Book Review of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

This Book Review of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain is brought to you from Don Walker from the Titans of Investing.

Genre: Behavioral Psychology
Author: Susan Cain
Title: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Buy the Book)

Summary

Our lives are shaped as profoundly by personality as by gender or race. The single most important aspect of personality is our differing temperaments. This refers to where we fall on the introverted – extroverted spectrum. Our natural gravitation to one spectrum influences our choices of friends, spouse, how we socially interact, resolve differences, and show affection.

It affects the careers we pursue and whether or not we succeed at them. It governs how likely we are to take care of our bodies, engage in healthy relationships, learn from our mistakes, delay gratification, lead selflessly, and create profound change.

It’s a biological code reflected in our brain pathways, neurotransmitters, and remote corners of our nervous system. These underlying factors have laid the foundation for psychologists and scientists to explore all facets of the introversion/extraversion occurrences.

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Since the dawn of time, poets and quants have examined the intricacies of the introvert/extrovert phenomena. As with other complementary pairings – masculinity and femininity, east and west, liberalism and conservatism – humanity would be unrecognizable and vastly diminished without both personality types.

The Extrovert Ideal values those who are gregarious, alpha-seeking, and perfectly comfortable in the spotlight. The archetypal extrovert prefers action to contemplation, risk taking to thorough thought, swagger to shyness. Contrary to the 20th century, introversion along with its cousins, sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness, are known today as second-class personality traits, verging somewhere between disappointment and social disorder.

We are told that to be great is to be bold, and to be happy is to be sociable. We think we value individuality, but in reality, we are blinded by the cultural bias towards the kind of person who displays outer-charm. Furthermore, we place emphasis on the self rather than the greater good.

We take pride in identifying ourselves as a nation of extroverts, thus losing sight of who we really are. Extraversion is an enormously appealing personality trait, but we’ve turned it into a necessary standard to which most of us feel we must conform.

In extensive studies, talkative people are rated as smarter, better looking, more interesting, and more desirable as friends. It’s a grave mistake, however, to blindly embrace the Extrovert Ideal. Idea, innovation and beauty in the world have come from a quiet cerebral pool who knew how to tune in to their inner world and counterintuitively brilliantly innovate and create more harmony for human kind.

They prevail through their “quiet fortitude” and “radical humility” in profound paradoxical fashion. As scientist Winifred Gallagher writes “The glory of the disposition that stops to consider stimuli rather than rushing to engage with them is its long association with intellectual and artistic achievement.” Impactful introverts like Roosevelt, Gore, Buffett, Gandhi, and Parks all achieved what they did not in spite of, but because of, their introversion.

“The opposite of a correct statement is an incorrect statement, but the opposite of a profound truth is another profound truth.” Niels Bohr

Introduction

The Rise of the Mighty Likable Fellow: How Extraversion Became the Cultural Ideal

Dale was the poverty-stricken, awkward, and unassured son of a humble pig farmer from the rural Midwest. Throughout his youth and collegiate career, Dale worked relentlessly on his public speaking abilities to obtain a better life for himself. He acquired success by starting a public speaking course catered to Manhattan’s elite.

He eventually published a book, Public Speaking and Influencing Men, in which he assured his readers that they could learn everything about success in the modern business world by simply reading the book. He firmly believed that the critical facet needed to succeed in both business and life was the ability to speak out and be noticed.

Dale Carnegie’s story exemplifies a cultural paradigm shift that peaked around the turn of the twentieth century, a shift that affected all facets of American life. This shift from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality opened up “a Pandora’s box of personal anxieties from which we would never quite recover.” This resulting shift from valuing character to personality changed the world forever.

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The Culture of Character valued discipline and honor, not the “likeable self-promoter”. “Having a good personality” was a nonexistent ideal. Self-help manuals written in The Culture of Character era emphasized the significance of character, personal strength, and wholeness found in the modest, kind- hearted, everyday citizen.

During the advent of The Culture of Personality, Americans became intoxicated with how others perceived them.

They craved the buzz, the lavish roaring Gatsby-esque lifestyle. The industrial revolution was the instrumental driving force behind this shift. The self-help publications emphasized raising the individual above the collective. Our society was more interested in a flashy paintjob rather than the fine- tuning of the engine, the personality quirks rather than learned behaviors.

