My wife and I recently attended an event celebrating Caribou Ranch Studio, where America’s top ‘70s and ‘80s bands and musical artists recorded up in the mountains above Boulder. She worked there from ’77 to ’82 as a cook and assistant.
Imagine meeting and cooking breakfast for Elton John, Michael Jackson, Rod Stewart, etc.
I asked her what it was like, and what she said surprised me. “It was amazing and a bit odd. It seemed like the greatest stars, with bigger than life personalities were actually pretty quiet and introspective—quite the opposite of what we thought. For example, the band Kiss, known for their outrageous stage performances, were avid book readers and pretty reserved in person.”
An expert on personalities, Carol Bainbridge gives the reason: “Contrary to what most people think, an introvert is not simply a person who is shy. In fact, being shy has little to do with being an introvert! Shyness has an element of apprehension, nervousness and anxiety, and while an introvert may also be shy, introversion itself is not shyness. Basically, an introvert is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people. Introverts are more concerned with the inner world of the mind.”
Psychologist Laurie Helgoe found that introverts “described their own physical appearance in vivid language (green-blue eyes, exotic, high cheekbones), but when asked to describe generic introverts they drew a bland and distasteful picture (ungainly, neutral colors, skin problems).”
We’ve been conditioned to believe that being great means being bold, being happy is being fun and sociable. We see ourselves as a society of extroverts—yet most studies show one third to one half of Americans are introverts.
Susan Gain, author of “The Power of Introverts” goes deeper. “So many people pretend to be extroverts. Closet introverts pass undetected in the corridors of corporate America. Some fool even themselves, until some life event—a layoff, an empty nest, an inheritance that frees them to spend time as they like—jolts them into taking stock of their true natures.
“We live with a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal—the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight. The archetypal extrovert prefers action to contemplation, risk-taking to heed-taking, certainty to doubt. He favors quick decisions, even at the risk of being wrong.
“Introversion—along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness—is now a second- class personality trait. The Extrovert Ideal has been documented in many studies, though this research has never been grouped under a single name. Talkative people, for example, are rated as smarter, better-looking, more interesting, and more desirable as friends. Velocity of speech counts as well as volume: we rank fast talkers as more competent and likable than slow ones.
“But we make a grave mistake to embrace the Extrovert Ideal so unthinkingly. Some of our greatest ideas, art, and inventions—from Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflowers to the personal computer—came from quiet and cerebral people who knew how to tune in to their inner worlds and the treasures to be found there.”
At our last staff meeting I asked someone if they thought they were an introvert or an extrovert. “Introvert, all the way.” Someone else volunteered. “Yep, me too.” One by one, our entire team chimed in. Every single person considered themselves an introvert.
We’re a company of introverts!
If someone asked me the mix of introverts versus extroverts on staff, I’d have probably guessed half and half. When our clients are present, we are very engaging. When they aren’t, we hunker down and work. If a client swings by unannounced, very often the comment sounds something like…“Wow, I didn’t know you guys work so hard.”
“Thereʼs zero correlation between the gift of gab and good ideas.”
– Susan Gain