"Quiet - The Power Of Introverts In A World That Won't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain
April 20, 2020
Another enlightening book; this one has helped me understand my introversion and many of the frustrations it has caused me. This book should be standard issue to all kids (adults, too) who show signs of being introverts so they can better understand themselves, the world we live in and how to develop skills that build on the strengths of being an introvert.
The book starts with the history of how Western culture in the early 20th Century transformed from a culture of character to a culture of personality in which an "extrovert ideal" dominates and introversion is viewed as inferior or even pathological. Recognizing introversion and extroversion as preferences for different levels of stimulation, Quiet outlines the advantages and disadvantages of each temperament, emphasizing the myth of the extrovert ideal that dominates in the U.S.
Identifying temperament as the foundation of human identity, Cain cites research in biology, psychology, neuroscience and evolution to demonstrate that introversion is both common and normal, noting that many of humankind's most creative individuals and distinguished leaders were introverts. She asserts that no one is completely an introvert or an extrovert. Cain offers advice to introverts for functioning in an extrovert-dominated culture as well as in communication, work, and relationships between introverts and extroverts.
Introduction – The North and South of Temperament
Our lives are shaped as profoundly by personality as by gender or race. And the single most important aspect of personality -- the “north and south of temperament,” is where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum.
Our place on this continuum influences our choice of friends and mates, and how we make conversation, resolve differences, and show love. It affects the careers we choose and whether or not we succeed at them. It governs how likely we are to exercise, commit adultery, function well without sleep, learn from our mistakes, place big bets in the stock market, delay gratification, be a good leader, and ask “what if.” It’s reflected in our brain pathways, neurotransmitters, and remote corners of our nervous systems.
We hold in high regard remarkably narrow range of personality styles. We’re told that to be great is to be bold, to be happy is to be sociable. We see ourselves as a nation of extroverts -- which means that we’ve lost sight of who we really are.
If the fact that 1/3 to ½ of us are introverts surprises you, that’s probably because so many people pretend to be extroverts.
We live with a value system that I call the Extrovert Idea - the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight. The archetypal extrovert prefers action to contemplation, risk-taking to heed-taking, certainty to doubt. He favors quick decisions, even at the risk of being wrong. She works well in teams and socializes in groups. We like to think that we value individuality, but all too often we admire one type of individual -- the kind who’s comfortable “putting himself out there.”
Introversion -- along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness -- is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology.
Talkative people, for example, are rated as smarter, better-looking, more interesting, and more desirable as friends.
The vast majority of teachers believe that the ideal student is an extrovert.
If you’re an introvert, you also know that the bias against quiet can cause deep psychic pain.
At school you might have been prodded to come “out of your shell” -- that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and that some humans are just the same.
Now that you’re an adult, you might still feel a pang of guilt when you decline a dinner invitation in favor of a good book. Or maybe you like to eat alone in restaurants and could do without the pitying looks from fellow diners. Or you’re told that you’re “in your head too much,” a phrase that’s often deployed against the quiet and cerebral. Of course, there’s another word for such people: thinkers.
As she called the negotiation meeting to order, her thoughts running in a familiar loop: I’m too quiet for this kind of thing, too unassuming, too cerebral. She imagined the person who would be better equipped to save the day: someone bold, smooth, ready to pound the table. In middle school this person, unlike Laura, would have been called “outgoing,” the highest accolade her seventh-grade classmates knew, higher even than “pretty,” for a girl, or “athletic,” for a guy. Laura promised herself that she only had to make it through the day. Tomorrow she would go look for another career.
Laura had probably prepared more than everyone else. She had a quiet but firm speaking style. She rarely spoke without thinking. Being mild-mannered, she could take strong, even aggressive, positions while coming across as perfectly reasonable. And she tended to ask questions -- lots of them -- and actually listen to the answers, which, no matter what your personality, is crucial to strong negotiation.
She knew that she was just doing what you learn to do naturally as a quiet person in a loudmouth world.
By sticking to her own gentle way of doing things, Laura had reeled in new business for her firm and a job offer for herself. Raising her voice and pounding the table was unnecessary. Today Laura understands that her introversion is an essential part of who she is, and she embraces her reflective nature. The loop inside her head that accused her of being too quiet and unassuming plays much less often. Laura knows that she can hold her own when she needs to.
Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, said Jung, extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough.
But what do contemporary researchers have to say? I soon discovered that there is no all-purpose definition of introversion or extroversion.
Today’s psychologists tend to agree on several important points: for example, that introverts and extroverts differ in the level of outside stimulation that they need to function well. Introverts feel “just right” with less stimulation, as when they sip wine with a close friend, solve a crossword puzzle, or read a book. Extroverts enjoy the extra bang that comes from activities like meeting new people, skiing slippery slopes, and cranking up the stereo.
Many psychologists would also agree that introverts and extroverts work differently. Extroverts tend to tackle assignments quickly. They make fast (sometimes rash) decisions, and are comfortable multitasking and risk-taking. They enjoy “the thrill of the chase” for rewards like money and status.
Introverts often work more slowly and deliberately. They like to focus on one task at a time and can have mighty powers of concentration. They’re relatively immune to the lures of wealth and fame.
Our personalities also shape our social styles. Extroverts are the people who will add life to your dinner party and laugh generously at your jokes. They tend to be assertive, dominant, and in great need of company. Extroverts think out loud and on their feet; they prefer talking to listening, rarely find themselves at a loss for words, and occasionally blurt out things they never meant to say. They’re comfortable with conflict, but not with solitude.
Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.
The word introvert is not a synonym for hermit or misanthrope.
Nor are introverts necessarily shy.
Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not. Many shy people turn inward, partly as a refuge from the socializing that causes them such anxiety. And many introverts are shy, partly as a result of receiving the message that there’s something wrong with their preference for reflection, and partly because their physiologies, as we’ll see, compel them to withdraw from high-stimulation environments.
But for all their differences, shyness and introversion have in common something profound. The mental state of a shy extrovert sitting quietly in a business meeting may be very different from that of a calm introvert—the shy person is afraid to speak up, while the introvert is simply overstimulated—but to the outside world, the two appear to be the same. This can give both types insight into how our reverence for alpha status blinds us to things that are good and smart and wise. For very different reasons, shy and introverted people might choose to spend their days in behind-the-scenes pursuits like inventing, or researching, or holding the hands of the gravely ill—or in leadership positions they execute with quiet competence. These are not alpha roles, but the people who play them are role models all the same.
“There is no such thing as a pure extrovert or a pure introvert. Such a man would be in the lunatic asylum.” - Jung
There are so many different kinds of introverts and extroverts. Introversion and extroversion interact with our other personality traits and personal histories, producing wildly different kinds of people.
Many introverts are also “highly sensitive,” which sounds poetic, but is actually a technical term in psychology. If you are a sensitive sort, then you’re more apt than the average person to feel pleasantly overwhelmed by Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” or a well-turned phrase or an act of extraordinary kindness. You may be quicker than others to feel sickened by violence and ugliness, and you likely have a very strong conscience. When you were a child you were probably called “shy,” and to this day feel nervous when you’re being evaluated, for example when giving a speech or on a first date. We’ll examine why this seemingly unrelated collection of attributes tends to belong to the same person and why this person is often introverted. (No one knows exactly how many introverts are highly sensitive, but we know that 70 percent of sensitives are introverts, and the other 30 percent tend to report needing a lot of “down time.”)
If there is only one insight you take away from this book, I hope it’s a newfound sense of entitlement to be yourself. I can vouch personally for the life-transforming effects of this outlook.
CHAPTER 1 – THE RISE OF THE HIGHLY LIKABLE FELLOW (How Extroversion Became the Cultural Ideal)
Dale was born on a farm in Missouri. One day a Chautauqua speaker comes to town. The Chautauqua movement, born in 1873 sends gifted speakers across the country to lecture on literature, science, and religion.
Dale observed that the students who win campus speaking contests are seen as leaders, and he resolves to be one of them.
The new economy in the US in the early 20th Century called for a new kind of man -- a salesman, a social operator, someone with a ready smile, a masterful handshake, and the ability to get along with colleagues while simultaneously outshining them. Dale joined the swelling ranks of salesmen, heading out on the road with few possessions but his silver tongue.
Dale Carnegie goes on to found the Dale Carnegie Institute, dedicated to helping businessmen root out the very insecurities that had held him back as a young man.
In Carnegie’s first book Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business, “In the days when pianos and bathrooms were luxuries, men regarded ability in speaking as a peculiar gift, needed only by the lawyer, clergyman, or statesman. Today we have come to realize that it is the indispensable weapon of those who would forge ahead in the keen competition of business.”
Carnegie’s metamorphosis from farmboy to salesman to public-speaking icon is also the story of the rise of the Extrovert Ideal. Carnegie’s journey reflected a cultural evolution that reached a tipping point around the turn of the twentieth century, changing forever who we are and whom we admire, how we act at job interviews and what we look for in an employee, how we court our mates and raise our children. America had shifted from what the influential cultural historian Warren Susman called a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality -- and and opened up a Pandora’s Box of personal anxieties from which we would never quite recover. In the Culture of Character, the ideal self was serious, disciplined, and honorable. What counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved in private. The word personality didn’t exist in English until the eighteenth century, and the idea of “having a good personality” was not widespread until the twentieth.