Nineteenth century culture-driven self-help publications measured attributes such as citizenship, duty, work, golden deeds, honor, reputation, morals, manners, and integrity. On the other hand, twentieth century personality-driven, self-help publications measured qualities such as magnetism, fascination, attractiveness, dominance, forcefulness, and energy.

Such qualities were typical of extroverted persuasions. As a result, society places undue pressure on those not naturally extroverted, creating the inferiority complex. Capitalizing on these phenomena, Madison Avenue directly targeted the anxieties of businessmen and stay-at-home wives.

The advertisements targeted deep-rooted insecurities and promoted the ideal that peers were watching you constantly. Their products would help you feign confidence in demanding social settings.

Along with societal pressures, another dramatic change occurred in the way people courted each other. Courtship was now a high stakes game, a battle of wills in which reaching out to others became mandatory. The perception was that reserved women were frigid and quiet men were homosexual.

In the education system, experts advised parents and teachers to change from book learning to assist in and guide developing personality characteristics. Child guidance experts shifted their attention from delinquent boys and promiscuous girls to trying to fix shy children.

Parents were discouraged to enroll their child in relatively solitary activities such as music because this could make a child unpopular, a veritable death sentence under the Cult of Personality. Parent-teacher conferences transitioned from discipline hearings into personality interventions. Yale’s president declared that the ideal Yalie was not a “beetle-browed, highly specialized intellectual, but a well-rounded man.”

The 1940 and 1950 employees claimed that the model employee was outgoing and polished. Self- assurance was the only acceptable state of being. The third, revised edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the [proclaimed] Bible of psychiatry, prescribed fear of public speaking as a disease, not a mere trait.

By 1955, pharmaceutical companies released an anti-anxiety drug called Milltown. By 1956, one out of every twenty Americans had tried it in an effort to rid themselves of social anxieties. By 1960, a third of all prescriptions from U.S. doctors were for Milltown or a similar drug called Equanil.

The perplexity of the introvert/extrovert dichotomy has been pondered for centuries.

From the Greeks and Romans to the early American settlers, leaders tended towards outgoing dispositions. According to some scientists, extraversion is in mankind’s DNA; however, the trait has been found to be less prevalent in Asia and Africa than in Europe and America.

The latter two have a population descended largely from the migrant of the world. This makes sense considering that world travelers were more extroverted. The 1828 presidential campaign pitted a former Harvard professor, John Quincy Adams, against a forceful military hero, Andrew Jackson.

Jackson’s campaign slogan was “John Quincy Adams who can write/ and Andrew Jackson who can fight.” With such a campaign promotion, it was not surprising that Jackson won.

The culture of personality holds aloft the insincere individual, blacks out morality under the haze of showmanship, and buries the square pegs society keeps trying to drive into round holes.

In a world entangled by the webs of deception, what sacrificial virtues suffocated along the way?

The Myth of Charismatic Leadership: The Culture of Personality, a Hundred Years Later

The extrovert ideal has transgressed though the Industrial Revolution. What was once looked at as a tool for advancement in the corporate world has emerged into being key to living a happy, sound, successful life. If Abraham Lincoln is the embodiment of virtue during the Culture of Character, then Bill Clinton is his counterpart during the Culture of Personality.

From Moses to Rosa Parks, strong introverts have been iconic leaders in history. Now, in order to outshine the crowd, society encourages us to develop extroverted qualities. Does it always make sense to equate leadership with hyper-extraversion?

With this in mind, Tony Robbins, the King of Extroverts, has capitalized on the $1billion self-help industry. He preaches that in order to succeed, one must be high-energy, and be consistently building confidence. The Tony Robbins appeal indicates that extroverts are both leaders and trustworthy.

Today, his ideas are not simply adopted by individuals, but they are embedded in powerful institutions everywhere.

Harvard Business School, described by many, as the “Spiritual Capital of Extraversion” is one of the most influential institutions to landscape the political, financial, and economic scope in the United States. At Harvard Business School, the students do not stroll. They gait forward with poise, posture, and purpose, exchanging animated greetings and conversations about summers at J.P. Morgan or travels in the Himalayas.

