Ted Talk: Susan Cain: The power of introverts

23 Apr

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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7 responses to “Ted Talk: Susan Cain: The power of introverts

  1. eagoodlife

    April 23, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    I too find it so hard to read about those adoptees brought to airports with huge welcoming groups, traumatised, alone and frightened and my heart breaks.One family thought it a great treat to take the child to Disneyland on the way!! It’s scarcely possible to believe sometimes the insensitivity and the brutality of it.
    I too am happy in my own company, always have been.I put it down to the sensory overload experienced in a nursery full of crying babies, Crying babies still trigger me.These days I’ve learned to be happier and more comfortable in company due I think to my workplaces which were very accepting.


  2. cb

    April 24, 2012 at 4:42 am

    I sometimes think that is one of the reasons why my older sister finds it hard relating to our mum, she is an extrovert and my parents were introverts (there are other reasons, like my mum is a hypochondriac). I am an introvert too. However, even I wish they had had some sort of friends when they moved overseas.

    Though my bfamily aren’t extroverts, they seem mainly quiet, laid back types, they have a strong sense of family where anyone is welcome in their home – they always know each other is welcome.

    In regards to my bmother, she seems to have had a similar sense of personality to myself. One thing that was interesting is that on one of the info sheets in regards to one of her interviews re adoption, they said she was very nervous. Most people might wonder why (apart from the obvious). However, if she was anything like me it was just the way she was at interviews (let’s just say it is lucky for me that when going for jobs, they look for other things than just interview performance lol). I did get better with age.


    • The adopted ones

      April 26, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      I too am terrible at interviews. I am always nervous at something new.


  3. nnkato

    April 24, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Thanks for this post. I think I’m an introvert, with extrovert qualities, in part, to try to fit in to social settings. However, with my adoptive parents, I often feel as if I’m not being heard, so I rattle on and on, just to BE heard. It’s not an effective technique!


  4. veggiemom

    April 26, 2012 at 3:12 am

    Very interesting. I’m the introvert mom of one over-the-top extrovert daughter and one shy half-and-half introvert/extrovert (what was that…ambivert?). I know one of my kids gets so frustrated with me for wanting my calm downtime at home. I remember reading a book about this once and it talked about how this related to child development. (I used to think it was all about being shy or not…not realizing it was really about how you recharged and worked best.) It really helped me understand myself and my daughters so much better so I could better meet all of our needs. I never thought about how it played into “homecoming” but when I arrived with Blueberry my mom was with me and my dad met us at the airport. That was it. With Violet, my dad was with me and my mom and Blueberry met us at the airport along with my best friend and her daughter. She also brought along her parents and her sister and her family (husband and three kids). That was rather overwhelming for me, even though I knew everyone, but Violet was in heaven.


    • The adopted ones

      April 26, 2012 at 12:56 pm

      I really enjoyed the talk as it is easy to forget each has a different style. The “homecoming” – every time I see a post on that I am instantly transported back to that day in the airport even though it was over twenty years ago.

      Really enjoying your posts but most times blogger does not like WP ids and I give up in frustration.


  5. Chris

    May 11, 2012 at 8:48 am

    I saw that this book is being reviewed on a radio show ( and so I am looking around the web at reviews. My own experience was that, at University I got my best grades ever, all A’s, when I was training for a marathon. I would go on a 2 hour training run every day. People asked me if I got bored. Never. It was like a meditation, my mind went wherever it wanted to, and I came top of my class without trying. It all just came together. This is the power of solitude combined with good health.



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