WILLIAM JAMES 

-  Psychologists call this the “person-situation” debate: Do fixed personality traits really exist, or do they shift according to the situation in which people find themselves? 

-  On the other side of the debate are a group of psychologists known as the Situationists. Situationism posits that our generalizations about people, including the words we use to describe one another—shy, aggressive, conscientious, agreeable—are misleading. There is no core self; there are only the various selves of Situations X, Y, and Z. The Situationist view rose to prominence in 1968 when the psychologist Walter Mischel published Personality and Assessment, challenging the idea of fixed personality traits.

-  Little believes that fixed traits and free traits coexist. According to Free Trait Theory, we are born and culturally endowed with certain personality traits—introversion, for example—but we can and do act out of character in the service of “core personal projects".

-  In other words, introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love, or anything they value highly. Free Trait Theory explains why an introvert might throw his extroverted wife a surprise party or join the PTA at his daughter’s school. It explains how it’s possible for an extroverted scientist to behave with reserve in her laboratory, for an agreeable person to act hard-nosed during a business negotiation, and for a cantankerous uncle to treat his niece tenderly when he takes her out for ice cream.

-  According to Little, our lives are dramatically enhanced when we’re involved in core personal projects that we consider meaningful, manageable, and not unduly stressful, and that are supported by others. When someone asks us “How are things?” we may give a throwaway answer, but our true response is a function of how well our core personal projects are going.

-  Many of us are uncomfortable with the idea of taking on a “false” persona for any length of time. And if we act out of character by convincing ourselves that our pseudo-self is real, we can eventually burn out without even knowing why. The genius of Little’s theory is how neatly it resolves this discomfort. Yes, we are only pretending to be extroverts, and yes, such inauthenticity can be morally ambiguous (not to mention exhausting), but if it’s in the service of love or a professional calling, then we’re doing just as Shakespeare advised.

-  many people, especially those in leadership roles, engage in a certain level of pretend-extroversion.

-  I was the nicest person you’d ever want to know,” Alex recalls, “but the world wasn’t that way. The problem was that if you were just a nice person, you’d get crushed. I refused to live a life where people could do that stuff to me. I was like, OK, what’s the policy prescription here? And there really was only one. I needed to have every person in my pocket. If I wanted to be a nice person, I needed to run the school.”
But how to get from A to B? “I studied social dynamics, I guarantee more than anyone you’ve ever met,” Alex told me. He observed the way people talked, the way they walked—especially male dominance poses. He adjusted his own persona, which allowed him to go on being a fundamentally shy, sweet kid, but without being taken advantage of. “Any hard thing where you can get crushed, I was like, ‘I need to learn how to do this.’ So by now I’m built for war. Because then people don’t screw you.

-  This is partly because of a phenomenon called behavioral leakage, in which our true selves seep out via unconscious body language: a subtle look away at a moment when an extrovert would have made eye contact, or a skillful turn of the conversation by a lecturer that places the burden of talking on the audience when an extroverted speaker would have held the floor a little longer.

-  It turned out that the introverts who were especially good at acting like extroverts tended to score high for a trait that psychologists call “self-monitoring.” Self-monitors are highly skilled at modifying their behavior to the social demands of a situation. They look for cues to tell them how to act. When in Rome, they do as the Romans do, according to the psychologist Mark Snyder, author of Public Appearances, Private Realities, and creator of the Self-Monitoring Scale

-  I have found that there are three key steps to identifying your own core personal projects.
First, think back to what you loved to do when you were a child. How did you answer the question of what you wanted to be when you grew up. Second, pay attention to the work you gravitate to. 

-  Finally, pay attention to what you envy. Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth. You mostly envy those who have what you desire.

-  “Restorative niche” is Professor Little’s term for the place you go when you want to return to your true self. It can be a physical place, like the path beside the Richelieu River, or a temporal one, like the quiet breaks you plan between sales calls. It can mean canceling your social plans on the weekend before a big meeting at work, practicing yoga or meditation, or choosing e-mail over an in-person meeting.

-  Introverts should ask themselves: Will this job allow me to spend time on in-character activities like, for example, reading, strategizing, writing, and researching? Will I have a private workspace or be subject to the constant demands of an open office plan? If the job doesn’t give me enough restorative niches, will I have enough free time on evenings and weekends to grant them to myself?

-  introverts like people they meet in friendly contexts; extroverts prefer those they compete with.

-  Amazingly, neuroscientists have even found that people who use Botox, which prevents them from making angry faces, seem to be less anger-prone than those who don’t, because the very act of frowning triggers the amygdala to process negative emotions.

-  Avril Thorne, now a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Thorne gathered fifty-two young women—twenty-six introverts and twenty-six extroverts—and assigned them to two different conversational pairings. Each person had one ten-minute conversation with a partner of her own type and a second conversation of equal length with her “dispositional opposite.” Thorne’s team taped the conversations and asked the participants to listen to a playback tape.
This process revealed some surprising findings. The introverts and extroverts participated about equally, giving the lie to the idea that introverts always talk less. But the introvert pairs tended to focus on one or two serious subjects of conversation, while the extrovert pairs chose lighter-hearted and wider-ranging topics. Often the introverts discussed problems or conflicts in their lives: school, work, friendships, and so on. Perhaps because of this fondness for “problem talk,” they tended to adopt the role of adviser, taking turns counseling each other on the problem at hand. The extroverts, by contrast, were more likely to offer casual information about themselves that established commonality with the other person: You have a new dog? That’s great. A friend of mine has an amazing tank of saltwater fish!
But the most interesting part of Thorne’s experiment was how much the two types appreciated each other. Introverts talking to extroverts chose  cheerier topics, reported making conversation more easily, and described conversing with extroverts as a “breath of fresh air.” In contrast, the extroverts felt that they could relax more with introvert partners and were freer to confide their problems. They didn’t feel pressure to be falsely upbeat.

-  So don’t mistake your child’s caution in new situations for an inability to relate to others. He’s recoiling from novelty or overstimulation, not from human contact.

-  Western cultural traditions include a conception of individual variability which appears to be old, widespread, and persistent. In popular form this is the familiar notion of the man of action, practical man, realist, or sociable person as opposed to the thinker, dreamer, idealist, or shy individual. The most widely used labels associated with this tradition are the type designations extrovert and introvert.

 

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