The women combine poise and classic Hollywood elegance with success. The men are dapper, clean-cut and athletic; they look like people who one would expect to be in charge, but in a friendly, Eagle Scout sort of way. With lofty expectations and social pressures, the students say that, “HBS is more high school than high school.”

The core curriculum at HBS covers not only the intricacies of finance or operational management but also the art of speaking assertively about one’s ideas, both inside and outside the classroom.

Benchmarking class participation grades on quick, authoritative, and assertive decision-making favors the bold.

Those with more reserved qualities drown beneath an ocean of brash opinions, leading to a faulty decision making process. The almighty, assertive students reign groupthink sessions. In a typical case study, students only receive partial information about the topic, yet they are expected to speak with full conviction.

This comes unnaturally to introverts, given their careful, intricate thought patterns. Conditioning them to adapt to this unnatural leadership style may be harmful in developing the world’s future leaders.

How much assertiveness, then, is the right amount? According to a study by Wharton professor Adam Grant, it depends on who is being led. If the leader in charge of getting ideas from a group of mainly passive employees is an extrovert, he/she tends to come up with better ideas; an extrovert’s charisma tends to “inspire contributions from their more taciturn employees.”

However, an extroverted leader has the opposite effect when the group consists of mainly assertive employees.

Introverted leaders outperform their extroverted counterparts here because they have better- developed listening capacities, allowing all members to be heard and contribute. In other words, the leadership benefits of extraversion and introversion are contextual, which suggests that one must examine the situation before selecting a leadership style. The most effective teams are composed of a healthy mix of introverts and extroverts, as well as a balance between group-oriented and self-oriented work environments.

While studies indicate that those who talk more and speak faster, are perceived as more intelligent by their peers, their grade-point averages, SAT scores, and IQ tests prove this inaccurate. In fact, heavy talking has zero correlation with greater insight. Such environments are dangerous.

We as a society must guard against letting these discussions become a popularity contest. People follow those who initiate action, but a society that overvalues extraversion sacrifices good ideas from less assertive individuals.

Extraversion has become a virtue not only defining one’s success, but a merit of one’s character. Introverts, on the other hand, succeed because of their natures, rather than in spite of them. Correlation between extraversion and effective leadership is miniscule.

When Collaboration Kills Creativity: The Rise of the New Groupthink and the Power of Working Alone

Over the last fifty years, American corporate culture has gone to great lengths to promote collaboration and group work as the optimal methods for ingenuity and efficiency. One example is the “brainstorm session,” which was coined by Madison Avenue legend Alex Osborn.

Since the goal of a brainstorm session is to generate the maximum number of ideas, those more comfortable with taking risks in a group setting tend to be better rewarded for their efforts.

After decades of analyzing Osborn’s claim, studies have shown repeatedly that performance suffers as group size increases. The exception to the rule is online brainstorming. Platforms like e-mail and online chat tools have proven to be the most effective.

Similarly, corporate offices have increasingly replaced private workspaces with public ones with the idea that by facilitating more employee-to-employee dialogue, creativity will flow faster. Open plan offices intended to facilitate social environments have been shown to reduce productivity, hamper stress, and cause higher worker turnover.

Several companies have experienced more contentment when restructuring space that fosters more worker privacy.

One study of 38,000 workers identified the simple act of being interrupted as one of the largest barriers to productivity in the workplace. To combat this, companies have started to adapt, No-Talk Thursday, one day when employees aren’t allowed to speak to each other, has been suggested as a means of achieving greater productivity.

What some call multitasking is really switching back and forth between tasks. Multitasking reduces productivity and increases mistakes by up to 50 percent. Scientific studies show that the brain is incapable of paying attention to two things at the same time.

One feels no pressure or constraints by the judgments of others when shielded by electronic media, a form of solitude all on its own. Linux and Wikipedia serve as great examples of these huge yet effective collaborations. Popularity of approval, crowd sourcing and group thought are online and produce results, while the same benefits do not carry over in person.

From developing an Olympic athlete to designing rockets, empirical data repeatedly affirms that a majority of the crucial work occurs in complete solitude. It is during this undisturbed time that skills deepen, genuine insights emerge, and real progress happens.

