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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What are the strengths of introverts? How do these qualities help in ways that might not be seen or appreciated?
The strengths of introverts include creativity, problem-solving, empathy, and more. However, society has a bias towards extroverts and the importance of these strengths can often be overlooked.
Keep reading to better understand the strengths of introverts and why a balance of personality types is ideal.
Unappreciated Strengths of Introverts
The strengths of introverts are numerous, but often underappreciated. Empathy, a strong social conscience, persistence, concentration, creativity, and solving complex problems are some of the strengths of introverts. A more balanced approach that takes advantage of the strengths of both personality types and offsets each one’s weaknesses would serve society better.
Quiet thinkers are responsible for many discoveries and artistic achievements, including:
- The theories of gravity and relativity of Einstein
- Nocturne by Chopin
- Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm by George Orwell
- The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
- Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schulz
- Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Other introverts notable for their achievements include Eleanor Roosevelt, Al Gore, Warren Buffett, Gandhi, and Rosa Parks. They all benefit from the strengths of introverts.
Rosa Parks: A Quiet Revolutionary
Civil rights icon Rosa Parks was an introvert who abhorred the spotlight. Yet her quiet, one-word response to being told to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and a national movement against racial segregation in public facilities.
On December 1, 1955, after a long day of ironing in the basement of the Montgomery Fair department store, Parks boarded a bus for home and sat down in the first row of the Colored section. When the driver ordered her to give up her seat, she simply said, “No”
The driver threatened to have her arrested, and she replied, “You may do that.” A police officer arrived and asked her why she wouldn’t move and she asked him in turn, “Why do you all push us around?” “I don’t know,” he said, “but the law is the law …” and he arrested her.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized that Parks’s quiet, unassuming nature plus her integrity and character made her a sympathetic and credible plaintiff for the lawsuit that ended bus segregation by order of the Supreme Court a year later. While King spoke for and promoted her, she remained humble and shunned the limelight. Yet she had taken considerable risk—she was fired from her job and received death threats for years.
News coverage of the Supreme Court order didn’t even mention Parks—the newspapers praised King and carried photos of boycott leaders standing in front of buses. Meanwhile, Parks was at home, caring for her mother.
In her brief autobiography Quiet Strength, published in 2010, she again resisted the opportunity to claim any credit, instead citing the many who died in the civil rights struggle.
The unique strengths of introverts, like Rosa Parks’ quiet determination, can be advantageous in many situations. But, steeped in the extrovert ideal, they may not recognize their own capabilities. For instance, author Susan Cain, an introvert and former Wall Street lawyer, recounts an instance early in her legal career, in which she was called upon to renegotiate the terms of a loan for an important client. While she was nervous initially, her low-key introvert approach of refusing to be adversarial, asking questions, listening, and focusing on solutions helped both sides reach an agreement. She was so successful that she received an offer of more work from her client and a job offer from her opponent.
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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