When they embraced the Culture of Personality, Americans started to focus on how others perceived them. They became captivated by people who were bold and entertaining. “The social role demanded of all in the new Culture of Personality was that of a performer,” Susman famously wrote. “Every American was to become a performing self.”
The rise of industrial America was a major force behind this cultural evolution. The nation quickly developed from an agricultural society of little houses on the prairie to an urbanized, “the business of America is business” powerhouse.
Americans found themselves working no longer with neighbors but with strangers.
Americans responded to these pressures by trying to become salesmen who could sell not only their company’s latest gizmo but also themselves.
In earlier time, Americans celebrated regular people who lived highly moral lives.
But by 1920, popular self-help guides had changed their focus from inner virtue to outer charm — “to know what to say and how to say it,” as one manual put it. “To create a personality is power,” advised another. “Try in every way to have a ready command of the manners which make people think ‘he’s a mighty likeable fellow,’” said a third. “That is the beginning of a reputation for personality.”
[It is interesting to note that this "evolution" was cited by Stephen Covey in "7 Habits of Highly Effective People." He believed that his seven habits were rooted n the Culture of Character, not of Personality.]
Coming of age in the 1920s was such a competitive business compared to what their grandmothers had experienced, warned one beauty guide, that they had to be visibly charismatic: “People who pass us on the street can’t know that we’re clever and charming unless we look it.”
Such advice—ostensibly meant to improve people’s lives—must have made even reasonably confident people uneasy. Susman counted the words that appeared most frequently in the personality-driven advice manuals of the early twentieth century and compared them to the character guides of the nineteenth century. The earlier guides emphasized attributes that anyone could work on improving, described by words like Citizenship, Duty, Work, Golden deeds, Honor, Reputation, Morals, Manners, and Integrity. But the new guides celebrated qualities that were—no matter how easy Dale Carnegie made it sound—trickier to acquire. Either you embodied these qualities or you didn’t: Magnetic, Fascinating, Stunning, Attractive, Glowing, Dominant, Forceful, and Energetic.
It was no coincidence that in the 1920s and the 1930s, Americans became obsessed with movie stars. Who better than a matinee idol to model personal magnetism?
Madison Avenue spoke directly to the anxieties of male salesmen and middle managers. A Williams Shaving Cream ad featured a slick-haired, mustachioed man urging readers to “LET YOUR FACE REFLECT CONFIDENCE, NOT WORRY! IT’S THE ‘LOOK’ OF YOU BY WHICH YOU ARE JUDGED MOST OFTEN.”
The field of psychology also began to grapple with the pressure to project confidence.
“Our current civilization,” observed Allport, who was himself shy and reserved, “seems to place a premium upon the aggressive person, the ‘go-getter.’”
But nowhere was the need to appear self-assured more apparent than in a new concept in psychology called the inferiority complex (IC).
The IC developed in the 1920s by a Viennese psychologist named Alfred Adler to describe feelings of inadequacy and their consequences.
People feared they might be saddled with the dreaded IC -- a grave liability in an increasingly competitive society.
The idea of wrapping their social anxieties in the neat package of a psychological complex appealed to many Americans.
“So,” concluded Collier’s magazine in 1939, “if you have a big, husky, in-growing inferiority complex you’re about as lucky as you could hope to be, provided you have the backbone along with it.”
Shyness could lead to dire outcomes, they warned, from alcoholism to suicide, while an outgoing personality would bring social and financial success.
William Whyte’s The Organization Man, a 1956 best-seller, describes how parents and teachers conspired to overhaul the personalities of quiet children. “Johnny wasn’t doing so well at school,” Whyte recalls a mother telling him. “The teacher explained to me that he was doing fine on his lessons but that his social adjustment was not as good as it might be. He would pick just one or two friends to play with, and sometimes he was happy to remain by himself.” Parents welcomed such interventions, said Whyte. “Save for a few odd parents, most are grateful that the schools work so hard to offset tendencies to introversion and other suburban abnormalities.”
Harvard’s provost Paul Buck declared in the late 1940s that Harvard should reject the “sensitive, neurotic” type and the “intellectually over-stimulated” in favor of boys of the “healthy extrovert kind.”
Corporations’ recruiters: ‘They like a pretty gregarious, active type,’ he said. ‘So we find that the best man is the one who’s had an 80 or 85 average in school and plenty of extracurricular activity. We see little use for the “brilliant” introvert.’”
The rest of the organization men would have to manage as best they could. And if the history of pharmaceutical consumption is any indication, many buckled under such pressures. In 1955 a drug company named Carter-Wallace released the anti-anxiety drug Miltown, reframing anxiety as the natural product of a society that was both dog-eat-dog and relentlessly social.
Of course, the Extrovert Ideal is not a modern invention. Extroversion is in our DNA -- literally, according to some psychologists. The trait has been found to be less prevalent in Asia and Africa than in Europe and America, whose populations descend largely from the migrants of the world.
“As personality traits are genetically transmitted,” writes the psychologist Kenneth Olson, “each succeeding wave of emigrants to a new continent would give rise over time to a population of more engaged individuals than reside in the emigrants’ continent of origin.”
We can also trace our admiration of extroverts to the Greeks, for whom oratory was an exalted skill, and to the Romans, for whom the worst possible punishment was banishment from the city, with its teeming social life.
Early Americans revered action and were suspicious of intellect, associating the life of the mind with the languid, ineffectual European aristocracy they had left behind. The 1828 presidential campaign pitted a former Harvard professor, John Quincy Adams, against Andrew Jackson, a forceful military hero. A Jackson campaign slogan tellingly distinguished the two: “John Quincy Adams who can write / And Andrew Jackson who can fight.”
Students inhabit a world in which status, income, and self-esteem depend more than ever on the ability to meet the demands of the Culture of Personality.
Today, a full century after Dale Carnegie launched that first public-speaking workshop at the YMCA, his best-selling book How to Win Friends and Influence People is a staple of airport bookshelves and business best-seller lists. The Dale Carnegie Institute still offers updated versions of Carnegie’s original classes, and the ability to communicate fluidly remains a core feature of the curriculum.
How did we go from Character to Personality without realizing that we had sacrificed something meaningful along the way?
CHAPTER 2 THE MYTH OF CHARISMATIC LEADERSHIP (The Culture of Personality, a Hundred Years Later)
Salesmanship as a Virtue: Live with Tony Robbins
I’ve paid $895 in exchange, according to the promotional materials, for learning how to be more energetic, gain momentum in my life, and conquer my fears.
Tony Robbins’s, one of the more extroverted people on earth.
The self-help industry, into which hundreds of thousands of Americans pour their hearts, souls, and some $11 billion a year, by definition reveals our conception of the ideal self, the one we aspire to become if only we follow the seven principles of this and the three laws of that.
Robbins’ course implies that every encounter is a high-stakes game in which we win or lose the other person’s favor. It urges us to meet social fear in as extroverted a manner as possible. We must be vibrant and confident, we must not seem hesitant, we must smile so that our interlocutors will smile upon us. Taking these steps will make us feel good -- and the better we feel, the better we can sell ourselves.
"You don’t have to be an extrovert to feel alive!” True enough. But it seems, according to Tony, that you’d better act like one if you don’t want to flub the sales call and watch your family die like pigs in hell.
A Tony Robbins state of mind. But what exactly does this consist of? It is, first and foremost, a superior mind -- the antidote to Alfred Adler’s inferiority complex. Tony uses the word power rather than superior (we’re too sophisticated nowadays to frame our quests for self-improvement in terms of naked social positioning, the way we did at the dawn of the Culture of Personality), but everything about him is an exercise in superiority, from the way he occasionally addresses the audience as “girls and boys,” to the stories he tells about his big houses and powerful friends, to the way he towers -- literally -- over the crowd. His superhuman physical size is an important part of his brand; the title of his best-selling book, Awaken the Giant Within, says it all.
His intellect is impressive.
Part of Tony’s genius lies in the unstated promise that he’ll let the audience share his own journey from inferiority to superiority. He wasn’t always so grand, he tells us. As a kid, he was a shrimp. Before he got in shape, he was overweight. And before he lived in a castle in Del Mar, California, he rented an apartment so small that he kept his dishes in the bathtub. The implication is that we can all get over whatever is keeping us down, that even introverts can learn to walk on coals while belting out a lusty "YES."
Part of the Tony state of mind is good-heartedness. He wouldn’t inspire so many people if he didn’t make them feel that he truly cared about unleashing the power within each of them.
When Tony’s onstage, you get the sense that he’s singing, dancing, and emoting with every ounce of his energy and heart.
There’s also this: throughout the seminar, he constantly tries to “upsell” us.
But the thing about Tony -- and what draws people to buy his products -- is that like any good salesman, he believes in what he’s pitching. He apparently sees no contradiction between wanting the best for people and wanting to live in a mansion. He persuades us that he’s using his sales skills not only for personal gain but also to help as many of us as he can reach.
At the onset of the Culture of Personality, we were urged to develop an extroverted personality for frankly selfish reasons -- as a way of outshining the crowd in a newly anonymous and competitive society. But nowadays we tend to think that becoming more extroverted not only makes us more successful, but also makes us better people. We see salesmanship as a way of sharing one’s gifts with the world.
