The Time Queen
Time management expert Robyn Pearce looks at how to get the most out of life.

Robyn Pearce: Why we should listen to introverts

Susan Cain. Photo / Wikimedia Commons
Susan Cain. Photo / Wikimedia Commons

Even if you know lots about different personality types, have you ever wished someone could just be a bit more like you? Or you've found out the hard way that an associate's thought patterns were definitely not like yours?

Over the last few months several people have recommended 'Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that won't stop talking' by Susan Cain. So I ordered it from the Auckland library. To my surprise 147 people were ahead of me - clearly the word was out! And now I've finished it I've joined the fan club! It's a must-read for everyone.

If you're a quiet thinker you'll learn strategies to cope with the noisy crowd: if you're an extrovert you'll see why it's so important to sometimes shut up and give space to your introverted friends, colleagues and loved ones. And as for the perennial debate about open plan offices, one of my pet topics, now I've got a whole new wagon-load of ammunition!

Here are some of the well-researched and clearly presented topics Susan Cain, an ex-lawyer and herself an introvert, discusses:

* the relatively short time that extroversion has been fashionable as a preferred leadership style
* the value (or otherwise) of brainstorming
* different angles on the 2007 Global Financial Crisis and how it could have been averted
* alternatives to open plan offices
* how to work with your introversion/extroversion preferences in situations that don't naturally support you
* how to raise an introverted child in a world that encourages extroversion
* how to manage a relationship when the partners have opposite socialising needs

In summary, introverts need quiet and space to do their work. They can only cope with loud noise and lots of people in short doses. If they can't work and live in conditions that support their preference they will get sick, be stressed and far less productive. And, if the extroverts of the world don't take time to listen or give them the opportunity to contribute, they miss out on many well-considered pearls of wisdom that in some cases would have saved serious consequences.

Following is just one of the stand-out points that hooked me and I'll share others in coming weeks.

A cultural change
Cain charts the progression in American society over the last 100 years from the Culture of Character to the Culture of Personality and the rise of the Extrovert Ideal. Being able to speak up and out confidently has become an expectation, even in educational institutions of all levels. For example many US universities, including Harvard, encourage and edify quick and assertive answers over quiet slow decision-making. 'We see talkers as leaders'. And so the heads of many organisations have extrovert tendencies.

You'll read many case studies of introverts who have been marginalised, side-lined and ignored while loud confident leaders have taken their companies to ruin. Examples include Enron and a number of the institutions caught in the 2007 Global Financial Crisis.

Have you seen the same thing happen in your world? Quiet people will offer opinions if given the opportunity. Is everyone listening to them?

Watch for my next article in two weeks where we'll dig into some more eye-openers from this book.

Robyn Pearce (known as the Time Queen) runs an international time management and productivity business, based in New Zealand. Get your free report 'How To Master Time In Only 90 Seconds' and ongoing time tips at

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