Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Role of Introverts

I was watching an interesting podcast from TEDTalk by Susan Cain in March 2012 at Long Beach California on the role of introverts in the evolution of our modern society. Well, not in these exact words but essentially an observation of how urban societies are making it appear that to be successful one must be extroverted. The speaker herself confessed to be an introvert and felt uncomfortable standing before an audience delivering her 19 minutes presentation which she did flawlessly and without showing signs of stage fright or nervousness. This doesn't mean she like it which I think draws the line between an extrovert and an introvert. An introvert generally prefer to be in quieter surroundings and doing more thinking and reflecting than talking. This doesn't means extroverts doesn't think or reflect but rather enjoy the limelight more. In other words extroverts are social creatures. In career development employees are made to believe that to rise up the ladder he must be prominent before colleagues and bosses be it in or out of office. In movies we often see successful people portrayed as extroverted and it sends a dismay to many people who are quietly doing their work and may not receive due recognition because they do not project themselves as much.

Is modern society wrong? Have we misplaced our expectations and sidelined essential contributions from the introverted? Susan claimed that introverts are more creative and better organizers because they spend more time analyzing and seeking what is less obvious. Many renown world leaders like Mahatma Gandhi are uncomfortable in public. Their strength is not in mobilizing popular support but rather seeing beyond the current events and leading the way forward. An introverted leader lose out to an extroverted rival who may depend on emotional support rather than substantive thoughts on the future. I am not anti-extroverts because a better role is in the middle, someone who does as much thinking as talking.

We have gone away from reading to talking, writing to texting, reacting instead of conceptualizing. We need to slow down, breathe in the life in and around us, ask questions, seek answers, listen and be quiet because in solitude and silence answers do surface and when the world is shunned momentarily we may discover our world, who we really are.

Susan came on stage with a bag of books, real books that most of us wouldn't read but written by authors who spent years putting their thoughts in prints. Metaphorically we may not indulge in book reading as she does but spending time reflecting on ideas such as those delivered by TED speakers may change our perspectives on the way forward. If you can I encourage watching podcasts. They do carry useful messages for us. As well as help us think why things happen the way they did.

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