I’ve been reading Quiet Influence: The Introvert's Guide to Making a Difference, a new book by Jennifer Kahnweiler, PhD, an extrovert who has made a study of introverts in business.
In Quiet Influence, Kahnweiler breaks down the ways introverted leaders tap into their particular strengths to wield influence in venues that have typically rewarded extrovert behavior. You know, that whole team-player, elevator-speech, brainstorming-sessions, networking-events world of business.
Drawing on her years of experience as an executive coach and speaker, and through interviews (including, happily, with me), Kahnweiler has identified six strengths that introverts use to influence others. The strengths, which each get a chapter, are: taking quiet time; preparation; engaged listening; focused conversations; writing; and thoughtful use of social media. And with anecdotes and case studies she illustrates ways introverts put those strengths to work at work.
In one way, everything Kahnweiler describes is something we "know," and the actions she suggests are things many of us already do. But the brilliance of this book is the way Kahnweiler identifies specific strengths introverts can draw on in specific ways--not just going with the flow of our introversion, but acting with intent. Things like blocking out quiet time to think through a problem or task, leading to our second strength, which is preparation. It's making sure we make opportunities for those focused conversations that we do so well.
This is a manual for how to make things happen with our introversion, not despite it.
It's introversion 3.0.
Susan Cain's book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking brilliantly laid out the challenges and prejudices introverts face in an (allegedly) extroverted nation. I've tossed out my own little guide to introvert living. Now Kahnweiler's book applies a business plan to introversion, taking the amorphous things we “know” and presenting them as tools.
Introversion 3.0 is when we stop arguing with prevailing extroversion, stop justifying our behavior (to ourselves as well as others), stop fitting our introversion in where we can and instead consciously and intentionally act in ways that put our strengths to use. We’re getting a handle on the touchy-feely stuff, now it's time for some nuts and bolts.
In all my reading, writing, and talking about introversion, I’ve discovered that the more familiar I become with my own introversion, and the more my choices consciously factor it in, the easier it is to do things that once were odious. Knowing I'm not required to answer the phone makes it easier to answer. Our evolving understanding of introversion shines an entirely new light on our behaviors. And they look a lot better than they used to.
Among the many things I’ve learned through comments on this blog is that introverts are different as snowflakes. Our thresholds for energy depletion, our motivation to interact with people, certainly our interests and abilities, all vary wildly. But we also have many broad similarities. And what we know about introverts in general provides an interesting framework on which to structure our behavior for maximum effect.
That's what Quiet Influence is about. It pushes back against the not-so-truism that you have to be an extrovert to succeed, and discusses ways introverts can consciously play to our strengths.
And that, my friends, is the next step towards introvert world domination.
The books I mentioned here are only a few of the excellent books available about introversion. Laurie Helgoe, PhD, has recently released a new edition of her excellent book, Introvert Power. Nancy Ancowitz has written Self-Promotion For Introverts — and that's not an oxymoron. Even introverts (me) gotta self promote. (Speaking of which, I did a fun Twitter interview with Nancy Ancowitz for her Psychology Today blog. Read it here.) And many of you know Elaine Aron's books about Highly Sensitive People (HSPs). The canon of introversion literature grows daily. Again, world domination.
Illustration by garlandcannon via Flickr (Creative Commons).