Exceptional performance depends not only on the groundwork we lay though deliberate practice, but also requires the right working conditions. The main difference between elite and average performers in all fields is the quantity of solitary practice.

Solitude serves as a catalyst for innovation. Solitary thought tends to be more focused, fruitful, and useful than social collaboration.

Franz Kafka says that writing means revealing oneself to excess: “that utmost of self-revelation and surrender, in which a human being, when involved with others, would feel her was losing himself, and from which, therefore, he will always shrink as long as he is in his right mind. That is why one can never be along enough when one writes, why there can never be enough silence around one when one writes, why even night is not night enough.”

When research psychologist Anders Ericson was fifteen, he took up chess. He was excellent, trumping all his classmates during lunchtime matches. Until one day, a boy who had been one of the worst players started to win every match.

This instance struck a life-long curiosity and turned out to be the defining question of his career. How do extraordinary achievers get to be so great at what they do? Ericsson searches for answers across diverse fields such as chess, tennis, and classical piano.

In a world-famous experiment, Ericsson and his colleagues compared three groups of expert violinists at the Elite Music Academy in West Berlin. The researchers asked the professors to divide the students into three groups: the “best violinists,” who had the potential for careers as international soloists; the “good violinists,” and a third group training to be violin teachers rather than performers. Then they interviewed the musicians and asked them to keep detailed diaries of their time.

They found striking difference among the groups. All three groups spent the same amount of time – over fifty hours a week – participating in music-related activities. All three had similar classroom requirements demanding their time.

However, the two best groups spent most of their music-related time practicing in solitude: 24.3 hours a week, or 3.5 hours a day, for the best group, compared with only 9.3 hours a week, or 1.3 hours a day, for the worst group. The best violinists rated “practice alone” as the most important of all their music-related activities.

Elite musicians, including those who perform in groups, describe practice sessions with their chamber group as “leisure” compared with solo practice, where the real work gets done Ericsson’s experiment goes to show that the absolute key to exceptional achievement being deliberate practice.

Highly successful individuals spend a lot of time in youth engrossed in their passion at the expense of social interaction.

Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, gives imperative advice, “Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me – they’re shy and they love in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists.

And artists work best alone where they can control an invention design without a lot of their people designing it for marketing or some other committee. I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has been invented by committee.

If you’re that rare engineer who’s an inventor and also an artist, I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone. You’re going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you’re working on your own. Not a committee. Not a team.

Your Biology, Your Self? Is Temperament Destiny?: Nature, Nurture and the Orchid Hypothesis

Temperament is the genetic foundation that predisposes individuals to behaviors, while personality is the result of one’s inherent traits and the environment. Everyone is at least partially constrained by his or her biological makeup, and certain physical feats are simply unachievable depending on how we were born. However, scientists are increasingly appreciating our bodies’ abilities to adapt to the demands of our ever-changing environment.

The most compelling evidence for the existence of introverted and extroverted temperaments comes from a study conducted over several decades by Harvard professor, Jerome Kagan Starting in the 1980s, Kagan recorded the responses of 500 infants as they were exposed to new experiences.

Some infants showed strong reactions, like flailing their arms, while others had more subdued responses.

Kagan hypothesized that the reactive infants (high-reactives) would grow up to be introverts, since “underlying the surface quiet of many introverts is a chronic responsiveness to new situations, especially social situations.” Kagan further hypothesized that the calmer infants (low-reactives) would grow up to be extroverts, unfazed by new stimuli.

Physical differences in brain chemistry differentiate introverts and extroverts. How the amygdala reacts is known as the emotional brain, which affects one’s reaction when faced with new situation or nearby threats.

In the brain, the limbic system is responsible for emotion, memory, and motivation. The amygdala, a part of the limbic system, reacts to new stimuli and creates fear if necessary. The highly reactive baby possessed more excitable amygdala than the others. The idea that introverts feel things more intensely explains why introverts may avoid a room full of people.

The perception that introverts are antisocial or misanthropic is false; rather, they do not respond well to new stimuli and feel overwhelmed. They are merely overstimulated by a nervous system that is more receptive and sensitive than extroverts.

These early differences do not necessarily mean that temperament is predetermined. Kagan frequently emphasized that there are many factors beyond rate of reactivity that could possibly determine introverted or extroverted qualities.

