Daily Archives: April 23, 2012

Ted Talk: Susan Cain: The power of introverts

In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.

Our world prizes extroverts — but Susan Cain makes a case for the quiet and contemplative.”

There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” (Susan Cain)

I am an introvert, I am also shy… 

Susan Cain defines being shy as fear of social judgement, and I think she nails it.

I think this Ted Talk is very relevant for those in adoption.  I strongly believe that our personalities are shaped by our genetics, and in adoption, genetics is not part of the equation.  It is the luck of the draw whether or not the personalities match in adoption.  I think it would be very easy for the extroverts to assume that their child needs to break out of their shell, and perhaps simply not recognise that their child is in fact very happy and secure, being who they are, which is introverted.

Here I also wish to disclaim (because of the fear of social judgement), that I recognise that this can happen in biological families.  I should not have to disclaim that, because in reality I am adopted, and have never lived in my biological family, so therefore it is irrelevant to what I want to say, but that fear of social judgement rears its ugly head while I am writing, in what should be a safe zone to express my thoughts.  I don’t wish to hear that can happen in biological families, again, it is not relevant to me, or what I wish to talk about. 

I could identify with and agree with everything Susan Cain said.  I experienced it in life since I was small, and throughout my adult life both personal and professional.  I was the child who mom and dad would have to make sure I was actually sleeping rather than reading a book under the covers by flashlight at 2 am.  I was happier being with just one or two friends and shrank from the thought of being in a group – the sensory overload was too great and I would shut down.  I needed the low-key environment.  It is also key to why dad was my go to person – he was introverted and mom was extroverted.  It had a lot to do with personalities and comfort levels.  With dad I could garden, hike, swim, go for a drive, learn how to do things, or just learn from him, sitting in front of the fireplace reading without any need to talk.  Mom needed chit-chat and interaction.

In my adult life I revelled in being alone even though I was married, I married an introvert (actually both husbands are introverts).  At one point during my first marriage we lived in a remote island community.  I will never forget the day I left my island sanctuary for the first time and flew down to the big city, and the waves of feelings of sensory overload of being in crowded international airport, teeming with people I did not know, after living in a small isolated community for so long – where all the faces were familiar.  All I wanted to do was turn around, get on a plane and go home to my sanctuary.  Every fiber of my being was screaming to run away, back to the safety and sanctuary the island offered me.  I often think about that day, when I see blog posts of adoptive parents bringing their children home from overseas, and how they have a large group of individuals at the airport as the welcoming committee.  How if that child is an introvert, and after what they have already endured in their short life – what that reception could do to them, how they could feel in that moment, when they are already in a state of dealing with an unknown future, with unknown individuals, unknown language, unknown culture.  It always makes me want to cry for the child – just in case that child is just like me.

I was the introverted manager and my team did great things – a mix of introverts and extroverts, but with the introvert leading them – it worked – everyone could just be themselves without judgement.  When we had to come up with new creative ideas we first had times to think, reflect, ponder, be quiet and then after that, a time to interact and work together to inspire the solitary ideas to evolve, and become great ideas.  As the leader, I was out of my element and struggled to overcome my natural reserve.  I was also expected to speak in front of employees at company meetings.  I never succeeded at that, and eventually the extroverted head of the company figured out that I could interact and tell the others what we had done, if I could interact with someone – but I would never be able to speak solo in front of a group.  As the head of the company she looked outside of her norm, and recognised and understood me – that was the greatest gift she ever gave me.  The acknowledgement that it was okay to be me, plus the ability to speak inside my comfort zone.

I will always be an introvert preferring a day of gardening, reading a book, spending time with one or two individuals, instead of being in a large social setting.  That is what works for me, and we all need to recognise we should be able to just be ourselves – not what someone else thinks we should be.


Posted by on April 23, 2012 in Adoption, adoptive parents


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