Does the fact that you are an introvert mean that you would have preferred to do this interview on the phone or by email? Well, first of all, all introverts are different. For me, no. Hav- ing a one-on-one chat is pretty comfortable. But one of the definitions of introversion is that it has to do with how you respond to stimulation. And so introverts love environments that are just a little quieter. And so to me, talking one-on-one has always been a really comfortable form of socializing, because it is kind of a quieter, more intimate kind of socializ- ing. Presenting to groups and that kind of thing is where I feel like, “Ooh, I am over my stimulation load here.”
What was it like for you to attend TED? I think one of the reasons that TED asked me to present is that a lot of the people who attend that conference are introverts themselves. There are a lot of people in the tech industry, which attracts introverts, and people who are pretty introspective, who are attracted by ideas. I was one of the first presenters and then I was there all week, and people were coming up to me afterwards and tell- ing me their own stories because I had spoken so personally on stage. A lot of these people were really hypersuccessful company founders, but they would tell me how they were introverts struggling in an extroverted world. And they said that having listened to my talk, they felt now they had per- mission to go back to their hotel rooms and chill a little bit, instead of feeling pressured to network from morning until night. I think that is something a lot of people crave. I actually always viewed networking as a series of one-on-one conver- sations, like the kind we are having now.
Large receptions are a fixture at many conferences. Are there ways that organizers can make them more comfortable for introverts? I think having quiet areas — ones that are not, obviously, marginalized areas, but rather quiet areas that are cool and inviting — goes a long way. That was one of the things that was great about TED, actually. They had all of these different environments that you could be in. Some were noisy and some were not. I recently had a meeting at Google’s office in Manhattan. And their office is fascinating, because they have a lot of peo- ple working in an open area, which I am generally opposed to. But they were really good about having all kinds of nooks and crannies all over the place where you could go and take your work. They had different cafés; some of the cafés were bustling and noisy, and some of them were quiet. They had a library where you could go and work, or you could go take naps. I think that that goes a really long way. One of the great things about having written my book is
that I now really feel a sense of entitlement to be who I am. And so I take the breaks that I need to.
Book Excerpt FromQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
If we assume that quiet and loud people have roughly the same number of good (and bad) ideas, then we should worry if the louder and more forceful people always carry the day. This would mean that an awful lot of bad ideas prevail while good ones get squashed. Yet studies in group dynamics suggest that this is exactly what happens. We perceive talkers as smarter than quiet types — even though grade-point averages and SAT and intelligence test scores reveal this perception to be inaccurate. In one experiment in which two strangers met over the phone, those who spoke more were considered more intelligent, better looking, and more likable. We also see talkers as leaders. The more a person talks, the more other group members direct their attention to him, which means that he becomes increasingly powerful as a meeting goes on. It also helps to speak fast: We rate quick talkers as more capable and appealing than slow talkers. All of this would be fine if more
talking were correlated with greater insight, but research suggest that there is no such link.… A well-known study out of UC Berkeley by organizational behavior professor Philip Tetlock found that television pundits — that is, people who earn their livings by holding forth confidently on the basis of limited information — make worse predictions about political and economic trends than they would by random chance. And the very worst prognosticators tend to be the most famous and the most confident — the very ones who would be considered natural leaders.