A high-reactive child’s ideal parent

High-reactive kids have a more sensitive and highly tuned response to stimuli; they are heavily influenced by environment and perception. High-reactive children are more vulnerable to anxiety and depression, but in the correct environment, they can flourish.

Low reactive children seem to engage in increasingly risky behaviors – some more productive than others. The high reactors tend to develop into thinkers, artists, and scientists because these disciplines allow them to remain themselves. Inborn temperament interacts with environment and free will; people who inherent certain genetic traits seek out those experiences that reinforce their temperament.

Reactivity to new experiences is not the only significant factor in the shaping of personality.

Furthermore, neither being high reactive nor low-reactive would be extremely helpful nor harmful. Low-reactive types are generally better at “taking life as it comes,” and would be less likely to develop anxiety or depression after traumatic experiences. High-reactive types are often more sensitive, which might increase their risk of adverse reactions, but can also enhance their ability to learn from enriched environments.

Orchid Hypothesis

David Dobbs proposed the orchid hypothesis when examining the phenomenon of positive aspects in high-reactive children. According to Dobbs, some children are like a dandelion, “able to thrive in just about any environment,” while others are like an orchid, “more fragile than the dandelion, but given the right environment, it can produce a rare and extraordinary blossom.”

Taken together, Kagan’s study and the orchid hypothesis reveal that temperament can be determined at an early age and each temperament (high reactive and low reactive) has positive attributes. The high-reactives in Kagan’s study are the orchids-in-waiting described in the orchid hypothesis.

Beyond Temperament: The Role of Free Will (and The Secret of Public Speaking for Introverts)

Temperament is not destiny, but it does place limits on what we can do.

Different temperaments arise from physiological differences in children. Scientists have seen how different temperaments that arise from physiological differences can drive a child’s route to adulthood. The rubber band theory of personality states that temperament creates a framework that we prefer to operate within.

Individuals have preferential tendencies that can stretch, but only so far before temperament will drag them to a halt. A neuroscience research lab under Schwartz picked up Kagan’s research in amygdalae activity by examining adult brains in the same subjects. Would the same patterns be present?

Schwartz found in preliminary results that the footprint of high/low reactivity never disappears in adulthood, despite the appearance of adaptation. This activity occurs in the prefrontal cortex that can sooth irrational fears. When individuals assess interaction, frontal cortex activity heightens, as in the amygdala in adult subjects.

High-reactive individuals still have these anxieties, but they have the abilities to overcome that initial reaction by a coping mechanism. This is how a self-described introvert can seem charming and outgoing on the surface.

Individuals with conditions such as anxiety and depression frequently have been found to have high amygdala responses, possibly reflecting a greater tendency toward worrying. A component of the reticular formation called the reticular activating system controls the amount of sensory data passed to the brain and can be wide open or more restrictive, so the brain is more or less stimulated by equal stressors across individuals.

However, the highly evolved prefrontal cortex allows most of us to override our amygdala responses; this is what allows shy people to overcome anxieties in public situation. The fact that amygdalae responses were stronger in high-reactive children long after they were first assessed suggests that although temperament is not absolute, it can only be changed to a certain extent.

The main dichotomy between introverts and extroverts is in the level of stimulation received from identical sources.

Therefore, it is important for each person to learn where his or her own comfort zone lies, and to try to stay there as much as possible. Too little novelty can become boring, but too much can be overwhelming. The relative balance will differ from person to person, but the more you know where you feel secure, the more you will be able to adjust your daily routine to optimize it.

Franklin Was a Politician, but Eleanor Spoke Out of Conscience: Why Cool is Overrated

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were two of the most influential political figures of the twentieth century, but what especially set them apart were their differing leadership styles. Franklin was bold and charismatic, while Eleanor was shy and often lacked confidence.

The juxtaposition of such extremes is what empowered them. Their power balance of temperament caused a massive ripple in American history society. If one type attains dominance, the overall outcome is hindered; if they coexist, the results are much greater.

Sensitivity and introversion appear to be closely related traits.

Kagan’s high-reactives responded strongly to even small changes in the world around them, making them not only more anxious but also more attuned to life’s subtleties. As research psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron suggested, this heightened sensitivity might be a cornerstone of some introverts’ greatest strength: empathy.

