Susan Cain quotes
Born 1968; author of "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking"
We live in a culture that is biased against a constellation of traits, namely shyness,
seriousness, introversion. And this leads to a colossal waste of talent and of energy and of
Introversion is different from being shy. Shyness is about fear of social judgement.
Introversion is more about how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. So
extroverts really create large amounts of stimulation, whereas introverts feel at their most
alive and most switched on and most capable when they're in quieter environments. Not all
the time, you know, these things aren't an absolute... So the key, then, to maximizing our
talents is for us all to put ourselves in a zone of stimulation that is right for us.
We set up our schools and we set up our work places for maximum group interaction all the
time, thinking that this will enable us to be creative and this is a real misconception, because
solitude is such a crucial ingredient to creativity and we're losing sight of solitude.
Persistence isn't very glamorous. If genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent
perspiration, then as a culture we tend to lionize the 1 percent. We love its flash and dazzle.
But great power lies in the other 99 percent.
But in the long run, staying true to your temperament is the key to finding work you love and
work that matters.
Introverts tend to be very careful, much less likely to take outsides risks, which is something
we might all favor nowadays... Introverted leaders often deliver better outcomes than
extroverts do because when they're managing pro-active employees they're much more likely
to let those employees run with their ideas, whereas an extrovert can quite unwittingly get
so excited about things that they're putting their own stamp on things and other people's
ideas might not easily then bubble up to the surface.
Solitude is out of fashion. Our companies, our schools and our culture are in thrall to an idea
I call the New Groupthink, which holds that creativity and achievement come from an oddly
If you're an introvert, you also know that the bias against quiet can cause deep psychic pain.
As a child you might have overheard your parents apologize for your shyness. Or at school
you might have been prodded to come "out of your shell" -that noxious expression which fails
to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and some
humans are just the same.
"Quiet leadership" is not an oxymoron.
Many introverts feel there's something wrong with them, and try to pass as extroverts. But
whenever you try to pass as something you're not, you lose a part of yourself along the way.
You especially lose a sense of how to spend your time.
Whoever you are, bear in mind that appearance is not reality. Some people act like
extroverts, but the effort costs them energy, authenticity, and even physical health. Others
seem aloof or self-contained, but their inner landscapes are rich and full of drama. So the
next time you see a person with a composed face and a soft voice, remember that inside her
mind she might be solving an equation, composing a sonnet, designing a hat. She might be
deploying the powers of quiet.
Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings,
but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social
energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before
they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in
conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep
Introverts and extroverts work well in a pairing – both in work and in love. They are drawn to
each other's company; there's a sense of each one completing the other, a sense of Yin and
We don't need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not
their own egos but the institutions they run.
Embracing their quiet nature does not cause introverts to flee to a shack in the woods. It
empowers them to engage with the world – but on their own terms.
Introverts offer something unique to society that isn't valued enough right now – careful,
contemplative thinking; persistence; quiet strength. Marginalizing this personality trait
oppresses everyone, in a way.
The next generation of quiet kids can and should be raised to know their own strength.
Sometimes it helps to be a pretend-extrovert. There's always time to be quiet later.
Groups follow the most charismatic person, even though there is no correlation between
being a good speaker and having great ideas.
If the task of the first half of life is to put yourself out there, the task of the second half is
to make sense of where you've been.
Love is essential, gregariousness is optional.
Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you're supposed to.
(Bill) Clinton was very smart, but definitely a showman – a classic
personality. He could connect with people incredibly well, but the downside is that
extroversion is often associated with impulsiveness and risky behaviour.
Some of our transformative leaders in history have been introverts. I'll give you some
examples: Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Gandhi; all those people described themselves as
quite and soft-spoken and even shy. And they all took the spotlight, even though every bone
in their body was telling them not to. And this turns out to have a special power on its own;
people could feel that these leaders were at the helm, not because they enjoyed directing
others and not out of the pleasure being looked at. They were there because they had no
choice; because they were driven to do what they thought was right.
Solitude matters, and for some people it is the air that they breathe.
So stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don't let
others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don't force yourself to seek
breadth. If you prefer single-tasking to multi-tasking, stick to your guns. Being relatively
unmoved by rewards gives you the incalculable power to go your own way.
One honest relationship can be more productive than fistfuls of business cards.
I believe that introversion is my greatest strength. I have such a strong inner life that I'm
never bored and only occasionally lonely. No matter what mayhem is happening around me, I
know I can always turn inward.
The purpose of school should be to prepare kids for the rest of their lives, but too often what
kids need to be prepared for is surviving the school day itself.
I think the secret to life is living in accordance with your natural temperament – setting up a
career and a social life that really suits you. But, as the psychologist Brian Little says, we all
need to stretch sometimes for the sake of work and people we love.
Our culture rightly admires risk-takers, but we need our "heed-takers" more than ever.
The universal longing for heaven is not about immortality so much as the wish for a world in
which everyone is always kind.
Our culture is biased against quiet and reserved people, but introverts are responsible for
some of humanity's greatest achievements.