Even the Christianity of early American religious revivals, dating back to the First Great Awakening of the eighteenth century, depended on the showmanship of ministers who were considered successful if they caused crowds of normally reserved people to weep and shout and generally lose their decorum.
But what do “sharp skills” look like? Should we become so proficient at self-presentation that we can dissemble without anyone suspecting? Must we learn to stage-manage our voices, gestures, and body language until we can tell—sell—any story we want?
not everyone aspires to be a leader in the conventional sense of the word—that some people wish to fit harmoniously into the group, and others to be independent of it. Often the most highly creative people are in the latter category.
According to Free Trait Theory, we are born and culturally endowed with certain personality traits—introversion, for example—but we can and do act out of character in the service of “core personal projects.”
blushing is an authentic sign of embarrassment. And embarrassment, according to Keltner, is a moral emotion. It shows humility, modesty, and a desire to avoid aggression and make peace. It’s not about isolating the person who feels ashamed (which is how it sometimes feels to easy blushers), but about bringing people together.
the more creative people tended to be socially poised introverts. They were interpersonally skilled but “not of an especially sociable or participative temperament.” They described themselves as independent and individualistic. As teens, many had been shy and solitary.
introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love, or anything they value highly.
The most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV), the psychiatrist’s bible of mental disorders, considers the fear of public speaking to be a pathology—not an annoyance, not a disadvantage, but a disease—if it interferes with the sufferer’s job performance.
Love is essential; gregariousness is optional. Cherish your nearest and dearest. Work with colleagues you like and respect. Scan new acquaintances for those who might fall into the former categories or whose company you enjoy for its own sake. And don’t worry about socializing with everyone else. Relationships make everyone happier, introverts included, but think quality over quantity.
Restraint, Gandhi believed, was one of his greatest assets. And it was born of his shyness:
“I think people who are shy remain shy always, but they learn how to overcome it,” she said. But it was perhaps this sensitivity that made it easy for her to relate to the disenfranchised, and conscientious enough to act on their behalf. FDR, elected at the start of the Depression, is remembered for his compassion. But it was Eleanor who made sure he knew how suffering Americans felt.
Another study, of 38,000 knowledge workers across different sectors, found that the simple act of being interrupted is one of the biggest barriers to productivity.
Still, there’s a limit to how much we can control our self-presentation. This is partly because of a phenomenon called behavioral leakage, in which our true selves seep out via unconscious body language: a subtle look away at a moment when an extrovert would have made eye contact, or a skillful turn of the conversation by a lecturer that places the burden of talking on the audience when an extroverted speaker would have held the floor a little longer.
We tend to think of coolness as a pose that you strike with a pair of sunglasses, a nonchalant attitude, and drink in hand. But maybe we didn’t choose these social accessories at random. Maybe we’ve adopted dark glasses, relaxed body language, and alcohol as signifiers precisely because they camouflage signs of a nervous system on overdrive.
When you read his account of his work process on that first PC, the most striking thing is that he was always by himself.
We fail to realize that participating in an online working group is a form of solitude all its own. Instead we assume that the success of online collaborations will be replicated in the face-to-face world.
the best way to act out of character is to stay as true to yourself as you possibly can—starting by creating as many “restorative niches” as possible in your daily life.
“In Asian cultures,” Ni said, “there’s often a subtle way to get what you want. It’s not always aggressive, but it can be very determined and very skillful. In the end, much is achieved because of it. Aggressive power beats you up; soft power wins you over.”
Anyone can be a great negotiator, I told them, and in fact it often pays to be quiet and gracious, to listen more than talk, and to have an instinct for harmony rather than conflict. With this style, you can take aggressive positions without inflaming your counterpart’s ego. And by listening, you can learn what’s truly motivating the person you’re negotiating with and come up with creative solutions that satisfy both parties.
Contrary to the Harvard Business School model of vocal leadership, the ranks of effective CEOs turn out to be filled with introverts, including Charles Schwab; Bill Gates; Brenda Barnes, CEO of Sara Lee; and James Copeland, former CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. “Among the most effective leaders I have encountered and worked with in half a century,” the management guru Peter Drucker has written, “some locked themselves into their office and others were ultra-gregarious. Some were quick and impulsive, while others studied the situation and took forever to come to a decision.… The one and only personality trait the effective ones I have encountered did have in common was something they did not have: they had little or no ‘charisma’ and little use either for the term or what it signifies.”
But exceptional performance depends not only on the groundwork we lay through Deliberate Practice; it also requires the right working conditions. And in contemporary workplaces, these are surprisingly hard to come by.
It can be hard for extroverts to understand how badly introverts need to recharge at the end of a busy day. We all empathize with a sleep-deprived mate who comes home from work too tired to talk, but it’s harder to grasp that social overstimulation can be just as exhausting. It’s also hard for introverts to understand just how hurtful their silence can be.
we tend to overvalue buzz and discount the risks of reward-sensitivity: we need to find a balance between action and reflection.
the new guides celebrated qualities that were—no matter how easy Dale Carnegie made it sound—trickier to acquire.
how did we go from Character to Personality without realizing that we had sacrificed something meaningful along the way?
