TED2012: Susan Cain: The power of introverts

As someone with a mild introvert tendency, I enjoyed this talk by Susan Cain at TED2012.

In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.

Our world prizes extroverts -- but Susan Cain makes a case for the quiet and contemplative.
Susan Cain: The power of introverts

See all my TED2012 coverage here.


  1. “should be encouraged and celebrated”

    Now that is an extrovert style of thinking, just leave me alone and I’ll be fine.

  2. But in the larger context of her talk, of course, she means “…as opposed to discouraged and mistrusted.”  That’s what her opening story about her summer camp experience is all about.

      1.  As someone who is quite introverted, I’d like to point out that even in such a place as that, with nobody around, few introverts would feel comfortable shouting from the rooftops (yes I know it’s a joke but it’s also inaccurate :)

  3. How can you tell if an engineer is an extrovert?

    He looks at your shoes when he talks to you.

    * * *

    I need to set aside a few afternoons to do nothing but watch TED Talk videos.

  4. Ive been watching the Kindergarten based “Group Thought” picnic table concept appear in Ad Agencies for the past decade. Its hard to miss the clear connection of this “lowest common denominator process model” to the dumbing down and to the de-culturalizaton of the United States. Shove everyone together and go with what comes out. 9 out of 10 times what comes out of the picnic table is watered-down mediocrity.

    1. I believe this is the natural outcome of decades of dependence on focus groups to test products and solutions. Their goal is to ensure mediocrity, so it’s only natural that those creating the products and solutions should build that mediocrity into their design before it even gets to the focus group. You know – to make their job even easier!

  5. I was very much an extrovert in my younger years, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve changed into a quite pensive introvert. I prefer solitude, I usually have nothing much to say, and I dread participating in “mandatory group brainstorming sessions” at work. I can be very productive and creative if left alone. I can relate to much of what Susan had to say, and I very much enjoyed her talk. Very inspiring!

  6. I don’t know if anybody else do that, but the best way of being an introvert is to appear to be an extrovert (like Susan did on her summer camp).
    Just pretend you are one of the loud happy-go-lucky types whenever you can’t be by yourself, and everybody will think they know and understand you…

    1. Like telling LGTB people they should just “act straight” and everything will be fine? Your flippant suggestion is both counterproductive and potentially harmful.

      Speaking as a lifelong introvert, I would rather be with people who really will take the time to get to know and understand me, rather than with shallow, mouth-breathing fools who can only pretend to do so, thanks.

    2. Just pretend you are one of the loud happy-go-lucky types whenever you can’t be by yourself,

      Much easier said than done for a lot of us.

  7. This lady is a jewel.  Just wonderful.  Hooray for Her and her ideas.

    She is an perfect example of why I bother to wade through the seemingly endless BoingBoing junk about self absorbed trust fund kids and their posing adventures to discover a worthwhile voice like hers.

    Thanks to her and the BB person who added this article.

    1. the seemingly endless BoingBoing junk about self absorbed trust fund kids and their posing adventures

      Whuh? That’s not at ALL how I think of BB. There is some of that, but it certainly doesn’t predominate. I suspect you’re doing some kind of projection there, bub.

  8. The worst issue I have with being an introvert is networking. As an illustrator, my success depends on finding new opportunities. There are of tools to do this but the best ones by far are meeting lots of people…

    I do it (the bare minimum anyways) but it is a high-anxiety, taxing process. I sometimes envy the few artists I know who are social butterflies, LOVE getting lots of attention and thrive when they are surrounded by a crowd.

    Whenever I attend some networking event, I end up clutching my tea or wine so that I can sip and have an excuse to stop talking. Meanwhile, I see the extroverts having a wonderful time, babbling effortlessly as they cruise from person to person and reap piles of business cards. The bastards. I bet they go home and emit big, satisfied sighs reminiscing on how awesome the event has been.

    That said, I like being an introvert. I know and appreciate that it suits me. It takes me a long time to get comfortable and outspoken in a new group, but once I do, I usually end up with deep, long-term friendships.

    I just wish that networking was a tiny bit more enjoyable than, say, shoveling a large pile of manure with a spoon.

    1. In her book Quiet, which I recently translated into Dutch, Susan recommends you strike up just one real conversation at such occasions, leave with one business card and follow it up with an e-mail the next day. As she writes: “one genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards”.

    2. I completely agree. There should be meetings for introverts to go, say hi, exchange business cards with each other and leave. Or maybe a website for the same purpose.

  9. Good advice. I usually end up finding one person I can comfortably chat with and tag along with them all night. I guess I need to not feel like a failure for it: The one bird in the hand and all…

    Will definitely seek out her book: The TED talk was great.

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