Susan Horowitz Cain is an American writer and lecturer, and author of the 2012 non-fiction book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, which argues that modern Western culture misunderstands and undervalues the traits and capabilities of introverted people.
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Dear Reddit Friends:
I'm Susan Cain, the co-founder of Quiet Revolution LLC and the author of the award-winning New York Times bestseller QUIET: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking. AMA.
I’m a writer at heart. When my book Quiet came out in 2012, I went on a global book tour and gave over 300 media interviews and dozens of speeches. The reaction to the book was beyond my wildest dreams.
But during those months of non-stop travel, I began to hear from people. And not just a few: I received hundreds of letters, emails, and messages. Then thousands. Then thousands upon thousands. It was like that scene in Harry Potter where a waterfall of letters to Harry cascades from the Dursley fireplace. They all said the same thing: Until now, they had felt alone and were amazed to discover that they were part of a vast and distinguished tribe.
They weren’t writing just to express relief—they wanted to take action. So I joined forces with an amazing group of people, and together we created Quiet Revolution—a mission-based company whose goal is to unlock the power of introverts for the benefit of us all.
Thank you for your passion over these past few years -- I am grateful Reddit has given me this opportunity to connect with all of you today!
Hi Susan! I read your book two years ago, and I'm reading again because I really enjoyed it! I felt so encouraged and empowered by it the first time I was reading it. I need some advice though.
I am often happy to be alone and occupy myself with my own activities, but I just haven't been able to shake the feeling that I'm missing out on something grand because I'm not making friends all the time or going out. How can I combat that feeling?
Hi Littlemermaiden -- just make an agreement with yourself about how often you are going to go out. Once a week? Twice a week? Once every two weeks? Whatever amount feels right to you -- stick to that, and the rest of the time you get to fly solo without guilt or FOMO. :)
I've always been the kind of person who spends a lot of time 'inside my head', but it was only a few years ago that I began to research personality types and temperaments etc. online, that led me to the conclusion that I was an introvert, and it was fine to be one.
Your wonderful book just confirmed this for me when I read it last year, and told me so much more as well. Ever since I've recommended it to so many other people. Thank you for truly giving me some peace of mind and helping me to feel so much better about myself.
What do you think is the most common misconception that people have when it comes to introversion? And what can us introverts do to help reverse these misconceptions?
The biggest misconception is that introverts don't like people! When in fact introverts and extroverts are equally likely to be warm and loving. It's just a question of where we direct this warmth. Introverts tend to save it for the people they know best. As for reversing misconceptions: I think it helps to remember that most humans are vulnerable and insecure. They understandably interpret introverts' need to be alone or quiet as a sign that we dislike them. So we need to make sure to communicate that this isn't so, by being open about our warm feelings.
Its an honor to actually be able to ask questions to you,
I have to ask this,
What was the thing that made you leave your job at Wall Street and follow your heart to start writing?
Hello! I took a leave of absence, expecting to travel the world. But instead I found myself enrolling in an NYU Continuing Ed class in Creative Non-Fiction writing. On the very first day of class, I had one of those cinematic epiphany moments -- THIS was what I wanted to do with my life. Never expected to make a career out of it --I just thought it would be a hobby -- but a beloved hobby that I wanted to put at the center of my life. If you're thinking of taking this path -- pls do read my post on quietrev.com about how I became a writer, where I talk about the importance of making this leap in as unstressful a way as possible. Stress is the great enemy of creativity! BEST OF LUCK.
I'm an introvert with an introverted child and I often feel my son is being pushed to be someone he's not by friends, family, neighbors, the school... He isn't into sports or big group activities, but I feel a lot of pressure to have him try sports or teams of some kind. Should I be encouraging those or it is ok to let him be less social?
YES! It is Ok for him to be less social! As long as he has one or two or a few friends, and is not depressed/unusually anxious, then he is just fine. And, the more he gets the message that who he is = excellent, the more confident -- and even social -- he will be.
You say he's pressured into sports/big group activities -- are there other activities he prefers? Let him pursue those and teach him to ignore the naysayers.
Caveat to all the above --if you feel he would actually ENJOY big group activities once he got over his discomfort, than I'd try to help him negotiate that.