Visiting Harvard Business School The students are even better turned out than their surroundings, if such a thing is possible. No one is more than five pounds overweight or has bad skin or wears odd accessories. The women are a cross between Head Cheerleader and Most Likely to Succeed. They wear fitted jeans, filmy blouses, and high-heeled peekaboo-toed shoes that make a pleasing clickety–clack on Spangler’s polished wood floors. Some parade like fashion models, except that they’re social and beaming instead of aloof and impassive. The men are clean-cut and athletic; they look like people who expect to be in charge, but in a friendly, Eagle Scout sort of way. I have the feeling that if you asked one of them for driving directions, he’d greet you with a can-do smile and throw himself into the task of helping you to your destination -- whether or not he knew the way.
“Good luck finding an introvert around here,” says one. “This school is predicated on extroversion,” adds the other.
Between 2004 and 2006, 20 percent of the top three executives at the Fortune 500 companies were HBS grads.
Talk to Don (an Asian American) for a while and you’ll notice that his voice is softer than those of his classmates, his head ever so slightly cocked, his grin a little tentative. Don is “a bitter introvert,” as he cheerfully puts it -- bitter because the more time he spends at HBS, the more convinced he becomes that he’d better change his ways.
The essence of the HBS education is that leaders have to act confidently and make decisions in the face of incomplete information. The teaching method plays with an age-old question: If you don’t have all the facts -- and often you won’t -- should you wait to act until you’ve collected as much data as possible? Or, by hesitating, do you risk losing others’ trust and your own momentum? The answer isn’t obvious. If you speak firmly on the basis of bad information, you can lead your people into disaster. But if you exude uncertainty, then morale suffers, funders won’t invest, and your organization can collapse.
If a student talks often and forcefully, then he’s a player; if he doesn’t, he’s on the margins.
Many of the students adapt easily to this system. But not Don. He has trouble elbowing his way into class discussions; in some classes he barely speaks at all. He prefers to contribute only when he believes he has something insightful to add, or honest-to-God disagrees with someone. This sounds reasonable, but Don feels as if he should be more comfortable talking just so he can fill up his share of available airtime.
The school also tries hard to turn quiet students into talkers. The professors have their own “Learning Teams,” in which they egg each other on with techniques to draw out reticent students. When students fail to speak up in class, it’s seen not only as their own deficit but also as their professor’s. “If someone doesn’t speak by the end of the semester, it’s problematic,” Professor Michel Anteby told me. “It means I didn’t do a good job.”
“Socializing here is an extreme sport”
“If you leave HBS without having built an extensive social network, it’s like you failed your HBS experience.”
Don will graduate into a business culture in which verbal fluency and sociability are the two most important predictors of success, according to a Stanford Business School.
At HBS, everyone knows that it’s important to be an extrovert and troublesome to be an introvert. So people work real hard at looking like extroverts, whether that’s comfortable or not. It’s like making sure you drink the same single-malt scotch the CEO drinks and that you work out at the right health club.
A series of ads (in 1999 and 2000) for the psychotropic drug Paxil promised to cure the extreme shyness known as “social anxiety disorder” by offering Cinderella stories of personality transformation. One Paxil ad showed a well-dressed executive shaking hands over a business deal. “I can taste success,” read the caption.
“Our action plan hinged on what the most vocal people suggested” (not necessarily the most reasoned and best answer)
The HBS method “presumes that leaders should be vocal,” an HBS professor told me flat out, “and in my view that’s part of reality.”
Usually they’re carried away by people who are assertive and domineering. The risk with our students is that they’re very good at getting their way. But that doesn’t mean they’re going the right way.”
We perceive talkers as smarter than quiet types—even though grade-point averages and SAT and intelligence test scores reveal this perception to be inaccurate.
It also helps to speak fast; we rate quick talkers as more capable and appealing than slow talkers.
All of this would be fine if more talking were correlated with greater insight, but research suggests that there’s no such link.
A well-known study out of UC Berkeley found that television pundits -- that is, people who earn their livings by holding forth confidently on the basis of limited information -- make worse predictions about political and economic trends than they would by random chance. And the very worst prognosticators tend to be the most famous and the most confident -- the very ones who would be considered natural leaders in an HBS classroom.
In the “bus to Abilene” paradox, a group of people collectively decide on a course of action that is counter to the preferences of many or all of the individuals in the group. It involves a common breakdown of group communication in which each member mistakenly believes that their own preferences are counter to the group's and, therefore, does not raise objections. A common phrase relating to the Abilene paradox is a desire not to "rock the boat". This differs from groupthink in that the Abilene paradox is characterized by an inability to manage agreement.
The “Bus to Abilene” anecdote reveals our tendency to follow those who initiate action -- any action. We are similarly inclined to empower dynamic speakers.
“I worry that there are people who are put in positions of authority because they’re good talkers, but they don’t have good ideas,” the HBS professor said. “It’s so easy to confuse schmoozing ability with talent. Someone seems like a good presenter, easy to get along with, and those traits are rewarded. Well, why is that? They’re valuable traits, but we put too much of a premium on presenting and not enough on substance and critical thinking.”
BYU management professor Bradley Agle studied the CEOs of 128 major companies and found that those considered charismatic by their top executives had bigger salaries but not better corporate performance.
We tend to overestimate how outgoing leaders need to be. “Most leading in a corporation is done in small meetings and it’s done at a distance, through written and video communications,” Professor Mills told me. “It’s not done in front of big groups. You have to be able to do some of that; you can’t be a leader of a corporation and walk into a room full of analysts and turn white with fear and leave. But you don’t have to do a whole lot of it. I’ve known a lot of leaders of corporations who are highly introspective and who really have to make themselves work to do the public stuff.”
Some exceptional CEOs were known not for their flash or charisma but for extreme humility coupled with intense professional will.
What the highest-performing companies had in common, the nature of their CEOs jumped out at the researcher. Every single one of them was led by an unassuming person. Those who worked with these leaders tended to describe them with the following words: quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated.
The lesson is clear. We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.
What do introverted leaders do differently from -- and sometimes better than -- extroverts? A wing commander who was one of the most classically introverted people, as well as one of the finest leaders, Grant had ever met. This man lost focus when he interacted too much with people, so he carved out time for thinking and recharging. He spoke quietly, without much variation in his vocal inflections or facial expressions.
He was more interested in listening and gathering information than in asserting his opinion or dominating a conversation.
He led by supporting his subordinate’s efforts to take the initiative.
He gave subordinates input into key decisions, implementing the ideas that made sense, while making it clear that he had the final authority. He wasn’t concerned with getting credit or even with being in charge; he simply assigned work to those who could perform it best.
This meant delegating some of his most interesting, meaningful, and important tasks—work that other leaders would have kept for themselves.
The correlation between extroversion and leadership is modest.
It might be that certain organizations or contexts were better suited to introverted leadership styles and others to extroverted approaches, but the studies didn’t make such distinctions.
A leaders’ effectiveness can turn on whether their employees were passive or proactive. It makes sense that introverts are uniquely good at leading initiative-takers. Because of their inclination to listen to others and lack of interest in dominating social situations, introverts are more likely to hear and implement suggestions. Having benefited from the talents of their followers, they are then likely to motivate them to be even more proactive. Introverted leaders create a virtuous circle of proactivity, in other words.
Extroverts, on the other hand, can be so intent on putting their own stamp on events that they risk losing others’ good ideas along the way and allowing workers to lapse into passivity. “Often the leaders end up doing a lot of the talking,” says Francesca Gino, “and not listening to any of the ideas that the followers are trying to provide.” But with their natural ability to inspire, extroverted leaders are better at getting results from more passive workers.
The Internet Today another type of introverted leader speaks using the Internet.
Social media has made new forms of leadership possible for scores of people who don’t fit the Harvard Business School mold.
Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read, to say that they can express the “real me” online, and to spend more time in certain kinds of online discussions. They welcome the chance to communicate digitally. The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice. The same person who finds it difficult to introduce himself to strangers might establish a presence online and then extend these relationships into the real world.
It’s understandable that the HBS model of leadership places such a high premium on confidence and quick decision-making. If assertive people tend to get their way, then it’s a useful skill for leaders whose work depends on influencing others. Decisiveness inspires confidence, while wavering (or even appearing to waver) can threaten morale. But one can take these truths too far; in some circumstances quiet, modest styles of leadership may be equally or more effective. As I left the HBS campus, I stopped by a display of notable Wall Street Journal cartoons in the Baker Library lobby. One showed a haggard executive looking at a chart of steeply falling profits. “It’s all because of Fradkin,” the executive tells his colleague. “He has terrible business sense but great leadership skills, and everyone is following him down the road to ruin.”
Saddleback Church Saddleback has at least thing in common with Harvard Business School: its debt to—and propagation of—the Culture of Personality.
Like HBS, evangelical churches often make extroversion a prerequisite for leadership, sometimes explicitly.
He argues that evangelism means listening as well as talking, that evangelical churches should incorporate silence and mystery into religious worship, and that they should make room for introverted leaders who might be able to demonstrate a quieter path to God.
“It would be foolish to start a business without a business plan, but most people have no life plan."
“Everything in the service involved communication,” he says with gentle exasperation. “Greeting people, the lengthy sermon, the singing. There was no emphasis on quiet, liturgy, ritual, things that give you space for contemplation.”