They have the aptitude to go beyond intellectually understanding what another person feels, to actually experience the emotions of the other. Introverts feel strongly, notice smaller changes, and process information in an unusually complex fashion. They are very empathetic and have only a thin barrier between the emotions of self and those of others.

Highly sensitive children experience a high sense of guilt.

Children with highly evolved empathy go on to have fewer problems in life. College students today are forty percent less empathetic than thirty years ago, a statistic that is frightening when one considers how empathy builds morals and conscience. Embarrassment shows people care.

A famous example of an introverted politician is Al Gore. Gore’s fact-based approach to global warming and climate change was mostly ignored by his colleagues in Congress. This was likely because extroverts need to be conveyed information in a stimulating manner.

To get his points across, Gore needed to combine the dry and scientific with the dramatic and flashy, which he accomplished in his documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Al Gore’s example offers two great lessons for introverts: “1. They must recognize that they may be more sensitive to important information than their extroverted peers, and 2. They must recognize that they may have to step outside their comfort zone to successfully communicate their concerns to a broader audience.”

Why did Wall Street Crash and Warren Buffet Prosper: How Introverts and Extroverts Think (and Process Dopamine) Differently

Warren Buffett’s skill as an investor is legendary, and it has been suggested that his abilities may be linked to his dopamine functioning. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter released in response to anticipated rewards in a given environment.

Dopamine is responsible for getting people excited about life’s bounties, but it can also cause people to become too focused on short-term gains and overlook risks. Extroverts socialize because it offers them reward and they have greater political, economic, and financial goals, creating more activated dopamine pathways. As a result, extroverted dopamine lovers are more likely to engage in behavior that could result in rewards.

Extroverts tend to be reward-sensitive, dreamers chasing the glory, especially when they see money on the table.

In contrast, introverts tend to be threat-sensitive, meaning they are careful thinkers, particularly when the stakes are higher. Introverts tend to focus on avoiding a potential loss rather than acquiring a potential gain.

Research has recently indicated that impulsivity traits are linked to higher dopamine levels. Introverts can avoid these kinds of mistakes because of their heightened sensitivity to the threat of loss. This may explain Buffett’s success, as he “doesn’t get too excited when his investments are going well,” and his focus on avoiding losses keeps his exuberance at bay.

Highly reward-sensitive extroverts focus on the end goal despite risks while introverts dwell on consequence over rewards. Those driven by the glory are doomed, while those driven by pursuing activity for its own sake rather than the end reward frequently experience success as a byproduct. The ability to forgo the short-term rush and continually delay gratification is key.

The old brain constantly tells us to “eat more, drink more, have more sex, take lots of risk, go for all the gusto you can get, and above all, do not think!” The old brain contains the reward and pleasure circuitry, while the new brain houses executive control functions.

Extroverts love the old brain.

The new brain, called the neocortex is responsible for thinking, planning, language, and decision-making. Its seat is rationality. The relationship between the two brains is unique, in that they work together, yet at the same time are in opposition to one another. One’s predisposition to reward-sensitivity is what type determines which will overpower the other.

The 2008 crash occurred because of excessive risk taking. Could more introverts in business help avert a similar situation in the future? Why is it that financial analysts of the cautious type are weeded out when in fact, the highest performing investment bankers are often introverts?

Cognitive Capacity, Problem-solving

Overconfidence creates desire for rewards. Extroverts tend to have high self-esteem, at times bordering on arrogance. They ignore negative feedback, making learning from mistakes more difficult. Introverts demonstrate the capacity to learn from their mistakes more quickly, whereas extroverts tend to let the thought of the end goal diminish this capacity. Introversion is better geared towards the long-term. When it comes to academic performance, introversion is a better predictor for success than IQ scores.

Persistence isn’t very glamorous, but it’s effective. That’s why Einstein wasn’t simply brilliant; he just stayed with problems longer. In a state of being called “flow,” persistence can happen without the pain. Influential psychologist Mihaly Csikszenthmihayi defines flow as an optimal state in which you feel completely engaged in an activity, whether it is a sport, composing music, or even sex.

In a state of flow, you’re neither bored nor anxious and you don’t question your own adequacy.