I hope this helps!!
Being an introvert and in a relationship was really awesome for me maybe because the complement was an extrovert.
The relationship didn't work for more than 3 months cause according to her I must change myself to be more of a MAN which by her meant to be more extroverted.
She always complained how I never get angry over her.
I tried but couldn't change who I actually was, and soon enough the relationship ended.
After the breakup which was devastating to me cause I believed in soul mates and maybe still after 2.5 years love her.
My question is,
In these times I always thought maybe I must show myself as extrovert?
Deep down I sense this is wrong but am not sure,
Oh I'm so sorry -- it sounds like this was so painful. Truly -- you need to be with someone who will value you for who you are (and whom you value the same way). A relationship cannot work without this basic ingredient. Please, stop looking backward and find a woman you love who adores you in return. :)
Over 2 years ago I was part of Reddit's biggest introvert community /r/introvert
At the time there was a lot of posts that were much more suited for /r/socialanxiety and /r/socialskills, and there were constant threads from people saying they didn't feel comfortable associating their introversion with being socially anxious or shy.
So I created a new sub reddit for introverts that would keep the topic around introversion and direct social anxiety / social skill topics to the relevant subs. Launch post here
As you can see, it caused a lot of angry discussion around the topic.
The new sub has gone relatively well, there's been some good topics about introversion and i'm proud that there's a home for introverts who weren't comfortable with the old system.
I soon realised the difficulty of trying to set rules and guidelines on what introversion is and what should be posted, because ultimately it's extremely hard to set rules on personality traits that are accurate and universally accepted.
My question to you is, have you encountered this difficulty in the build up to this revolution and what do you feel is the best way of dealing with it during this revolution?
I know there's labels for different types of introverts, should these always be put on content about introverts so people can know "right i'm not that type of introvert, so that probably doesn't relate to me"?
Thanks Susan, your work has allowed me to understand myself and allowed me to become a proud and confident individual.
EDIT: For those who haven't seen Susan's TED talk "The power of introverts" check it here
And here's a link to the quiet revolution that's mentioned in the OP
Yes this is very tricky -- introversion & shyness not the same thing, yet they overlap in our culture, because a person not speaking much (whether the cause is anxiety or a simple preference to be quiet) is interpreted in much the same way. I usually try to just be clear that these are different traits; that they can both be positive traits when channeled correctly; and that our mission at Quiet Revolution is to address them both. I hope this helps!
I think it's great that your book has been able to connect so many people. In fact, the term "introversion" seems like it's become such a hot buzzword, even sites like Buzzfeed and Huff Post have been doing introvert lists....
But my question is:
With all of the exposure that introversion has been getting lately, do
you think that it will eventually
backfire and inadvertently put
introverts into an unwanted spotlight? Do you think it will create an even deeper divide between the extroverts and introverts?
Edit: one last question: what is your mbti type?
I think that this is like any other social movement. The bigger it gets, the more that some degree of backlash is inevitable. But that's OK. Ideas need to be tested, and this one will withstand the test. Also, anyone who pays close (or even glancing) attention to the Quiet Revolution will see that we love extroverts, and promote yin and yang between introverts and extroverts.
Oh and I'm an INFP!
I am in the midst of trying to establish a "quiet space" in my organization where employees can go to work or read without any talking, any phone calls, and just to get some heads down work down.
Unfortunately, there is resistance to such an endeavour and I am facing arguments such as "wasted space, when it's not in use", "people go their to slack off", "no need for that, just put on headphones".
What is your advice or experience in how to get some momentum behind such an initiative?
Share the research on the loss of productivity when people can focus, are continually interrupted, and have no privacy! If you take a look at Chapter 4 of Quiet, I listed a ton of endnotes that will give you the citations to these studies. (Or these days, maybe even simpler, there are lots of articles online documenting some of this research.)
Also, if the space is created correctly, it will ALWAYS be in use. I'm sure you're not the only one who's hungry for it.
You often talk about how your husband is an extrovert and you complement one another. What advice do you have for introverts regarding what to look for in a partner?
Well, for me it worked to find my complement. But many introverts would rather be with another introvert -- someone who understands their social style, their style during conflict, and so on. There are pros and cons to each type of pairing, and I think you need to be really honest with yourself about which set of pros and cons work best for you.