“It sets up an extroverted atmosphere that can be difficult for introverts like me.” Evangelicalism has taken the Extrovert Ideal to its logical extreme, McHugh is telling us. If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love. It’s not enough to forge your own spiritual connection to the divine; it must be displayed publicly. Is it any wonder that introverts like Pastor McHugh start to question their own hearts?
He knows that meaningful change will come slowly to a religious culture that sees extroversion not only as a personality trait but also as an indicator of virtue.
Just as Tony Robbins’s aggressive upselling is OK with his fans because spreading helpful ideas is part of being a good person, and just as HBS expects its students to be talkers because this is seen as a prerequisite of leadership, so have many evangelicals come to associate godliness with sociability.
CHAPTER 3 - WHEN COLLABORATION KILLS CREATIVITY (The Rise of the New Groupthink and the Power of Working Alone) Today Steve Wozniak is a revered figure in Silicon Valley -- there’s a street in San Jose, California, named Woz’s Way -- and is sometimes called the nerd soul of Apple.
"Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me -- they’re shy and they live 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’s design without a lot of other 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 on a committee. Not on a team."
From 1956 to 1962, an era best remembered for its ethos of stultifying conformity, the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research at the UC-Berkeley, conducted a series of studies on the nature of creativity.
The more creative people tended to be socially poised introverts. They were interpersonally skilled but “not of an especially sociable or participative temperament.” They described themselves as independent and individualistic.
There’s a less obvious yet surprisingly powerful explanation for introverts’ creative advantage -- an explanation that everyone can learn from: introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation. Introversion “concentrates the mind on the tasks in hand, and prevents the dissipation of energy on social matters unrelated to work.
If this is true -- if solitude is an important key to creativity -- then we might all want to develop a taste for it. We’d want to teach our kids to work independently. We’d want to give employees plenty of privacy and autonomy. Yet increasingly we do just the opposite.
But the way we organize many of our most important institutions -- our schools and our workplaces -- tells a very different story. It’s the story of a contemporary phenomenon that I call the New Groupthink -- a phenomenon that has the potential to stifle productivity at work and to deprive schoolchildren of the skills they’ll need to achieve excellence in an increasingly competitive world.
The New Groupthink is embraced by many corporations, which increasingly organize workforces into teams, a practice that gained popularity in the early 1990s. Employees used to work alone in ‘I’ settings. Today, working in teams and groups is highly valued. We are designing products to facilitate that.
The cooperative approach has politically progressive roots -- the theory is that students take ownership of their education when they learn from one another -- but according to elementary school teachers I interviewed at public and private schools in New York, Michigan, and Georgia, it also trains kids to express themselves in the team culture of corporate America.
“In today’s business world people’s respect for others is based on their verbal abilities, not their originality or insight.”
While extroverts tend to attain leadership in public domains, introverts tend to attain leadership in theoretical and aesthetic fields. Outstanding introverted leaders, such as Charles Darwin, Marie Curie, Patrick White and Arthur Boyd, who have created either new fields of thought or rearranged existing knowledge, have spent long periods of their lives in solitude. Hence leadership does not only apply in social situations, but also occurs in more solitary situations such as developing new techniques in the arts, creating new philosophies, writing profound books and making scientific breakthroughs.
The Internet’s role in promoting face-to-face group work is especially ironic because the early Web was a medium that enabled bands of often introverted individualists -- people much like the solitude-craving thought leaders Farrall and Kronborg describe -- to come together to subvert and transcend the usual ways of problem-solving. A significant majority of the earliest computer enthusiasts were introverts, according to a study of 1,229 computer professionals working in the U.S., the U.K., and Australia between 1982 and 1984. “It’s a truism in tech that open source attracts introverts.
They found a striking difference among the groups of three levels of violinists. 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 -- even those who perform in groups -- describe practice sessions with their chamber group as “leisure” compared with solo practice, where the real work gets done.
Serious study alone” is the strongest predictor of skill for tournament-rated chess players. What’s so magical about solitude? In many fields, Ericsson told me, it’s only when you’re alone that you can engage in Deliberate Practice, which he has identified as the key to exceptional achievement. When you practice deliberately, you identify the tasks or knowledge that are just out of your reach, strive to upgrade your performance, monitor your progress, and revise accordingly. Practice sessions that fall short of this standard are not only less useful—they’re counterproductive. They reinforce existing cognitive mechanisms instead of improving them.
Deliberate Practice is best conducted alone for several reasons. It takes intense concentration, and other people can be distracting. It requires deep motivation, often self-generated. But most important, it involves working on the task that’s most challenging to you personally. Only when you’re alone, Ericsson told me, can you “go directly to the part that’s challenging to you. If you want to improve what you’re doing, you have to be the one who generates the move. Imagine a group class—you’re the one generating the move only a small percentage of the time.”
Ericsson says that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of Deliberate Practice to gain true expertise, so it helps to start young.
Wozniak says “I acquired a central ability that was to help me through my entire career: patience. I’m serious. Patience is usually so underrated. I mean, for all those projects, from third grade all the way to eighth grade, I just learned things gradually, figuring out how to put electronic devices together without so much as cracking a book.… I learned to not worry so much about the outcome, but to concentrate on the step I was on and to try to do it as perfectly as I could when I was doing it.”
Teens who are too gregarious to spend time alone often fail to cultivate their talents “because practicing music or studying math requires a solitude they dread.”
Exceptional performance depends not only on the groundwork we lay through Deliberate Practice; it also requires the right working conditions. And in contemporary workplaces, these are surprisingly hard to come by.
Open-plan offices have been found to reduce productivity and impair memory. They’re associated with high staff turnover. They make people sick, hostile, unmotivated, and insecure. Open-plan workers are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure and elevated stress levels and to get the flu; they argue more with their colleagues; they worry about coworkers eavesdropping on their phone calls and spying on their computer screens. They have fewer personal and confidential conversations with colleagues. They’re often subject to loud and uncontrollable noise, which raises heart rates; releases cortisol, the body’s fight-or-flight “stress” hormone; and makes people socially distant, quick to anger, aggressive, and slow to help others.
Indeed, excessive stimulation seems to impede learning.
If personal space is vital to creativity, so is freedom from “peer pressure.”
For Osborn, the solution was not to have his employees work alone, but rather to remove the threat of criticism from group work. He invented the concept of brainstorming, a process in which group members generate ideas in a nonjudgmental atmosphere. Brainstorming had four rules: 1. Don’t judge or criticize ideas. 2. Be freewheeling. The wilder the idea, the better. 3. Go for quantity. The more ideas you have, the better. 4. Build on the ideas of fellow group members.
Osborn believed passionately that groups—once freed from the shackles of social judgment -- produced more and better ideas than did individuals working in solitude, and he made grand claims for his favored method.
There’s only one problem with Osborn’s breakthrough idea: group brainstorming doesn’t actually work.
After all these years of evidence that conventional brainstorming groups don’t work, they remain as popular as ever. Participants in brainstorming sessions usually believe that their group performed much better than it actually did, which points to a valuable reason for their continued popularity—group brainstorming makes people feel attached. A worthy goal, so long as we understand that social glue, as opposed to creativity, is the principal benefit.
Psychologists usually offer three explanations for the failure of group brainstorming. The first is social loafing: In a group, some individuals tend to sit back and let others do the work. The second is production blocking: only one person can talk or produce an idea at once, while the other group members are forced to sit passively. And the third is evaluation apprehension, meaning the fear of looking stupid in front of one’s peers.
Fear of public humiliation is a potent force. An audience may be rousing, but it’s also stressful.
Research in neuroscience suggests that the fear of judgment runs much deeper and has more far-reaching implications than we ever imagined.
The Asch experiments demonstrated the power of conformity at exactly the time that Osborn was trying to release us from its chains.
The results corroborated Asch’s findings. When the volunteers played the game on their own, they gave the wrong answer only 13.8 percent of the time. But when they played with a group whose members gave unanimously wrong answers, they agreed with the group 41 percent of the time.
But Berns’s study also shed light on exactly why we’re such conformists. When the volunteers played alone, the brain scans showed activity in a network of brain regions including the occipital cortex and parietal cortex, which are associated with visual and spatial perception, and in the frontal cortex, which is associated with conscious decision-making. But when they went along with their group’s wrong answer, their brain activity revealed something very different.
Peer pressure, in other words, is not only unpleasant, but can actually change your view of a problem.
These early findings suggest that groups are like mind-altering substances.
Berns refers to this as “the pain of independence,” and it has serious implications. Many of our most important civic institutions, from elections to jury trials to the very idea of majority rule, depend on dissenting voices. But when the group is literally capable of changing our perceptions, and when to stand alone is to activate primitive, powerful, and unconscious feelings of rejection, then the health of these institutions seems far more vulnerable than we think.
The café worked as my office because it had specific attributes that are absent from many modern schools and workplaces. It was social, yet its casual, come-and-go-as-you-please nature left me free from unwelcome entanglements and able to “deliberately practice” my writing. I could toggle back and forth between observer and social actor as much as I wanted. I could also control my environment. Each day I chose the location of my table -- in the center of the room or along the perimeter -- depending on whether I wanted to be seen as well as to see. And I had the option to leave whenever I wanted peace and quiet to edit what I’d written that day. Usually I was ready to exercise this right after only a few hours -- not the eight, ten, or fourteen hours that many office dwellers put in.
