This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Quiet: The Power of Introverts" by Susan Cain. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Are you an extrovert trying to be more introverted? What does Quiet say about how to be an introvert?
In Quiet, how to be an introvert comes down to the situations you’re in. It may not always make sense to be outgoing and forceful because introverted leaders perform better in some situations.
Keep reading for more about Quiet, how to be an introvert, and why you might need to temporarily change your temperament.
Quiet: How to Be an Introvert
Introverted leaders perform better than extroverted leaders in certain circumstances, according to research by Wharton School professor Adam Grant.
In one study, he and his colleagues analyzed profits of one of the largest pizza chains in the U.S. and found that: 1) stores with extroverted leaders delivered 16% higher profits when employees were passive and did what they were told, and 2) stores with introverted leaders delivered 14% higher profits over the stores led by extroverts when employees proactively worked to improve procedures.
In a second study in which teams of college students competed to fold the most t-shirts, the teams with introverted leaders were more effective when the team members were proactive and came up with a way to do the work faster. Teams led by extroverts were more effective when the teams passively followed the leader’s direction.
Researchers concluded that introverts are effective at leading proactive employees because they tend to listen and are more willing to implement suggestions as opposed to dominating the situation.
Also, in the t-shirt folding study, the introvert-led teams reported they were motivated to work harder by the leader’s openness to their input. In contrast, extrovert leaders may be so focused on doing things their way that they don’t hear suggestions. However, extroverts also have the ability to inspire passive employees to perform better.
Grant argues that it’s important for companies to have both listeners and talkers as leaders in order to maximize employee output.
In Quiet, how to be an introvert comes down to understanding how you respond to situational cues. When the emotional center of our brain—the amygdala—reacts with anxiety to a situation, another part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, can send a counter-message to calm down.
Thus, we can teach ourselves to react differently, although we may revert to our old reactions under stress. Both introverts and extroverts can stretch beyond their comfort zones when it’s to their advantage, particularly to further a career. For example, an introvert can learn and practice skills to be more comfortable interacting socially, while an extrovert can learn to slow down and be more reflective by cultivating friendships with introverts.
Our personalities are somewhat like rubber bands, able to stretch but only so far. Introvert Bill Gates can hone his social skills but he’ll never be as gregarious as Bill Clinton—and Clinton will never be a solitary computer genius like Gates.
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Here's what you'll find in our full Quiet: The Power of Introverts summary:
- How society overvalues extroverts
- Why introverts' overlooked strengths are the key to greater success in work, school, and society
- How extroversion caused the fall of Enron