How do you go about not being unnoticed by others? Throughout my entire schooling career I've felt invisible to the rest of my peers for being more soft-spoken than them. I want to make my presence known, but at the same time do not want to draw attention in the wrong way. I also have anxiety so sometimes I say absurd things in the moment which draw unnecessary attention in a wrong way. How do I go about making people realize that I have something meaningful to say, and in a sense...not feel invisible all the time?
Oh yes, this can be a painful thing. I recommend that you practice, in small ways, what it feels like to speak from a place of inner conviction. That is: don't focus so much on how loudly you're speaking. For now, focus instead on how much conviction you feel about the thing you are saying. If you tend to feel doubtful, then start by talking about things you're sure about -- a movie you adored, an opinion you feel strongly about. Then, try to expand the scope of topics you can speak this way about. Become conscious of how good it feels to speak from this confident place -- you'll find yourself doing it more and more often!
What are some of the tangible goals that Quiet Revolution is trying to achieve?
What are some small pieces of life advice you can give us introverts for surviving on a day-to-day basis?
Can you tell me more about what kinds of life advice you'd like? Work issues? Personal relationships? Etc.? Thanks...and stay tuned for your question on Quiet Rev goals.
Quiet Rev has so many different goals it's hard to list them all (but do check out my blog on quietrev.com, where I went into more detail than I can do here.)
Basically we want to empower introverts in schools, the workplace, and personal life. We've launched a new community-based website (quietrev); we've developed learning programs for companies/orgs such as P&G and NASA; and we're soon unveiling an online course for parents of quiet children.
Thanks for asking!
Hello! Thank you so much for doing this AMA! A friend of mine recently heard you talk at Walt Disney World. Thank you for signing that book! What should an introvert know as she enters college?
Hi Lou Lou! I think that college can be one of the best things to happen for introverts. In middle/high school, the main currency is gregariousness, and you're living in a social fishbowl. But in college, no one's watching, and you have the freedom to be who you want. My biggest advice is to patiently figure out who your kindred spirits are and what your passions are -- and to not worry if it takes you a while to get there. Enjoy!!
Thank you so much for all of your work, and especially for your book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts. Your book is an incredibly valuable resource for introverts like myself. After reading, I felt a wave of relief and a better understanding of my personality. Your research has helped me embrace who I am, and I've stopped trying to shove myself into a mold of someone who is extroverted.
I guess my question would be - do you have any plans to write a second book? Perhaps one that focuses on your work with the Quiet Revolution?
Hello! I do indeed intend to write a second non-fiction book -- after we finish launching the Quiet Revolution! Right now, the book I'm planning is on a different topic -- though one I that I think will be of interest to the Quiet Revolution community. Thank you for asking!
I am a big fan of you ,I want to ask you if the quiet revolution will include the Middle East regions.
And if so ,can you tell us how ?
Hi there! Is this the person I've been exchanging emails with? (I don't want to say your name to protect your confidentiality. :)) Yes, the Quiet Revolution is very much global -- we would love to see more people from the Middle East participating in our Quiet Revolutionaries project, for example, and in the other community-based initiatives we have in mind. Do you have ideas for other things we could be doing for outreach, etc. ?Please let me know!
Hi Susan, loved your book!
My question for you is what strategies do you recommend for an introverted person in a corporate setting who has to deal with many meetings/presentations etc. which may require lots of preparation? I am one of those people who need to think a lot about what I want to say before I say it, but the time to do this preparation seems to take away from my other tasks.
Any advice on dealing with this type of environment where I may need to always be "on" versus locked up in my office plugging away at things?
That is really tricky. I always used to feel this way when I practiced law -- that I needed to spend more time preparing than other people did. Mostly I just accepted that this was what I needed, even if it was a little time-consuming!
That said, the more experienced you get, the more comfortable you'll become speaking on the fly. So you won't always have to spend QUITE as much time as you do now on prep.
Firstly, thank you very much for your efforts in explaining what introversion truely is. As an introvert who is a part-time social extrovert, your TED talk and Quiet book are reliefs and learning experiences for me to find understanding on myself.