At Microsoft, many employees enjoy their own private offices, yet they come with sliding doors, movable walls, and other features that allow occupants to decide when they want to collaborate and when they need private time to think. These kinds of diverse workspaces benefit introverts as well as extroverts, the systems design researcher Matt Davis told me, because they offer more spaces to retreat to than traditional open-plan offices.
CHAPTER 4 - IS TEMPERAMENT DESTINY? (Nature, Nurture, and the Orchid Hypothesis)
Some people are more certain of everything than I am of anything. —ROBERT RUBIN, in An Uncertain World Scientists are probing the human brain in an attempt to discover the biological origins of human temperament.
[Note: Temperament refers to personality traits that determine how someone reacts to the world. Are they quiet or rambunctious? Easygoing or apprehensive? The traits of temperament are mostly innate traits that we are born with, although they can be influenced by an individual’s family, culture or their experiences. A person’s temperament style plays a role in how they behave and interact with other people and within their world. There are nine different traits of temperament:
Psychologists often discuss the difference between “temperament” and “personality.”
Temperament refers to inborn, biologically based behavioral and emotional patterns that are observable in infancy and early childhood.
Personality is the complex brew that emerges after cultural influence and personal experience are thrown into the mix.
Some say that temperament is the foundation, and personality is the building. Jerry Kagan’s work helped link certain infant temperaments with adolescent personality styles like those of introverts and extroverts.
But how did Kagan know that the arm-thrashing infants would likely turn into cautious, reflective teens, or that the quiet babies were more likely to become forthright, too-cool-for-school teenagers? The answer lies in their physiologies.
In addition to observing the children’s behaviors in strange situations, Kagan’s team measured their heart rates, blood pressure, finger temperature, and other properties of the nervous system. Kagan chose these measures because they’re believed to be controlled by a potent organ inside the brain called the amygdala.
The amygdala is located deep in the limbic system, an ancient brain network found even in primitive animals like mice and rats. This network -- sometimes called the “emotional brain” -- underlies many of the basic instincts we share with these animals, such as appetite, and fear.
The amygdala serves as the brain’s emotional switchboard, receiving information from the senses and then signaling the rest of the brain and nervous system how to respond. One of its functions is to instantly detect new or threatening things in the environment -- from an airborne Frisbee to a hissing serpent -- and send rapid-fire signals through the body that trigger the fight-or-flight response. When the Frisbee looks like it’s headed straight for your nose, it’s your amygdala that tells you to duck. When the rattlesnake prepares to bite, it’s the amygdala that makes sure you run.
The more reactive a child’s amygdala, the higher his heart rate is likely to be, the more widely dilated his eyes, the tighter his vocal cords, the more cortisol (a stress hormone) in his saliva -- the more jangled he’s likely to feel when he confronts something new and stimulating.
What we’re really observing is a child’s sensitivity to novelty in general. The high-reactive babies were not misanthropes in the making; they were simply sensitive to their environments.
High-reactive kids also tend to think and feel deeply about what they’ve noticed, and to bring an extra degree of nuance to everyday experiences.
All kids notice their environments and feel emotions, of course, but high-reactive kids seem to see and feel things more.
“Putting theory into practice is hard for (high-reactive kids)” writes Gallagher, “because their sensitive natures and elaborate schemes are unsuited to the heterogeneous rigors of the schoolyard.” These traits -- alertness, sensitivity to nuance, complex emotionality -- turn out to be highly underrated powers.
Other studies of personality also support the premise that extroversion and introversion are physiologically, even genetically, based.
None of these studies is perfect, but the results have consistently suggested that introversion and extroversion, like other major personality traits such as agreeableness and conscientiousness, are about 40 to 50 percent heritable.
Can we really reduce an introverted or extroverted personality to the nervous system its owner was born with?
Many high-reactives become writers or pick other intellectual vocations where “you’re in charge: you close the door, pull down the shades and do your work. You’re protected from encountering unexpected things.” (Those from less educated backgrounds tend to become file clerks and truck drivers, he says, for the same reasons.)
When writers and journalists talk, they want to see a one-to-one relationship—one behavior, one cause. But it’s really important that you see, for behaviors like slow-to-warm-up, shyness, impulsivity, there are many routes to that.
Each of us has a different threshold for triggering the fight-or-flight response.
Introverts are significantly more likely than extroverts to fear public speaking.
So am I introverted because I inherited my parents’ high reactivity, copied their behaviors, or both? Inheritability statistics derived from twin studies show that introversion-extroversion is only 40 to 50 percent heritable. This means that, in a group of people, on average half of the variability in introversion-extroversion is caused by genetic factors. To make things even more complex, there are probably many genes at work, and Kagan’s framework of high reactivity is likely one of many physiological routes to introversion. Also, averages are tricky. A heritability rate of 50 percent doesn’t necessarily mean that my introversion is 50 percent inherited from my parents, or that half of the difference in extroversion between my best friend and me is genetic. One hundred percent of my introversion might come from genes, or none at all—or more likely some unfathomable combination of genes and experience. To ask whether it’s nature or nurture is like asking whether a blizzard is caused by temperature or humidity. It’s the intricate interaction between the two that makes us who we are.
To what degree is temperament destiny?
Chuck Yeager (the first pilot to break the sound barrier) could step down from the belly of the bomber into the rocketship and push the button not because he was born with that difference between him and me, but because for the previous 30 years his temperament impelled him to work his way up from climbing trees through increasing degrees of danger and excitement.
The destinies of the most high-reactive kids are also influenced by the world around them --perhaps even more so than for the average child, according to a groundbreaking new theory dubbed “the orchid hypothesis” by David Dobbs. This theory holds that many children are like dandelions, able to thrive in just about any environment. But others, including the high-reactive types that Kagan studied, are more like orchids: they wilt easily, but under the right conditions can grow strong and magnificent.
A particular variation, or allele, of the serotonin-transporter (SERT) gene, sometimes referred to as the “short” allele, is thought to be associated with high reactivity and introversion, as well as a heightened risk of depression in humans who have had difficult lives.
The parents of high-reactive children are exceedingly lucky, “The time and effort they invest will actually make a difference. Instead of seeing these kids as vulnerable to adversity, parents should see them as malleable -- for worse, but also for better.” He describes eloquently a high-reactive child’s ideal parent: someone who “can read your cues and respect your individuality; is warm and firm in placing demands on you without being harsh or hostile; promotes curiosity, academic achievement, delayed gratification, and self-control; and is not harsh, neglectful, or inconsistent.” This advice is terrific for all parents, of course, but it’s crucial for raising a high-reactive child.
There’s another kind of flexibility that we all hope applies to the question of who we are and what we become. We want the freedom to map our own destinies. We want to preserve the advantageous aspects of our temperaments and improve, or even discard, the ones we dislike -- such as a horror of public speaking. In addition to our inborn temperaments, beyond the luck of the draw of our childhood experience, we want to believe that we -- as adults -- can shape ourselves and make what we will of our lives.
CHAPTER 5 - BEYOND TEMPERAMENT (The Role of Free Will (and the Secret of Public Speaking for Introverts))
The footprint of a high- or low-reactive temperament never disappeared in adulthood.
Some high-reactives grew into socially fluid teenagers who were not outwardly rattled by novelty, but they never shed their genetic inheritance.
Schwartz’s research suggests something important: we can stretch our personalities, but only up to a point. Our inborn temperaments influence us, regardless of the lives we lead. A sizable part of who we are is ordained by our genes, by our brains, by our nervous systems. And yet the elasticity that Schwartz found in some of the high-reactive teens also suggests the converse: we have free will and can use it to shape our personalities.
The amygdala, and the limbic system of which it’s a key part, is an ancient part of the brain --so old that primitive mammals have their own versions of this system. But as mammals became more complex, an area of the brain called the neocortex developed around the limbic system. The neocortex, and particularly the frontal cortex in humans, performs an astonishing array of functions, from deciding which brand of toothpaste to buy, to planning a meeting, to pondering the nature of reality. One of these functions is to soothe unwarranted fears.
If you were a high-reactive baby, then your amygdala may, for the rest of your life, go a bit wild every time you introduce yourself to a stranger at a cocktail party. But if you feel relatively skilled in company, that’s partly because your frontal cortex is there to tell you to calm down, extend a handshake, and smile. In fact, a recent fMRI study shows that when people use self-talk to reassess upsetting situations, activity in their prefrontal cortex increases in an amount correlated with a decrease of activity in their amygdala.
In humans with unwarranted fears, like fear of heights, the same thing happens. Repeated trips to the top of the Empire State Building seem to extinguish the fear, but it may come roaring back during times of stress -- when the cortex has other things to do than soothe an excitable amygdala.
When I think of my own experiences, I realize it’s not true that I’m no longer shy; I’ve just learned to talk myself down from the ledge (thank you, prefrontal cortex).
The word that Kagan first used to describe high-reactive people was inhibited, and that’s exactly how I still feel at some dinner parties.
This ability to stretch ourselves -- within limits -- applies to extroverts, too.
Even though we can reach for the outer limits of our temperaments, it can often be better to situate ourselves squarely inside our comfort zones.
Another difference between introverts and extroverts: their preference for stimulation.
