Posted by: E (The Third Glance) | March 4, 2012

Susan Cain: The Power of Introversion

I just watched an INCREDIBLE TED Talk that I wanted to share but Susan Cain, called “The Power of Introversion”. Unfortunately, it does not yet have subtitles, as it was just posted this past week, so if you need to have captions to watch it, please please, bookmark it, and wait for them, don’t just pass this one by. Nearly all of the TED talks I’ve seen have been fantastic, but this one in particular is just absolutely amazing.

(Watch on Ted.com)

I love everything about this talk. As an introvert (and Autistic individual, and please note the two are often correlated, but not always), her opening story, about taking a suitcase full of books with her to summer camp really spoke to me. I was lucky, that at the camps I went to, we were allowed time to read. One of the camps I attended for years had MANDATORY “quiet time, in your own room time” after lunch for an hour each day. You could do anything you wanted during that time, as long as you did not make too much noise. Reading, writing, resting, and drawing, etc. were all encouraged. She goes on to tell us how her camp counselor made them all do a cheer about being “R-O-W-D-I-E”, and she says “I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why we were supposed to be so rowdy… or why we had to spell this word incorrectly” – which was exactly what I thought when I heard her recite the cheer. But that’s how our culture is.

I am not going to go through her talk reiterating her every point, because she does such a great job of it, and the video speaks for itself. However the fact that the western world values extroversion, charisma, and being out-going over quiet introspection is one that is incredibly relevant to my life, and to many other Autistic individuals’ lives. We may learn how to “pass” for short periods of time – smiling, and playing the social games, in order to be at least acknowledged and even listened to, if we’re lucky. But really, we’re simply stamped on. The goal of our “therapy” is to make us either appear to be extroverted, or to disappear completely. Because there’s this idea, that if you are not extroverted, you are worthless and will never succeed. And this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Being quiet, taking time to think and reflect, and carefully considering your options and their effects, is what makes for a better, more respectful world. Yes, I agree wholeheartedly, that working in groups, and collaboration between minds, is a wonderful thing. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. But there’s also a lot of value of the time spent between working with others. The time when you can really think and reason for YOURSELF, and not just the way the group seems to be thinking. Those are the times that big ideas really start to take form. As a scientist, I have really benefited from collaboration. But I have also benefited from time to think, ponder, and reason on my own. Both are valuable. We, as a society only value the former. Group work is really important, but we have to learn (and teach children) to think and work independently as well. Group-think can be a good thing sometimes, but it stifles free expression and individual thought.

There is nothing wrong with being alone. There is nothing wrong with seeking solitude. I want to end this post with a very beautiful youtube video, a poem called “How to be Alone”. We can all benefit from alone time.

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Responses

  1. I loved this TED talk. Susan Cain is wonderful. Thank you so much for posting it. Being someone who straddles the fence between the two, though I think of myself as leaning much more toward introversion than extroversion, I loved her celebration of the need for both in this world. Monday through Friday I retreat to the safety and seclusion of my studio where I write and design. It is my safe haven, unmarred by the need to interact with another human being. I am so happy there. Then I get to go home and be amidst the bustle of life with my children and husband, all of whom I am so happy to be with because I’ve had those eight or nine hours of silence in which to create. Bliss.

  2. At least you have it easy. 🙂 In my OT world, typically it is filled with extroverts. If you are popular in this world (which fortunately/unfortunately (depending on how you look at this) I am), there are instances where me-time is very hard to come by. Because just when you want to settle down, other people might see you and approach you for a conversation.

    I think there are two sides to this- in terms of being in an environment where you are around extroverts and you are happened to be popular.

    Perks-

    1. You get to meet and know some people who are well known in your field or related to your field.

    2. You don’t have to initiate conversations as much. People will do it for you.

    3. You won’t have to worry about friends… as they like you for who you are.

    Cons-

    1. You will have a lot less me-time. There was one instance where I socialized pretty much for 4 days straight… and I was exhausted!

    2. You have more occasions where you may go to places where you can have sensory overload- bars, parties, etc.

    3. People will have higher expectations of you. So, you have a lot of pressure to perform well socially.


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