The Quiet Ones

Introverts and extroverts. We’re taught, rather overtly, in North American culture that the extrovert wins. He goes places. The loudest voice dominates. It gets all the attention. It has all the fun.

To some extent, this might actually be true. And yet…

Introverts get a bad rap. We appear to be the ones that sit alone on the sidelines. We’re the ones sitting in a chair in some remote spot in the bookstore (one of my all-time favorite things to do) reading. We’re the ones that do more listening and less talking. We’re contemplative and always sitting in wonderment of the world around us.

I would challenge anyone who feels that the introvert isn’t the guy who is most creative in this world. I’m thinking that Picasso wasn’t sitting down at the local pub, pounding brewsky’s when his cutting-edge ideas for the canvas came to him. Benjamin Franklin used to lie down on his couch holding an object in one of his hands. He set the intention for something he was wanting to invent – and he WAS the king of inventors, having come up with over 1500 inventions in his lifetime – and then he simply let himself drift, quietly. As his hand went limp and the object he was holding fell to the floor, he would wake up with a jolt and his idea would be there. Not bad.

And let’s not forget about those a-ha! moments that are talked about so much these days. I, personally, have never had an a-ha! moment while throwing back my head, gawfawing with laughter at a Christmas party. And as fun as they are, I don’t think socializing was ever meant as a platform for creative thought or insight. They’re meant as venues where people come together to be with one another. Love one another. Have fun with one another. Perhaps even vet ideas, but not necessarily invent ideas.

There is some new and compelling research that is showing us that the creative process is typically nurtured when we are alone. Think tanks or teams or groups can do all sorts of wonderful and great things…research, study, dissection, analysis…but creative insight is typically not one of them.

As a Class A Introvert, I have been my most insightful, creative and intuitive self when I’ve been alone; without sensory distraction. The research on introverts shows that despite the popular opinion on the quiet ones, we’re not necessarily shy, and don’t always want to be alone. We’re sensitive to stimulus. There are lots of extroverts who are shy, but they still derive their energy and their drive from being surrounded by people and stimulus.

It’s hard to know, given the culture in which we live, where we fit it. But one question will help you. Are you energized by being in quiet or solitude…or do you derive your energy from people or stimulus?

For me, I love being with friends and family. But under quiet, more intimate circumstances. I love having dinner, one on one, with someone. I love sitting in the park, by myself, while my daughter plays. I love driving and listening to music. I love being at my cottage and hearing nothing but the water and the birds.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the energy of a concert. Or a party. But do I get my energy from the noise, the music and the people? No. In fact, after being in that busy atmosphere, I later find myself in need of decompression.

According to Susan Cain, the author of the book Quiet, introverts are vastly undervalued in North American society. For example, she questions the extroverted values of the American business culture. She questions whether “forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked.”

Perhaps the most interesting point about introverts is the assumption we make about our personalities. We assume the introvert is a shy loner, preferring to blend into the background and not say much. And while it’s true that the introvert typically listens more than talks, the above-noted assumption is largely wrong. I can be very outspoken and even raunchy amongst friends and family. And there are lots of extroverts who don’t necessarily like being centre-stage, but still love the energy of stimulus; crowds; happy chaos.

Which one are you? Under what circumstances do you typically fuel up? If you feel you are an introvert, embrace that. If you are willing to nurture the needs that come with being an introvert, you may find that your energy increases, your creativity skyrockets and your health gets better.

And this is what I love to write about most. Finding out who you are, separate from the good opinion of others, and being that. Live your truth. Live it out fully and completely. Step into the shoes that you picked out for yourself a very, very long time ago and soar.

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