Eysenck’s theory that cortical arousal levels are an important clue to the nature of introversion and extroversion, and it appears to be what the personality psychologist David Funder calls “half-right” -- in very important ways. Whatever the underlying cause, there’s a host of evidence that introverts are more sensitive than extroverts to various kinds of stimulation, from coffee to a loud bang to the dull roar of a networking event -- and that introverts and extroverts often need very different levels of stimulation to function at their best.
Once you understand introversion and extroversion as preferences for certain levels of stimulation, you can begin consciously trying to situate yourself in environments favorable to your own personality -- neither over-stimulating nor under-stimulating, neither boring nor anxiety-making. You can organize your life in terms of what personality psychologists call “optimal levels of arousal” and what I call “sweet spots,” and by doing so feel more energetic and alive than before.
Imagine how much better you’ll be at this sweet-spot game once you’re aware of playing it.
You can set up your work, your hobbies, and your social life so that you spend as much time inside your sweet spot as possible. People who are aware of their sweet spots have the power to leave jobs that exhaust them and start new and satisfying businesses. They can hunt for homes based on the temperaments of their family members—with cozy window seats and other nooks and crannies for the introverts, and large, open living-dining spaces for the extroverts.
Overarousal interferes with attention and short-term memory -- key components of the ability to speak on the fly.
She can prepare the same way for client meetings, networking events, even casual meetings with her colleagues -- any situation of heightened intensity in which her short-term memory and the ability to think on her feet might be a little more compromised than usual.
Often used as a way to conquer phobias, desensitization involves exposing yourself (and your amygdala) to the thing you’re afraid of over and over again, in manageable doses. This is very different from the well-meaning but unhelpful advice that you should just jump in at the deep end and try to swim -- an approach that might work, but more likely will produce panic, further encoding in your brain a cycle of dread, fear, and shame.
I wondered why I prized reassurances so highly. Then I realized that I was attending the workshop because I wanted to stretch myself to the outer limits of my temperament. I wanted to be the best and bravest speaker I could be. The reassurances were evidence that I was on my way toward achieving this goal. I suspected that the feedback I was getting was overly charitable, but I didn’t care. What mattered was that I’d addressed an audience that had received me well, and I felt good about the experience. I had begun to desensitize myself to the horrors of public speaking. CHAPTER 6- “FRANKLIN WAS A POLITICIAN, BUT ELEANOR SPOKE OUT OF CONSCIENCE” Why Cool Is Overrated
Tom kicks off the group discussion, describing with great passion his relief at learning that there was “a physiological basis for the trait of sensitivity. Here’s the research! This is how I am! I don’t have to try to meet anyone’s expectations anymore. I don’t need to feel apologetic or defensive in any way.”
When it’s my turn, I talk about how I’ve never been in a group environment in which I didn’t feel obliged to present an unnaturally rah-rah version of myself. I say that I’m interested in the connection between introversion and sensitivity. Many people nod.
Aron named the people who embodied these attributes of “highly sensitive.”[Introducing a new term here.]. Some of these 27 attributes were familiar from Kagan and others’ work. For example, highly sensitive people tend to be keen observers who look before they leap. They arrange their lives in ways that limit surprises. They’re often sensitive to sights, sounds, smells, pain, coffee. They have difficulty when being observed (at work, say, or performing at a music recital) or judged for general worthiness (dating, job interviews). But there were also new insights. The highly sensitive tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive. They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions -- sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear.
Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments -- both physical and emotional -- unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss -- another person’s shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly.
Highly-sensitive types think in an unusually complex fashion.
It may also help explain why they’re so bored by small talk. If you’re thinking in more complicated ways than talking about the weather or where you went for the holidays is not quite as interesting as talking about values or morality.
The other thing Aron found about sensitive people is that sometimes they’re highly empathic. It’s as if they have thinner boundaries separating them from other people’s emotions and from the tragedies and cruelties of the world. They tend to have unusually strong consciences. They avoid violent movies and TV shows; they’re acutely aware of the consequences of a lapse in their own behavior. In social settings they often focus on subjects like personal problems, which others consider “too heavy.”
Aron has also found that when sensitive people see faces of people experiencing strong feelings, they have more activation than others do in areas of the brain associated with empathy and with trying to control strong emotions.
Functional, moderate guilt as experienced by introverts may promote future altruism, personal responsibility, adaptive behavior in school, and harmonious, competent, and prosocial relationships with parents, teachers, and friends.
The very thing that many highly sensitive people hate most about blushing -- its uncontrollability -- is what makes it so socially useful. Because it is impossible to control the blush intentionally, blushing is an authentic sign of embarrassment.
Embarrassment reveals how much the individual cares about the rules that bind us to one another. It’s better to mind too much than to mind too little.
Shy and bold - both types of animals exist because they have radically different survival strategies, each of which pays off differently and at different times. This is what’s known as the trade-off theory of evolution, in which a particular trait is neither all good nor all bad, but a mix of pros and cons whose survival value varies according to circumstance.
If you’re a sensitive sort, then you may be in the habit of pretending to be more of a politician and less cautious or single-mindedly focused than you actually are. But I’m asking you to rethink this view. Without people like you, we will, quite literally, drown.
CHAPTER 7 - WHY DID WALL STREET CRASH AND WARREN BUFFETT PROSPER? (How Introverts and Extroverts Think (and Process Dopamine) Differently) A reward-sensitive person is highly motivated to seek rewards -- from a promotion to a lottery jackpot to an enjoyable evening out with friends. Reward sensitivity motivates us to pursue goals like money, social status and influence. It prompts us to climb ladders and reach for faraway branches in order to gather life’s choicest fruits.
If you are too sensitive to rewards, you can fall into a classic pattern of reward sensitivity run amok: at exactly the moments when the warning signs suggested slowing down, you sped up—dumping money you couldn’t afford to lose into a speculative series of trades.
Dorn has observed that her extroverted clients are more likely to be highly reward-sensitive, while the introverts are more likely to pay attention to warning signals.
The introverts are much better at making a plan, staying with a plan, being very disciplined.
Our limbic system, which we share with the most primitive mammals and which Dorn calls the “old brain,” is emotional and instinctive. It comprises various structures, including the amygdala, and it’s highly interconnected with the nucleus accumbens, sometimes called the brain’s “pleasure center.” We examined the anxious side of the old brain when we explored the role of the amygdala in high reactivity and introversion. Now we’re about to see its greedy side. The old brain, according to Dorn, is constantly telling us, “Yes, yes, yes! Eat more, drink more, take lots of risk, go for all the gusto you can get, and above all, do not think!”
We also have a “new brain” called the neocortex. The new brain is responsible for thinking, planning, language, and decision-making—some of the very faculties that make us human. Although the new brain also plays a significant role in our emotional lives, it’s the seat of rationality.
Reward-sensitivity is not only an interesting feature of extroversion; it is what makes an extrovert an extrovert.
What underlies all this reward-seeking? The key seems to be positive emotion. Extroverts tend to experience more pleasure and excitement than introverts do—emotions that are activated, explains the psychologist Daniel Nettle in his illuminating book on personality, “in response to the pursuit or capture of some resource that is valued.
The basis of buzz appears to be a high degree of activity in a network of structures in the brain—often called the “reward system”—including the orbitofrontal cortex, the nucleus accumbens, and the amygdala.
The neurons that transmit information in the reward network operate in part through a neurotransmitter—a chemical that carries information between brain cells—called dopamine. Dopamine is the “reward chemical” released in response to anticipated pleasures. The more responsive your brain is to dopamine, or the higher the level of dopamine you have available to release, some scientists believe, the more likely you are to go after rewards like sex, chocolate, money, and status.
Extroverts’ dopamine pathways appear to be more active than those of introverts. Introverts just don’t buzz as easily.
Extroverts are lucky; buzz has a delightful champagne-bubble quality. It fires us up to work and play hard. It gives us the courage to take chances. Buzz also gets us to do things that would otherwise seem too difficult, like giving speeches.
Another disadvantage of buzz may be its connection to risk—sometimes outsized risk. Buzz can cause us to ignore warning signs we should be heeding.
It also helps explain why extroverts are more prone than introverts to overconfidence—defined as greater confidence unmatched by greater ability.
Introverts also seem to be better than extroverts at delaying gratification, a crucial life skill associated with everything from higher SAT scores and income to lower body mass index. It was forceful extroverts who caused the global financial crash.
The problem is that, on one side, you have a rainmaker who is making lots of money for the company and is treated like a superstar, and on the other side you have an introverted nerd.
So who do you think wins?”
Extroverts think less and act faster on such tasks: introverts are “geared to inspect” and extroverts “geared to respond.”
If you focus on achieving your goals, as reward-sensitive extroverts do, you don’t want anything to get in your way—neither naysayers nor the number nine. You speed up in an attempt to knock these roadblocks down.
Introverts also tend to compare new information with their expectations, he says. They ask themselves, “Is this what I thought would happen? Is it how it should be?” And when the situation falls short of expectations, they form associations between the moment of disappointment (losing points) and whatever was going on in their environment at the time of the disappointment (hitting the number nine.) These associations let them make accurate predictions about how to react to warning signals in the future.
Introverts’ disinclination to charge ahead is not only a hedge against risk; it also pays off on intellectual tasks. Here are some of the things we know about the relative performance of introverts and extroverts at complex problem-solving. Extroverts get better grades than introverts during elementary school, but introverts outperform extroverts in high school and college. At the university level, introversion predicts academic performance better than cognitive ability.