A Free Trait Agreement acknowledges that we’ll each act out of character some of the time—in exchange for being ourselves the rest of the time.
In the Culture of Character, the ideal self was serious, disciplined, and honorable. What counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved in private.
“Restorative niche” is Professor Little’s term for the place you go when you want to return to your true self.
extroverts are sociable because their brains are good at handling competing demands on their attention—which is just what dinner-party conversation involves. In contrast, introverts often feel repelled by social events that force them to attend to many people at once.
Scientists now know that the brain is incapable of paying attention to two things at the same time. What looks like multitasking is really switching back and forth between multiple tasks, which reduces productivity and increases mistakes by up to 50 percent.
Here’s one answer: social media has made new forms of leadership possible for scores of people who don’t fit the Harvard Business School mold.
We like to think that we value individuality, but all too often we admire one type of individual—the kind who’s comfortable “putting himself out there.”
many of us work for organizations that insist we work in teams, in offices without walls, for supervisors who value “people skills” above all.
Gandhi himself ultimately rejected the phrase “passive resistance,” which he associated with weakness, preferring satyagraha, the term he coined to mean “firmness in pursuit of truth.”
If you’re not an introvert yourself, you are surely raising, managing, married to, or coupled with one.
Many of the characteristics of sensitive people that she’d identified—such as empathy and responsiveness to beauty—were believed by psychologists to be characteristic of other personality traits like “agreeableness” and “openness to experience.” But Aron saw that they were also a fundamental part of sensitivity. Her findings implicitly challenged accepted tenets of personality psychology.
No one would choose this sort of painful adolescence, but the fact is that the solitude of Woz’s teens, and the single-minded focus on what would turn out to be a lifelong passion, is typical for highly creative people.
Extroverts are more likely to take a quick-and-dirty approach to problem-solving, trading accuracy for speed, making increasing numbers of mistakes as they go, and abandoning ship altogether when the problem seems too difficult or frustrating. Introverts think before they act, digest information thoroughly, stay on task longer, give up less easily, and work more accurately. Introverts and extroverts also direct their attention differently: if you leave them to their own devices, the introverts tend to sit around wondering about things, imagining things, recalling events from their past, and making plans for the future. The extroverts are more likely to focus on what’s happening around them. It’s as if extroverts are seeing “what is” while their introverted peers are asking “what if.”
What looks to Westerners like Asian deference, in other words, is actually a deeply felt concern for the sensibilities of others.
Here’s a rule of thumb for networking events: one new honest-to-goodness relationship is worth ten fistfuls of business cards.
that introverts and extroverts differ in the level of outside stimulation that they need to function well.
What does it mean to be quiet and have fortitude? these descriptions asked implicitly. How could you be shy and courageous?
What’s so magical about solitude? In many fields, Ericsson told me, it’s only when you’re alone that you can engage in Deliberate Practice, which he has identified as the key to exceptional achievement. When you practice deliberately, you identify the tasks or knowledge that are just out of your reach, strive to upgrade your performance, monitor your progress, and revise accordingly.
“It’s not that I’m so smart,” said Einstein, who was a consummate introvert. “It’s that I stay with problems longer.” Jonas Hjalmar Blom: Better to do something really good, than a lot of things half as good?
That’s because top performers overwhelmingly worked for companies that gave their workers the most privacy, personal space, control over their physical environments, and freedom from interruption.
Westerners value boldness and verbal skill, traits that promote individuality, while Asians prize quiet, humility, and sensitivity, which foster group cohesion.
if the history of pharmaceutical consumption is any indication, many buckled under such pressures.
Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.
Saddleback also has one more thing in common with Harvard Business School: its debt to—and propagation of—the Culture of Personality.
We’re told that to be great is to be bold, to be happy is to be sociable. We see ourselves as a nation of extroverts—which means that we’ve lost sight of who we really are.
The highly sensitive tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive (just as Aron’s husband had described her). They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions—sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear.
when they embraced the Culture of Personality, Americans started to focus on how others perceived them.
Introverts often work more slowly and deliberately. They like to focus on one task at a time and can have mighty powers of concentration.
(John Quincy Adams, incidentally, is considered by political psychologists to be one of the few introverts in presidential history.)
Open-plan offices have been found to reduce productivity and impair memory. They’re associated with high staff turnover. They make people sick, hostile, unmotivated, and insecure. Open-plan workers are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure and elevated stress levels and to get the flu; they argue more with their colleagues; they worry about coworkers eavesdropping on their phone calls and spying on their computer screens. They have fewer personal and confidential conversations with colleagues. They’re often subject to loud and uncontrollable noise, which raises heart rates; releases cortisol, the body’s fight-or-flight “stress” hormone; and makes people socially distant, quick to anger, aggressive, and slow to help others.