I don’t think I could ever be described as an introvert, probably more of an extrovert or an extrovert+. I love being in crowds and public speaking to large audiences. the way that I dress can hardly be described as conservative. and reserved, and I love nothing more than being in the thick of conversation or debate, it is what #tru is all about. I think if you asked most people about my character they would describe me as an extrovert in overdrive, but looks can be deceptive.

I got thinking about this properly because I was sent a TedX video to watch by my friend Glen Cathey. The topic of the talk is “The power of introverts” by Susan Cain, and it is brilliant. One of those talks that really makes you rethink about what you are all about, and reshapes your opinion. What I got thinking about was how I work best, and if I am an extrovert at all. Thinking about how I work best, and it is outside of a team. Working on my own, formulating crazy ideas, poking around with new applications, writing or creating content. I like the night best for working when no one else is around and I can be alone with my thoughts. Once I have a plan or an idea, that is when I like to be with people to test it out. Theres been a rush to collaborative working, and I applaud this in most cases, but is this inclusive for the introverts who have a big contribution to make? Work space and culture needs to plan for places of solitude, for those who want thinking time.

When you look at employer brand content, the pictures, video etc  almost entirely features groups of people working and playing collectively.I ran a quick eye over some of the brands who produce plenty of content, and this confirms this. The brand advocates producing this are nearly always in the extrovert category, as they are the ones with something public to say. Will this attract more introverted characters to your organisation? It is worth looking at, to make sure that your branding efforts are inclusive to all the types of people you want to attract. After watching this video, it is something that I will be considering more, by including more pictures of people working alone, featuring the solitary places and giving extra encouragement to the introverts in the team that they have something to share that others would love to see and here.

A little closer to home, I got a follow-up tweet from Glen asking the following question:

“Curious about how the unconference format fits with the introverted personality.”

This is a good question. Not everyone wants to talk openly, feels comfortable sharing or feels they have value to add. We have to allow for that and make everyone welcome. I know when I lead a track, there are always some participants who want to be on the side lines observing. Sometimes they even put their chairs out of the circle, and are much more comfortable talking one to one. It is important that all the track leaders encourage this, and allow the participants to take part in any way they are comfortable. The “watchers” quite often make the smartest comments at the end of the track. People can take part in any way they want, but I need to think about how we keep everyone included without leaving them uncomfortable, by pushing them too far out of their own zone.

These are a few quotes from Cain that I hope will convince you to watch the video, and will give you more food for thought.

“I prefer listening to talking, reading to socializing … I like to think before I speak (softly).”

“There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”

“Solitude matters, and for some people it is the air that they breathe.”

“Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Gandhi — all these peopled described themselves as quiet and soft-spoken and even shy. And they all took the spotlight, even though every bone in their bodies was telling them not to.”

“[Introverts,] the world needs you and it needs the things you carry. So I wish you the best of all possible journeys and the courage to speak softly.”

This video is brilliant and gives plenty of room for thought. What do you think? Thanks Glen for sharing!



View the whole Tedx talk

Susan Cain Bio