THE QUIE rev­o­lu­tio

You don’t have to shout to be heard – as Su­san Cain (be­low) dis­cov­ered when her book about in­tro­verts be­came a best­seller. As she tells Jane Mulk­er­rins, ex­tro­verts are over-rated in to­day’s loud world

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - BODY & SOUL -

usan Cain never set out to be­come a spokesper­son. ‘Even when the at­ten­tion fo­cused on me is pos­i­tive, I am so un-com­fort­able be­ing looked at by a lot of peo­ple – it’s just not my nat­u­ral state of be­ing,’ she ex­plains. A self-de­scribed in­tro­vert, she’s far hap­pier in a one-on-one sit­u­a­tion than in a group, and deeply unset­tled by the idea of ad­dress­ing a room full of strangers. It is some­thing, how­ever, that she’s had to be­come used to.

A year ago, Su­san’s first book, Quiet: The Power of In­tro­verts in a World That Can’t Stop Talk­ing, be­came an in­stant sen­sa­tion, spark­ing de­bate among the pub­lic and me­dia alike. Time mag­a­zine fea­tured Su­san in a cover story: The Up­side of Be­ing an In­tro­vert ( And Why Ex­tro­verts are Over­rated). ‘On publi­ca­tion day, I did 21 in­ter­views, for ra­dio, tele­vi­sion and press, from 6am un­til din­ner that night,’ Su­san re­calls. Then the fol­low­ing month, she de­liv­ered a TED talk – one of a high-pro­file se­ries of speeches – in Cal­i­for­nia be­fore an au­di­ence of 1,500 peo­ple. The chal­lenge was ter­ri­fy­ing for 44-year-old Su­san, a former lawyer turned writer. ‘I felt raw and ex­posed and naked; it was very, very dif­fi­cult for me,’ she ad­mits. The irony of her book thrust­ing her in­ad­ver­tently cen­tre-stage is not lost on her. ‘Sud­denly, I be­came a pub­lic fig­ure – and I have never wanted to be a pub­lic fig­ure,’ she ad­mits. Su­san Cain, left, is adapt­ing to reg­u­lar me­dia at­ten­tion - which she ad­mits she found ter­ri­fy­ing at first

A year on, Su­san is buzzing across the US and be­yond, giv­ing talks to her grow­ing army of fans. And her book has started a Quiet rev­o­lu­tion. Lead­ing univer­si­ties are ex­am­in­ing their ad­mis­sions poli­cies to bet­ter favour in­tro­verts, schools are set­ting up clubs for in­tro­verted and quiet chil­dren, while busi­nesses and of­fice de­sign firms are re­think­ing how space is used in work­places to ben­e­fit in­tro­verts as well as ex­tro­verts.

The pa­per­back edi­tion, la­belled ‘the man­i­festo for in­tro­ver­sion’, was pub­lished on this side of the pond last year, and presents the case for a sec­tion of the pop­u­la­tion that Su­san be­lieves has been side­lined for too long. In­tro­ver­sion, she­p­osits,is seen as a less suc­cess­ful, less wor­thy tem­per­a­ment in our so­ci­ety than ex­tro­ver­sion. From our schools to our work­places to our re­la­tion­ships, Su­san be­lieves quiet­ness, shy­ness and soli­tude are seen as sec­ond-rate, weak and, in­deed, al­most shame­ful, while the pro­jec­tion of con­fi­dence and be­ing out­go­ing and vol­u­ble has come to be seen as the ideal. This is a thorny prob­lem, she be­lieves, since find­ings sug­gest that be­tween a third to half of the US pop­u­la­tion are, by na­ture, in­tro­verts.

I meet Su­san in a cosy café on the banks of the Hud­son River, just out­side New York City, where she lives with her hus­band Ken, 47, a jour­nal­ist and con­sul­tant spe­cial­is­ing in for­eign con­flict zones, and their two young sons, aged three and five. Slen­der and pretty, Su­san is a great con­ver­sa­tion­al­ist. As her book ex­plains, in­tro­verted doesn’t mean an­ti­so­cial or mis­an­thropic. In­tro­verts may, in fact, have good so­cial skills and en­joy par­ties and busi­ness meet­ings, but, af­ter a while, sim­ply wish they were at home in their py­ja­mas. Many have a hor­ror of small talk, but en­joy deep dis­cus­sions. They lis­ten more than talk, think be­fore they speak, and of­ten feel as if they ex­press them­selves bet­ter in writ­ing than in con­ver­sa­tion. As a child, Su­san says: ‘I had plenty of friends, but I liked to play one-on-one with them, rather than in a big gre­gar­i­ous group. But I come from a fam­ily of in­tro­verts, so I was very lucky in that way.’

Since the publi­ca­tion of Quiet, how­ever, Su­san has been in­un­dated with emails from fel­low in­tro­verts, un­bur­den­ing them­selves about their more trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ences of child­hood. ‘I know that for peo­ple of

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