“Susan Cain is a closet extrovert.”
So read the juvenile and snarky comment on introvert author and champion, Susan Cain’s blog. Susan’s heavy presence in the media (TED Talks, NPR, morning shows) during her book promotion (Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking) made it seem like she thrived in the limelight and fed off constant interaction, much like an extrovert. Still, I resented the insinuation that it is impossible to be popular, engaging, passionate and an introvert.
I know many who are drawn to solitude but are frequently sought out for coffee, dinner, roller derby, pillow talk, etc. Introverts are in demand. They are rarely lonely not only because they enjoy their own company but because others do as well.
Why do those who cherish alone time often have many friends and invitations?
Perhaps it’s a simple case of supply and demand. Introverts love large swathes of free time. Time with no plans except enjoying their own company — listening to music, reading, watching meaningful movies, meditating, writing, painting, resting, investigating life in-depth. Securing and making time alone a priority leaves less time for socializing. Therefore any time available for interacting is precious. And anything precious is a must have.
Energized and Energizing
Why do some introverts seem like extroverts? Besides the pressure many of us feel to be outgoing and gregarious (the American way), there are other reasons why introverts exhibit extroverted energy.
Introverts love to go deep into subjects or work they find meaningful. According to Susan Cain and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, these core personal projects or passions allow an introvert to display extroverted abilities, such as large-scale socializing, public speaking or unbridled enthusiasm. Valued work gives us purpose and energy via an intense connection with our feelings and impressions. Our imagination and intuition are tapped and spill out in the form of ideas and inspiration. We are internally energized but in turn energize others with our passion, drive and excitement. We all know people who glow with energy and light. We want to be with them. Want to feed off their buzz.
I’m sure this is the energy and enthusiasm Susan Cain demonstrated as she eagerly promoted the work she had dedicated seven years of her life to. She wanted to help/support/empower other introspectives. The value she found in this mission gave her energy and strength to chat away the days with talk show hosts and sign endless copies of her book.
My bet is that she returned home or to her hotel room at night and collapsed. As exciting as her mission was, a key trait of introverts is to recharge in solitude.
Creativity and Community
Introverts are often thought of as disconnected or remote. But there is something that bridges contemplative folks with their community. Creativity.
True, introverts like to spend time in stillness without interruptions and hoards of people. But what do they do in this stillness? Connect with themselves. Find clarity regarding personal issues they are navigating. Go into a state of flow where ideas, feelings and associations come together to resolve conflict, reveal beauty or simply provide renewal.
Quite often these times of stillness produce creations that are helpful and valued by the community. Perhaps the purpose of creating is not to express ourselves but to connect? Picture a road-weary truck driver who practices guitar at night in his cab and eventually becomes the truck-stop entertainment. Or a broken-hearted baker who heals herself by silently kneading and rolling dough into the most delicate pastries. Creativity, of course, does not always stem from sorrow. Imagine a blissful painter who spends hours alone in her studio caressing canvas with soft brush strokes. Or a dedicated psychiatrist who spends years researching and publishing the causes and treatment of catatonic schizophrenia. All of these scenarios ultimately provide gifts to the community.
Take a minute to recall how alive you feel after seeing an incredible movie or hearing an evocative song.
Creators are inspiring. They pique our interest. They give us permission to expand beyond our daily ho-hum. They display courage in their originality. They provide solutions. They make us feel less alone.
No wonder others want to know them, spend time with them and be like them.
There is also research suggesting that creativity is based on in-depth immersion in a topic AND collaborative interaction (Keith Sawyer, Does Solitude Enhance Creativity? A Critique of Susan Cain’s Attack on Collaboration). Space for both introverts and extroverts to shine and work together for the greater good. Another reason introverts are in demand.
Of course, extroverts are creative too but the purpose of this post is to show how introverts find popularity despite their penchant for alone time.
Introverts aren’t all disconnected loners. Many are quite popular. Some are even confused for extroverts.
Know any popular introverts? Why do you enjoy hanging out with an introvert?
If you liked this post, you might also like:
Introverts and Creativity: A Critique of Susan Cain’s Argument - Professor Michael Roberto’s Blog
Gifts, Connections & Community (Part 2) - Keith Jennings Wandering and Wondering the Creative
**There is a new temperament title that is gaining notoriety. The ambivert. An ambivert is someone who falls basically dead center in the introvert-extrovert continuum. Anyone know someone who may qualify as an ambivert? Some days I wonder if I am more of an ambivert than an introvert.