Hours pass without you noticing. They key is pursuing an activity for its own sake, not for the reward it brings. Although flow does not depend on being an introvert or an extrovert, many of the flow experiences that Csiskesnehaly writes about are solitary pursuits that have nothing to do with reward seeking: reading, tending an orchard, solo ocean cruising.

Flow often occurs in conditions where people “become independent of the social environment to the degree that they no longer respond exclusively in terms of its rewards and punishments. To achieve such autonomy, a person has to learn to provide rewards to him or herself.”

It’s imperative that we understand our biological tendencies influence how we approach risk. The counterbalance between brash investors and the emotionally stable is the reason why some achieve Alpha while others don’t. Many consider investments to be a zero sum game. The secret is to find balance between action and reflection.

Soft Power: Asian-Americans and the Extrovert Ideal

Do All Cultures Have an Extrovert Ideal?

Is the primacy of extraversion a fundamental fact of human nature, or is it a cultural phenomenon? One way to find out is to examine how introvert and extrovert qualities are viewed in non-Western societies.

While the Extrovert Ideal has influenced America, this way of life isn’t prevalent across the entire world.

Personality psychologist Robert McCrae demonstrated that while many European cultures tend to be extroverted, many Asian-American cultures tend to be introverted. In contrast to Western cultures, Asian societies often emphasize typically introverted qualities like patience, calm, thoughtful listening and careful speaking.

Thus, members of Asian cultures tend to take conversation very seriously, and do not believe in the Western idea of “talking just to talk.” What might be considered “class participation” in a Western classroom might be considered “talking nonsense” in its Asian counterpart.

A classic example is that while the Western proverb is “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” the Asian proverb is “those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know.”

Some Asian American students are more hesitant to speak up in class and prefer studying to socializing.

These traits are reinforced by their parents’ cultural values. In their classrooms, talking isn’t a focus in the same way it is in an American school. It’s discouraged because they place a high premium on the hierarchical structure, which values the collective honor over individuality. Following Hiroshima, guilt- ridden victims apologized to each other for having survived while fellow members perished.

Asian cultures tend to place emphasis on soft power, strength that comes from quiet persistence. An example of soft power is the work of Mahatma Gandhi, who exercised great restraint in order to not waste time on minor conflicts. He instead focused on the greater purpose, thus gaining traction and supporters from both sides.

This is why the Asian culture values soft power: leading others through examples, and acting patiently with perseverance and character. Soft power is an indication of one’s character and leadership abilities, a skillful tool used which relies less on charisma and more on character and conviction.

When Should You Act More Extroverted that You Really Are?

Regardless of natural temperament, everyone can appreciate the importance of being flexible, especially in social situations. However, difficulty arises in finding the balance between adjusting one’s behavior to the environment and entirely pretending to be someone else. Professor Brian Little has worked on solving this riddle.

Little has developed a theory of personality called Free Trait Theory.

According to this model, individuals can take on characteristics of a different personality style for small spurts at a time—similar to a walker bursting into a sprint for a short distance. As with sprinting, such changes come with a cost. Whether we are running or taking on a personality different than our own, we tend to exhaust our energy.

Little has found that it is not only fatigue that makes donning a different personality difficult, but other factors are involved as well. According to Free Trait Theory, people will have a tough time achieving traits not aligned with their core goals or values.

Little helps explain many of the apparent contradictions in the extraversion/introversion debate, such as how an apparent introvert like Barack Obama could nevertheless electrify enormous audiences with his speeches. The trick depends on a separate trait that psychologists describe as self-monitoring.

Individuals who are adept at self-monitoring are able to change their persona to fit the demands of a given situation, even if it means going against their natural tendencies. Importantly, Little has found that self-monitoring can be much easier when one is acting in accordance with core beliefs.

The important question is not whether you can fake it, but rather if you should.

Taking on traits that are otherwise outside your normal comfort zone is taxing, even under the best of circumstances. But when you find yourself doing it for a cause that you don’t really believe in, it can cause substantial distress with real implications for your physical and mental health.

Therefore, it is important for each of us to know our limits and know we are true to our convictions when we decide to take on characteristics outside our normal personality. It can be dangerous to act out of character, and it is important to include restorative niches where you go when you want to be your true self.