Introverts are not smarter than extroverts. According to IQ scores, the two types are equally intelligent. And on many kinds of tasks, particularly those performed under time or social pressure or involving multitasking, extroverts do better. Extroverts are better than introverts at handling information overload. Introverts’ reflectiveness uses up a lot of cognitive capacity, according to Joseph Newman. On any given task, he says, “if we have 100 percent cognitive capacity, an introvert may have only 75 percent on task and 25 percent off task, whereas an extrovert may have 90 percent on task.” This is because most tasks are goal-directed. Extroverts appear to allocate most of their cognitive capacity to the goal at hand, while introverts use up capacity by monitoring how the task is going.
Introverts sometimes outperform extroverts even on social tasks that require persistence. Persistence isn’t very glamorous. If genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration, then as a culture we tend to lionize the one percent.
“It’s not that I’m so smart,” said Einstein, who was a consummate introvert. “It’s that I stay with problems longer.”
Understanding where we fall on the reward-sensitivity spectrum gives us the power to live our lives well.
If you’re an introvert who’s relatively immune to the excesses of reward sensitivity? At first blush, the research on dopamine and buzz seems to imply that extroverts, and extroverts alone, are happily motivated to work hard by the excitement they get from pursuing their goals. As an introvert, I was puzzled by this idea when I first came across it. It didn’t reflect my own experience. I’m in love with my work and always have been. I wake up in the morning excited to get started.
I believe that another important explanation for introverts who love their work may come from a very different line of research by the influential psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on the state of being he calls “flow.” Flow is an optimal state in which you feel totally engaged in an activity—whether long-distance swimming or songwriting, sumo wrestling or sex. In a state of flow, you’re neither bored nor anxious, and you don’t question your own adequacy. Hours pass without your noticing. The key to flow is to pursue an activity for its own sake, not for the rewards it brings. Although flow does not depend on being an introvert or an extrovert, many of the flow experiences that Csikszentmihalyi writes about are solitary pursuits that have nothing to do with reward-seeking: reading, tending an orchard, solo ocean cruising. Flow often occurs, he writes, in conditions in which 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 herself.”
If you’re an introvert, find your flow by using your gifts. You have the power of persistence, the tenacity to solve complex problems, and the clear-sightedness to avoid pitfalls that trip others up. You enjoy relative freedom from the temptations of superficial prizes like money and status. Indeed, your biggest challenge may be to fully harness your strengths. You may be so busy trying to appear like a zestful, reward-sensitive extrovert that you undervalue your own talents, or feel underestimated by those around you. But when you’re focused on a project that you care about, you probably find that your energy is boundless. So stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don’t force yourself to seek breadth. If you prefer single-tasking to multitasking, stick to your guns. Being relatively unmoved by rewards gives you the incalculable power to go your own way. It’s up to you to use that independence to good effect.
Success in investing doesn’t correlate with IQ. Once you have ordinary intelligence, what you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble in investing.
CHAPTER 8 - SOFT POWER Asian-Americans and the Extrovert Ideal If I (an Asian-American teenager) have a choice between doing something for myself, like going out with my friends, or staying home and studying, I think of my parents. That gives me the strength to keep studying. My father tells me that his job is computer programming, and my job is to study.
“It’s really Chinese to pursue your own education like that (quietly and with purpose).
The library is to Cupertino (home to many Asian-Americans) what the mall or soccer field is to other towns: an unofficial center of village life.
“Introversion is not looked down upon,” she tells me. “It is accepted. In some cases it is even highly respected and admired. It is cool to be a Master Chess Champion and play in the band.”
I’m struck by the young woman’s sense of filial obligation, and its connection to prioritizing study over social life. But this is not unusual in Cupertino. Many Asian-American kids here tell me that they study all summer at their parents’ request, even declining invitations to July birthday parties so they can get ahead on the following October’s calculus curriculum.
“Study, do well, don’t create waves. It’s inbred in us to be more quiet. When I was a kid and would go to my parents’ friends’ house and didn’t want to talk, I would bring a book. It was like this shield, and they would be like, ‘She’s so studious!’ And that was praise.”
“East, West Teaching Traditions Collide,” exploring professors’ dismay at the reluctance of Asian-born students to participate in California university classrooms.
How is it that Asians and Westerners can look at the exact same classroom interactions, and one group will label it “class participation” and the other “talking nonsense”?
Asia … is introverted, Europe extroverted.” Had the map also included the United States, it would be colored dark gray. Americans are some of the most extroverted people on earth. One study comparing eight- to ten-year-old children in Shanghai and southern Ontario, Canada, for example, found that shy and sensitive children are shunned by their peers in Canada but make sought-after playmates in China, where they are also more likely than other children to be considered for leadership roles. Chinese children who are sensitive and reticent are said to be dongshi (understanding), a common term of praise.
“The Americans emphasize sociability and prize those attributes that make for easy, cheerful association. The Chinese emphasize deeper attributes, focusing on moral virtues and achievement.”
Individuals in Asia see themselves as part of a greater whole -- whether family, corporation, or community -- and place tremendous value on harmony within their group. They often subordinate their own desires to the group’s interests, accepting their place in its hierarchy. Western culture, by contrast, is organized around the individual. We see ourselves as self-contained units; our destiny is to express ourselves, to follow our bliss, to be free of undue restraint, to achieve the one thing that we, and we alone, were brought into this world to do. We may be gregarious, but we don’t submit to group will, or at least we don’t like to think we do. We love and respect our parents, but bridle at notions like filial piety, with their implications of subordination and restraint. When we get together with others, we do so as self-contained units having fun with, competing with, standing out from, jockeying for position with, and, yes, loving, other self-contained units. Even the Western God is assertive, vocal, and dominant; his son Jesus is kind and tender, but also a charismatic, crowd-pleasing man of influence (Jesus Christ Superstar).
What looks to Westerners like Asian deference, in other words, is actually a deeply felt concern for the sensibilities of others.
It’s because of relationship honoring, for example, that social anxiety disorder in Japan, known as taijin kyofusho, takes the form not of excessive worry about embarrassing oneself, as it does in the United States, but of embarrassing others. It’s because of relationship-honoring that Tibetan Buddhist monks find inner peace (and off-the-chart happiness levels, as measured in brain scans) by meditating quietly on compassion.
The Extrovert Ideal is not as sacrosanct as we may have thought. So if, deep down, you’ve been thinking that it’s only natural for the bold and sociable to dominate the reserved and sensitive, and that the Extrovert Ideal is innate to humanity, Robert McCrae’s personality map suggests a different truth: that each way of being -- quiet and talkative, careful and audacious, inhibited and unrestrained -- is characteristic of its own mighty civilization. Mike (Asian-American teenager) sounded dismissive of Western communication styles, but he admitted that he sometimes wished he could be noisy and uninhibited himself. “They’re more comfortable with their own character,” he said of his Caucasian classmates. Asians are “not uncomfortable with who they are, but are uncomfortable with expressing who they are. In a group, there’s always that pressure to be outgoing. When they don’t live up to it, you can see it in their faces.”
“People who don’t talk are seen as weak or lacking."
In China, he said, “If you’re quiet, you’re seen as being wise. It’s completely different here. Here people like to speak out. Even if they have an idea, not completely mature yet, people still speak out. If I could be better in communication, my work would be much more recognized. Even though my manager appreciates me, he still doesn’t know I have done work so wonderful.”
Gandhi learned over time to manage his shyness, but he never really overcame it. He couldn’t speak extemporaneously; he avoided making speeches whenever possible. Even in his later years, he wrote, “I do not think I could or would even be inclined to keep a meeting of friends engaged in talk.”
With his shyness came his unique brand of strength—a form of restraint best understood by examining little known corners of Gandhi’s life story.
“It is my conviction,” Gandhi wrote later, “that all these good things are due to my non-resistance.
I told you these stories without mentioning Gandhi’s name and later achievements, you might view him as a deeply passive man. And in the West, passivity is a transgression. To be “passive,” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means to be “acted upon by an external agency.” It also means to be “submissive.” Gandhi himself ultimately rejected the phrase “passive resistance,” which he associated with weakness, preferring satyagraha, the term he coined to mean “firmness in pursuit of truth.” But as the word satyagraha implies, Gandhi’s passivity was not weakness at all. It meant focusing on an ultimate goal and refusing to divert energy to unnecessary skirmishes along the way. Restraint, Gandhi believed, was one of his greatest assets. And it was born of his shyness.
Excellent students seem not only to possess the cognitive ability to solve math and science problems, but also to have a useful personality characteristic: quiet persistence.
The quiet persistence shown by many Asians, and Asian-Americans, is not limited to the fields of math and science.
Soft power meant listening attentively, taking thorough notes, and doing deep research on her interview subjects before meeting them face-to-face. “This process has contributed to my success as a journalist,” she wrote to me. Tiffany had come to embrace the power of quiet.
Conviction is conviction, the kids from Cupertino taught me, at whatever decibel level it’s expressed.
CHAPTER 9 - WHEN SHOULD YOU ACT MORE EXTROVERTED THAN YOU REALLY ARE?
