Can I have a quiet word about introversion?

Years ago, I remember hearing about some graffiti which had apparently been added to one of those Bible verse posters you often see outside churches.

This one had proclaimed ‘The meek shall inherit the earth’, under which some wag had penned ‘If that’s OK with you’.


In Susan Cain’s excellent book ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’, she suggests that although many of life’s great scientific and creative achievements have been the fruits of the labours of introverts, our education system and business organisations seem obsessed with the idea that Team Work is the only way.

During my career, I’ve sat in countless so-called ‘brain storming’ (now apparently a politically-incorrect term) sessions, yet the overwhelming majority of my ideas come when I work alone.

Research suggests that I’m not an outlying case: people tend to be more creative when they’re on their own than they do as part of a group.

Since personality tests generally show me as somewhat on the Quiet side of the extraversion-introversion spectrum, it’s maybe not surprising that I need generally to shut myself away to work (or to sit in a coffee shop, where you can be alone, but not alone, as it were).

Email exchanges with Moodnudges readers suggest that there may be a substantial number of us with this sort of temperament.

Perhaps there’s a link between introversion and the propensity to suffer from low mood?

However, there’s a bit of a paradox here, isn’t there?

Seeing solitude as not altogether unpleasant may result in us believing that we don’t need others.

But we do.

It’s why it can be good, now and then, to seek out opportunities to be part of gatherings of others, perhaps those which won’t demand too much of you.

Go to a free talk, and sit in the audience simply to listen.

See a movie or sporting event.

Attend a religious service, if that’s your thing.

Or, of course, simply sit in a coffee shop with a book or laptop.

7 thoughts on “Can I have a quiet word about introversion?

  1. Love ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain! I’m most definitely an extrovert but I hang out with a lot of introverts – the book is great for both types. So much valuable information and insight from it.
    From memory she talks about how extroverts are likely to suffer from all sorts of issues such as addiction – can’t quite remember if low mood was one but I wouldn’t be surprised as the extrovert’s need for novelty can (not always) prove problematic.
    Keep up your great mood nudges John and thank you for them 🙂

  2. Thank you Jon.
    For me, your little message touches the tension I have felt as someone who is rather quiet person for a great deal of the time but feel pressure to ‘perform’ as a more extrovert person. Thank’s for introducing Susan Cains book which I have not yet read, but will now do so!

  3. I have always found that I produce good ideas when I’m on my own,walking alone during my lunch hour at work for instance. I am an introvert with occasional bursts of extrovert. This actually brings me back to your last blog Jon about who are we? I guess the sum total of all our moods. Anyway I like to be with other people too so long as we each accept each others’ foibles. I used to feel I stood out in a group as odd but now having found a very few nice friends, I feel almost normal or just as normal (or odd!) as my friends.

  4. A friend once gave me some good advice. I felt very lost and alone after my husband of 40 years had passed away (I was 60)…..I worked in my business, which kept me busy but the weekends were torture. I might have had times when I didn’t talk to anybody for two days. So she said…..just drive into town and play tourist. Look around…..have a coffee or some lunch with a glass of wine and feel connected. I did it and can say it does help. Meanwhile I have a new partner and that debilitating lonely feeling has gone.

  5. Hi Jon
    I’m also a fan of Susan Cain and Heidi Sawyer who also works on these subjects.
    I’m currently embracing my introvert’s needs instead of rejecting them as I have for years in this world which is supposedly more extrovert. I say supposedly because I’ve realised that a great way of recharging myself even in the midst of crowds is with a great pair of head phones and music or radio, podcasts etc. And how many people in this world do you see with headphones. .. especially on the morning commute, in airports etc ?

    Maybe the people of the world are more quiet than previously thought.

  6. As a “not shy” introvert I frequently enjoy being out and about @ live music events or festivals as well as museums & movies & lectures where I can indulge my desire to people watch but also do so at my own pace. I arrive & leave early before the crush of the crowd is too much but I can benefit from the activity w/o the down side of being worn out. It’s unfortunate that many single’s(especially women) are uncomfortable doing things in public when they are alone. One of the first ?’s I get when I talk about what I did on a weekend was “who were you with?” rather than” did you have a good time? “. Funny that people are more concerned about you being alone than wether or not you’re having a good time. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

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