Writer Susan Cain on her New York Times bestseller and the quiet power of introverts
What steps do you think can be taken to shift the world into place that's more nurturing toward introverts?
I think first of all we need a gigantic consciousness raising, much the way we needed with the issue of women's rights back in the 50s and 60s and 70s. People spoke about raising of consciousness, just making people aware of what the bias was against women and why it was harmful. I think we have to go through the same process now with introverts. But then more specifically, companies really need to rethink their hiring policies, their promotion policies, the way they do office design. I think in education we need an overhaul of educational design to get away from the constant group work that we have, to instruct teachers in what varieties of temperament really look like so that they don't view quieter children as needing to be brought along and turned into extroverts, but instead made to be very functional and achieving for who they are.
And how do you think society will benefit from allowing introverts to be themselves?
Well, I think on an individual level I can tell you from the thousands of letters I have received that there will be many, many individuals out there who feel psychically stronger for living in a society that honors them for who they are. So there's that just off the bat. But beyond that I think as a society we care a lot about innovation, we care a lot about creativity, we care about taking educated risks and not unwarranted risks. And all of these areas--creativity, measured risk-taking, these are all areas where introverts excel if they're allowed to be who they are. So I think we'll see a more creative world. I think in this culture we prize "seize the day" and "just do it," those are kind of our maxims. And I think those are nice maxims but we also need some tempering so that we don't take risks we shouldn't be taking. And introverts tend to be good at that side of things.
What do you hope that people take away from seeing you speak at the Tattered Cover and reading your book?
Oh, gosh, I guess what I've been talking about. I believe we're at the beginning of what I call a quiet revolution right now. I think that introverts today are where women were around the 1950s or 1960s, so I hope that people will take away that we're at the start of something very big and this revolution will change their personal lives, it will change the lives of their children, of their colleagues, of their spouses if we all kind of band together and make it happen. So I think this is the very beginning. So I'm hoping to plant those seeds, to start those ideas flashing around in people's heads and see where they take us over the next ten years.