Susan Cain’s Quiet: the Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking focuses on the introverts – big surprise given the title. Specifically, it focuses on how introverts can defy expectations. We have come to expect that our CEOs, salespeople, lawyers and, let’s face it, anyone who’s successful will be an extravert. Our culture is also steeped in extraversion (or is it really exhibitionism?). As Cain points out throughout the book quiet, contemplative and thoughtful people - a.k.a. “introverts” - can achieve success not despite - but because of - their personalities.
But what about the ambivert? The person who can be an extravert or an introvert depending on the time or situation? I know I sometimes want to be around people and other times I relish the time I have to read before my family wakes up in the morning.
I suspect many people fall into the ambivert camp, as I do. I have a loud voice, enjoy public speaking, have been known to joke around, and like to be around people. But I do seriously need time to reflect, and I like to observe new social situations before inserting myself. For the ambivert, Quiet is an opportunity to recognize that there is value to the quiet and reflective side of your personality.
Defining ourselves by a binary and arbitrary bucket can be self-limiting. Personality testing is like putting a lab coat on an astrologer anyway – you’ll see yourself in any general description offered and you may even get different results every time you take a test. For this reason, it’s worthwhile to check out The Personality Brokers: the Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing by Merve Emrer, which details the creation of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and subsequent attempts to prove its validity.
This is not to say that there aren't true introverts out there, it's just that there is a whole spectrum of experience and many of us are in the middle. While I may not be a true introvert, I can appreciate the moments I seek to be alone with my thoughts before the next time I am navigating a room full of strangers, telling jokes.