Heard on All Things Considered
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I’m Melissa Block.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I’m Audie Cornish. From Gandhi and Joe DiMaggio to Mother Teresa and Bill Gates, introverts have done a lot of great things in the world. But being quiet, introverted or shy was sometimes looked at as a problem to be overcome.
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UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: If you’re what they call a shy guy, you’re standing on the outside looking in. You might have something to contribute to their conversation, but nobody cares whether you do or not. There’s a barrier, and you don’t know how to begin breaking it down.
CORNISH: In the 1940s and ’50s, the message to most Americans was, don’t be shy. And in the era of reality television, Twitter and relentless self-promotion, it seems that cultural mandate is in overdrive.
A new book tells the story of how things came to be this way, and it’s called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” The author is Susan Cain, and she joins us from the NPR studios in New York to talk more about it.
SUSAN CAIN: Thank you. It’s such a pleasure to be here, Audie.
CORNISH: Well, we’re happy to have you. And to start out – I think we should get this on the record – do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?
CAIN: Oh, I definitely consider myself an introvert, and that was part of the fuel for me to write the book.
CORNISH: And what’s the difference between being an introvert versus being shy? I mean, what’s your definition?
CAIN: So introversion is really about having a preference for lower-stimulation environments – so just a preference for quiet, for less noise, for less action – whereas extroverts really crave more stimulation in order to feel at their best. And what’s important to understand about this is that many people believe that introversion is about being antisocial. And that’s really a misperception because actually, it’s just that introverts are differently social. So they would prefer to have, you know, a glass of wine with a close friend as opposed to going to a loud party full of strangers.
Now shyness, on the other hand, is about a fear of negative social judgment. So you can be introverted without having that particular fear at all, and you can be shy but also be an extrovert.
Years ago I met a young woman at a networking event and we exchanged phone numbers; she was just starting her new business and was interested in talking about what I was doing in my work, and what she was developing. We became fast friends and exchanged plenty of information about how our businesses were developing on and off line. Her name is Vanessa Van Petten and she has grown her new little business into an amazing online resource of services, teachings and now several books for parents all about what it’s like being a teenager from a teen perspective. I recently spoke to Vanessa when she launched the sale of her new book Do I get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded?, about the growth of her business and her experiences publishing three books – one self-published with a self-publishing company, one entirely on her own, and most recently with a big name New York publisher. Have a listen to this candid conversation about growing a business, and the changing challenges and demands of book publishing.