A man has as many social selves as there are distinct groups of persons about whose opinion he cares. He generally shows a different side of himself to each of these different groups. — William James
We all behave differently depending on the situation. If we’re capable of such flexibility, does it even make sense to chart the differences between introverts and extroverts? Is the very notion of introversion-extroversion too pat a dichotomy: the introvert as sage philosopher, the extrovert as fearless leader? The introvert as poet or science nerd, the extrovert as jock or cheerleader? Aren’t we all a little of both?
Some believe personality traits exist, they shape our lives in profound ways, they’re based on physiological mechanisms, and they’re relatively stable across a lifespan. Those who take this view stand on broad shoulders: Hippocrates, Milton, Schopenhauer, Jung, and more recently the prophets of fMRI machines and skin conductance tests.
Others believe in Situationism which posits that our generalizations about people, including the words we use to describe one another -- shy, aggressive, conscientious, agreeable -- are misleading. There is no core self; there are only the various selves of Situations X, Y, and Z.
But just as the nature-nurture debate was replaced with interactionism -- the insight that both factors contribute to who we are, and indeed influence each other -- so has the person-situation debate been superseded by a more nuanced understanding. Personality psychologists acknowledge that we can feel sociable at 6:00 p.m. and solitary at 10:00 p.m., and that these fluctuations are real and situation-dependent. But they also emphasize how much evidence has emerged to support the premise that notwithstanding these variations, there is such a thing as a fixed personality.
We know that there are physiological limits on who we are and how we act. But should we attempt to manipulate our behavior within the range available to us, or should we simply be true to ourselves? At what point does controlling our behavior become futile, or exhausting?
If you’re an introvert in corporate America, should you try to save your true self for quiet weekends and spend your weekdays striving to “get out there, mix, speak more often, and connect with your team and others, deploying all the energy and personality you can muster,” as Jack Welch advised in a BusinessWeek online column? If you’re an extroverted university student, should you save your true self for rowdy weekends and spend your weekdays focusing and studying? Can people fine-tune their own personalities this way? (Keep reading)
(Taking shelter in bathrooms is a surprisingly common phenomenon, as you probably know if you’re an introvert.)
Brian Little believes that fixed traits and free traits coexist and developed Free Trait Theory.
According to Free Trait Theory, we are born and culturally endowed with certain personality traits -- introversion, for example -- but we can and do act out of character in the service of “core personal projects.”
Introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love, or anything they value highly. Free Trait Theory explains why an introvert might throw his extroverted wife a surprise party or join the PTA at his daughter’s school. It explains how it’s possible for an extroverted scientist to behave with reserve in her laboratory, for an agreeable person to act hard-nosed during a business negotiation, and for a cantankerous uncle to treat his niece tenderly when he takes her out for ice cream. As these examples suggest, Free Trait Theory applies in many different contexts, but it’s especially relevant for introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal.
Our lives are dramatically enhanced when we’re involved in core personal projects that we consider meaningful, manageable, and not unduly stressful, and that are supported by others.
So, for Brian Little, the additional effort required to stretch his natural boundaries is justified by seeing his core personal project -- igniting all those minds -- come to fruition.
At first blush, Free Trait Theory seems to run counter to a cherished piece of our cultural heritage. Shakespeare’s oft-quoted advice, “To thine own self be true,” runs deep in our philosophical DNA. Many of us are uncomfortable with the idea of taking on a “false” persona for any length of time. And if we act out of character by convincing ourselves that our pseudo-self is real, we can eventually burn out without even knowing why. The genius of Little’s theory is how neatly it resolves this discomfort. Yes, we are only pretending to be extroverts, and yes, such inauthenticity can be morally ambiguous (not to mention exhausting), but if it’s in the service of love or a professional calling, then we’re doing just as Shakespeare advised.
There’s a limit to how much we can control our self-presentation. This is partly because of a phenomenon called behavioral leakage, in which our true selves seep out via unconscious body language: a subtle look away at a moment when an extrovert would have made eye contact, or a skillful turn of the conversation by a lecturer that places the burden of talking on the audience when an extroverted speaker would have held the floor a little longer.
Self-monitors are highly skilled at modifying their behavior to the social demands of a situation. They look for cues to tell them how to act. When in Rome, they do as the Romans do, according to the psychologist Mark Snyder creator of the Self-Monitoring Scale.
Low self-monitors base their behavior on their own internal compass. They have a smaller repertoire of social behaviors and masks at their disposal. They’re less sensitive to situational cues, like how many anecdotes you’re expected to share at a dinner party, and less interested in role-playing, even when they know what the cues are. It’s as if low self-monitors (LSMs) and high self-monitors (HSMs) play to different audiences, Snyder has said: one inner, the other outer.
He views self-monitoring as an act of modesty. It’s about accommodating oneself to situational norms, rather than “grinding down everything to one’s own needs and concerns.” Not all self-monitoring is based on acting, he says, or on working the room. A more introverted version may be less concerned with spotlight-seeking and more with the avoidance of social faux pas.
If you can fake it, if you master the acting skills, the attention to social nuance, and the willingness to submit to social norms that self-monitoring requires, should you? The answer is that a Free Trait strategy can be effective when used judiciously, but disastrous if overdone.
Once I gave a talk at Harvard Law School and I aimed my remarks at the women in the audience who didn’t see themselves as tigers, myth-busters, or sock-knocker-offers. I said that the ability to negotiate is not inborn, like blond hair or straight teeth, and it does not belong exclusively to the table-pounders of the world. Anyone can be a great negotiator, I told them, and in fact it often pays to be quiet and gracious, to listen more than talk, and to have an instinct for harmony rather than conflict. With this style, you can take aggressive positions without inflaming your counterpart’s ego. And by listening, you can learn what’s truly motivating the person you’re negotiating with and come up with creative solutions that satisfy both parties.
I also shared some psychological tricks for feeling calm and secure during intimidating situations, such as paying attention to how your face and body arrange themselves when you’re feeling genuinely confident, and adopting those same positions when it comes time to fake it. Studies show that taking simple physical steps—like smiling—makes us feel stronger and happier, while frowning makes us feel worse.
She’d chosen to become a Wall Street litigator because it seemed to her that this was what powerful and successful lawyers did, so her pseudo-extroversion was not supported by deeper values. She was not telling herself, I’m doing this to advance work I care about deeply, and when the work is done I’ll settle back into my true self. Instead, her interior monologue was "The route to success is to be the sort of person I am not." This is not self-monitoring; it is self-negation. Where Jillian acts out of character for the sake of worthy tasks that temporarily require a different orientation, Alison believes that there is something fundamentally wrong with who she is.
It took me almost a decade to understand that the law was never my personal project, not even close. Today I can tell you unhesitatingly what is: my husband and sons; writing; promoting the values of this book. Once I realized this, I had to make a change. I look back on my years as a Wall Street lawyer as time spent in a foreign country. It was absorbing, it was exciting, and I got to meet a lot of interesting people whom I never would have known otherwise. But I was always an expatriate.
I have found that there are three key steps to identifying your own core personal projects.
1. Think back to what you loved to do when you were a child. How did you answer the question of what you wanted to be when you grew up? The specific answer you gave may have been off the mark, but the underlying impulse was not. If you wanted to be a fireman, what did a fireman mean to you? A good man who rescued people in distress? A daredevil? Or the simple pleasure of operating a truck? If you wanted to be a dancer, was it because you got to wear a costume, or because you craved applause, or was it the pure joy of twirling around at lightning speed? You may have known more about who you were then than you do now.
2. Pay attention to the work you gravitate to. At my law firm I never once volunteered to take on an extra corporate legal assignment, but I did spend a lot of time doing pro bono work for a nonprofit women’s leadership organization. I also sat on several law firm committees dedicated to mentoring, training, and personal development for young lawyers in the firm. Now, as you can probably tell from this book, I am not the committee type. But the goals of those committees lit me up, so that’s what I did.
3. Pay attention to what you envy. Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth. You mostly envy those who have what you desire. I met my own envy after some of my former law school classmates got together and compared notes on alumni career tracks. They spoke with admiration and, yes, jealousy, of a classmate who argued regularly before the Supreme Court. At first I felt critical. More power to that classmate! I thought, congratulating myself on my magnanimity. Then I realized that my largesse came cheap, because I didn’t aspire to argue a case before the Supreme Court, or to any of the other accolades of lawyering. When I asked myself whom I did envy, the answer came back instantly. My college classmates who’d grown up to be writers or psychologists. Today I’m pursuing my own version of both those roles.
But even if you’re stretching yourself in the service of a core personal project, you don’t want to act out of character too much, or for too long. You need daily "restorative niches." "Restorative niche” is a term for the place you go when you want to return to your true self. It can be a physical place or a temporal one, like the quiet breaks you plan between sales calls. It can mean canceling your social plans on the weekend before a big meeting at work, practicing yoga or meditation, or choosing e-mail over an in-person meeting.
This is the final piece of Free Trait Theory. A Free Trait Agreement acknowledges that we’ll each act out of character some of the time -- in exchange for being ourselves the rest of the time. It’s a Free Trait Agreement when a wife who wants to go out every Saturday night and a husband who wants to relax by the fire work out a schedule: half the time we’ll go out, and half the time we’ll stay home. It’s a Free Trait Agreement when you attend your extroverted best friend’s wedding shower, engagement celebration, and bachelorette party, but she understands when you skip out on the three days’ worth of group activities leading up to the wedding itself.