It’s okay to be quiet

Don’t feel compelled to emulate your more loquacious peers

Updated - April 16, 2017 05:04 pm IST

Published - April 16, 2017 05:00 pm IST

Introspection  Alone, but not lonely.

Introspection Alone, but not lonely.

Just like the spectrum of colours, human personality includes people with umpteen shades and dimensions of varying intensities. But if we have to categorise personalities in black and white terms, extraversion and introversion would possibly be two blanket groups into which most people would fall. While both extroverts and introverts have unique strengths, the talkative group, for obvious reasons, gets more recognition and positive press. The silent group often gets sidelined in our increasingly chatty society that gauges people based on the number of friends they have or the number of “Likes’ they can garner for a Facebook post.

In her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking , Susan Cain eloquently argues how extraversion is upheld as an ideal trait, while its more taciturn cousin is frowned upon, especially in the corporate world. Even in classrooms, students who voice their opinions are often viewed more favourably by professors. As a result, the quiet, and often the more thoughtful ones, are undervalued. Worse, we do not tap the potential of introverts if we expect everyone to speak up at meetings or insist only on group projects. While there are innumerable benefits to collaboration, we also need to appreciate that some people work best in solitude.

HYDERABAD,TELANGANA,09/01/2016: Major Shiva Kiran, gives a presentation on mapping of wards before GHMC elections to students at the Entrepreneurship Development Cell, Arora College in Hyderabad on Saturday.   --Photo: Nagara Gopal

HYDERABAD,TELANGANA,09/01/2016: Major Shiva Kiran, gives a presentation on mapping of wards before GHMC elections to students at the Entrepreneurship Development Cell, Arora College in Hyderabad on Saturday. --Photo: Nagara Gopal


Personal space

An effective leader or teacher recognises the value of introverts and gives them space, on their terms, to make meaningful contributions. So, in addition to allowing people to express their views during meetings, a boss can add that she is open to talking to people individually or can solicit more ideas via email. Also, if a person is more comfortable airing their views in smaller, more intimate groups, the boss need not insist on everyone making a presentation in front of the entire group. If information has to be shared across the company, a more extroverted colleague can summarise the main points that were brought in smaller group meetings.


An article in Harvard Magazine by Lydialyle Gibson reports that after the runaway success of her bestselling book, Cain has now founded a company called Quiet Revolution. The mission of this non-profit organisation that was founded in 2014 is to harness the “power of introverts” for the betterment of everyone. By training participants from companies and schools, the organisation hopes to change the culture of these institutions so that quiet people also feel that they too can make significant contributions that will be heard, even if they don’t voice them in larger groups. As more companies move towards open offices that do away with private cubicles, it might be prudent to also have a few dedicated quiet spots for people who prefer a more contemplative environment. Likewise, teachers may tailor their lessons and activities to suit different personality types. Teaching children to recognise and respect an array of temperamental styles can go a long way in making them more open and sensitive to individual differences.

Finally, if you count yourself as an introvert, know that you are indeed in esteemed company. The stellar list includes Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Rosa Parks and J.K. Rowling. So if you are the shyer kind, don’t feel compelled to emulate your more loquacious peers.

The author is Director, PRAYATNA.

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