New Book Examines the Power of Young Introverts

10 June, 2016

Speak up! Put yourself out there!

American society generally places high value on being friendly and speaking freely. That can can worry introverts. Introverts are people who tend to be more private and favor individual activities over social ones.

Susan Cain, an introvert herself, is an expert on the subject. She has become the voice of these quiet people. In 2012, her book, "Quiet: The Power of the Introvert in a World that Can't Stop Talking," was a success.

In her new book, "Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts," Cain takes her hopeful message about introverts to teenagers. She says her goal is to help parents and teachers understand their introvert teens and develop their secret power.

Bill Gates
Bill Gates

Introverted children are not necessarily shy. In fact, they can have excellent social skills. They just tend to enjoy being alone, doing quieter things or being with just one friend at a time.

Susan Cain says that is how introverts get their energy. Their human "batteries" are actually weakened by loud, busy activities.

"If you imagine an introvert going to a party where they're having a good time. At the end of two hours, you kind of start to wish you were home in your pajamas because your battery is running low.

"Whereas for extroverts in the exact same situation, their batteries are getting recharged. So they kind of want more time at the party. This has everything to do with how we're wired; how our nervous systems react to stimulation."

Cain says the idea that extroverts are more successful than introverts is widespread but wrong.

"If you look around, you see introverts contributing to this culture in all kinds of ways, people like Bill Gates and J.K Rowling and Dr. Seuss - any number of people you could name who are introverts."

Cain says these people add much to society because of their quiet temperament. But somehow this idea is not widely accepted. The author says American society pushes everyone to be gregarious even if it is not natural for them.

Cain says there are more introverts than people think.

"You're talking about 1 in every 2 or 3 people. That's in the U.S. But then there are other studies that look comparatively at the world and find that the U.S. is on the more extrovert side of the spectrum. So there are probably more introverts in other countries."

Susan Cain spoke with hundreds of teens, parents and teachers to explore introversion among teens. One of her important findings is that introverts can be effective leaders.

"For example, there was one guy we profiled named Davis, who decided he wanted to run for president of his class. He was running against one of the most popular, social girls in the school who ran on a platform of more parties for everyone.

"Davis was his characteristic, serious-minded, introverted self, and did a lot of deep thinking about how he can make the school a better place. So he ran on a serious substantive platform of proposals and his classmates really recognized the value of that and ended up voting for him, and he became the class president."

In her book, Cain gives advice to parents and teachers. She tells parents that introverts usually want to come home at the end of the day and spend time alone. She says they need to recharge their batteries. She says they should not be pushed into after-school activities. For teachers, she says, introverted students might not succeed in large study groups.

"By their nature they prefer to learn independently and autonomously. They don't want to be learning calculus in a group. They want to be putting their heads down, and thinking a problem through."

Susan Cain, author of "Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts," says what she wants young readers to take away from her book is that being introverted is not something to outgrow. It is something to accept, develop and treasure.

I'm Caty Weaver.

Faiza Elmasry wrote this report for VOA News. Caty Weaver adapted it for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?


Words in This Story

introvert - n. a quiet person who does not find it easy to talk to other people

shy - adj. feeling nervous and uncomfortable about meeting and talking to people

extrovert - n. a friendly person who likes being with and talking to other people: an outgoing person

stimulation - n. something that excites activity or growth

gregarious - adj. enjoying the company of other people

autonomously - adv. independently; separately

temperament - n. the usual attitude, mood, or behavior of a person or animal

spectrum - n. a complete range of different opinions, people, etc.