Right now I am at a crossroads on my career, in that I am 31 and have been bouncing from place to place. It is mainly out of boredom for jobs I worked, and at worst it was out of lack of personal space for me to concentrate on work. My question is on what should I do to stabilize my career? I tried twice to pick something, once in automotive repair and another in music production, and yet both times came disappointed after wards. Any advice?
Hello -- I often advise people to think: what did you like to do when you were a child? Even if the activity was "childish" and not what you would pursue as a profession, it will probably offer clues to who you truly are and what you truly love. Best of luck!!
Thanks for all of the work you do. I really enjoyed your Ted talk. As an introvert I have a hard time speaking in front of large groups. How do you prepare yourself to speak in front of large groups?
Ohhhhh.. this has been the great challenge of my life. These days I give dozens of talks per year without any real anxiety and I never would have thought this possible. But it is!! Here is the trick: desensitization. You have to desensitize yourself to your fear of or discomfort with speaking, by practicing in small, safe steps. Try enrolling in Toastmasters or something analogous -- you need a group of supportive people to practice with, a group where you can screw up as much as you want without any real consequences! This is how I overcame my fear -- little by little by little by little. Good luck!
First, I want to say thank you for your book and TED talk because it let me feel like I wasn't alone anymore. It was great.
Over the years i have noticed that people like me who identify as introverts can also be shy in public.What I have also noticed is that I'm not as shy on the Internet.(This is AMA is a great example of that). What are some of your thoughts on introverts and online dating? Thank you again.
Oh yes, I hear from many people who say they're more comfortable "speaking up" online. I think that online dating is a great resource for introverts! (and for everyone else too. :)) My biggest advice though is not to go too far down the road of written correspondence before you meet the other person in real life -- you want to make sure the chemistry is there. Also, if you're shy, you don't want the stakes to feel too high (by feeling that you risk losing a treasured correspondent.) Good luck!
Answer this q. After answering other imp. Ones,this one's not really imp.
In your book you say that before going to a public interview you had a little alcohol(don't remember the name), the one which tasted like chocolate.
My question is,
Did you seriously took it because it tasted like chocolate?
ha ha yes it was Baileys Irish Cream, and that is why I loved it!
I found your TED talk a couple years ago and appreciate your message very much. What advice would you give to high school students who are introverts?
IT GETS BETTER. I really do think that high school is the hardest time of life for most introverts, because you're living inside a social fishbowl! You will have much more social freedom as you grow older. In the meantime, try to find your kindred spirits, pursue your passions, and collect inspiring role models of other introverts who have carved a life path that appeals to you. Good luck!
Hi, Susan, great to have you here! :)
What was your motivation to step out of your introversion and act the way you do: giving talks, write about the topic, etc. - meaning acting like an extrovert.
...and second: how does this feel like for you?
My motivation is my passion for my subject, my passion for the writing life (which these days requires a public persona), and my passion for the Quiet Revolution. So much easier to stretch in the service of a passion. I feel so lucky to do this work. (As I re-read this, my answer sounds a little Pollyanna-ish -- but it's so true!)
what other names did you consider for the LLC?
Besides Quiet Revolution? None!
Hi Susan! I'm so glad to see you here on Reddit! My friend recommended your book to me, and I haven't read it yet, but I've seen your TED talk and been following Quiet Revolution, and I love it so far. It's really helping me become way more comfortable with my natural introvert self.
So my question is this: What are your favorite things about being an introvert? What have you learned about yourself in your journey of writing Quiet and its follow-up?
Thank you! This is so exciting!
Hello! My favorite thing -- and this is especially true as I get older -- is how contented and creative I can feel with just my own company. I do need my family and my close friends in my life daily -- but can spend hours alone on creative and other work and feel so happy. It's an amazing feeling of inner richness that I can tap into pretty much on demand.
Sound familiar? :) Do you relate to this?
After the release of Quiet, how was it like giving a tour, interviews, speeches, and having to meet so many people? I imagine you must have had to interact with people everyday. How did you handle the constant interaction?
Thank you for writing Quiet, by the way. I've learned so many things about myself as an introvert. Your book was a journey for me.
Hi there -- Two s