The Communication Gap: How to Talk to Members of the Opposite Type

Introverts prefer those they meet in a friendly setting, while extroverts like those whom they compete with.

The saying “opposites attract,” has been shown to be largely true in the case of both introverts and extroverts. An extrovert will feel the desire to draw their introverted partner out of their shell, and an introvert will feel safe with the social interactions their extroverted partner provides them. The issue is less about social and antisocial, and more about what kind of social interaction one desires.

Issues, however, often arise in introvert/extrovert couples surrounding confrontation.

An extrovert is comfortable with direct confrontation, while an introvert will perceive that as hostility and withdraw. Venting, in particular, is a communications hindrance. The introvert’s withdrawal can be mistaken as dismissal by the extrovert, creating a vicious cycle of assumptions and bitter feelings towards their counterpart. In contrast, a roused introverted romantic partner is most likely conveying avoidance behaviors to gain the attention of their partner.

Breaking this cycle requires cooperation between both partners. Each must accept that it is perfectly acceptable to have differing views on social interaction and problem solving, and the acceptance of one does not condemn the other. Furthermore, they must learn not to make assumptions about the other in times of conflict, and accept that what one might view as the wrong course of action is most natural to the other.

Despite the challenges, introverts and extroverts tend to complement each other and add depth to each other’s personality.

On Cobblers and Generals: How to Cultivate Quiet Kids in a World That Cannot Hear Them

Parents’ inherent child-rearing styles serve as catalysts in a child’s development, a phenomena described as parent-child fit.

Parent-child fit is instrumental in ensuring a healthy, loving upbringing. Glimpses of their child struggling can cause parents to overreact, often driven by the fear of social exclusion. When parents are concerned that their child is acting in an unfamiliar way, this damages their child’s self-image.

Imagine two extroverted parents raising an introverted child; they may see his/her mannerisms as a social disorder and rush to fix them. Similarly, two introverted parents may see a talkative, high-energy child as having ADHD, when in reality it may be simply childhood excitement.

Parents can learn to can pay close attention to how their child interacts in school and in extra-curricular activities. Many of these activities are catered to the extrovert, which can leave introverts at a disadvantage. However, parents can fully embrace their child’s independent tendencies.

Parents must nurture the natural strengths of developing introverts by allowing them to pursue new learning with more persistence and depth and helping them develop their natural competencies at an earlier age. This can be through finding their perfect school, a place where educators value varied instruction models.

A child’s success is based on the environment they are raised in, and if they are quiet, experts suggest to let them be. Because the next generation of quiet kids can and must be raised to know their own strengths.

Finding balance between action and reflection is integral to success in leadership and in the business world, despite a person’s perceived introversion or extraversion. Studies show that while many individuals fall within a midpoint between both personality types, genes and experience slightly tilts the scale in favor of one over the other. And there is nothing wrong with either.

As a manager, it is important to remember that those who are bold and dynamic may not always have the ideas that complement their flashy personalities, and those who keep to themselves often have minds that speak louder than their extrovert counterparts.

As employees, it is important to be mindful of different personalities in order to function as a cohesive unit, and learn from each other’s differences, rather than being limited by them. Despite which spectrum you fall under, it’s imperative to understand these subtle phenomena. In the end, the efficiency and productivity of a team is not determined by the extrovert or introvert tendencies of the individual, but by the product and ideas built by effective teamwork.

The trick is not to gather different aspects of various personalities, but to maximize the potential of the one you have been granted. More importantly, figure out what you are meant to contribute to the work and make sure you do so.

Dale Carnegie, a celebrated businessman and introvert, embodies a cultural shift that peaked around the turn of the twentieth century, a shift that affected all facets of American life. This shift from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality opened up “a Pandora’s box” of personal anxieties from which we are still recovering. The resultant shift from valuing character to personality changed the world.

HookedtoBooks.com would like to thank the Titans of Investing for allowing us to publish this content. Titans is a student organization founded by Britt Harris. Learn more about the organization and the man behind it by clicking either of these links.

Britt always taught us Titans that Wisdom is Cheap, and principal can find treasure troves of the good stuff in books. We hope only will also express their thanks to the Titans if the book review brought wisdom into their lives.

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