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Susan Cain


Hudson River Valley, United States

Imagine what would happen if you started respecting your own wishes of how to spend your time.

Why does it matter where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum?  Because introversion and extroversion are at the heart of human nature — one scientist refers to them as “the north and south of temperament.” And when you make life choices that are congruent with your temperament, you unleash vast stores of energy.

Conversely, when you spend too much time battling your own nature, the opposite happens — you deplete yourself.  I’ve met too many people living lives that didn’t suit them — introverts with frenetic social schedules, extroverts with jobs that required them to sit in front of their computers for hours at a stretch.

The personality psychologist Brian Little points out that we all must act out of character for the sake of work or people we love – occasionally. We all have to do things that don’t come naturally – some of the time.  But it shouldn’t be all the time. It shouldn’t even be most of the time. As Little also says, acting out of character for too long can make us stressed, unhappy, and even physically ill.

This is particularly important for introverts, who have often spent so much of their lives conforming to extroverted norms that by the time they choose a career, or a calling, it feels perfectly normal to ignore their own preferences. You may be uncomfortable in law school or in the marketing department, but no more so than you were back in middle school or summer camp.

Imagine what would happen if you started respecting your own wishes of how to spend your time.



Do you ever wonder where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum? Here is the place to assess yourself. [This quiz is adapted from my book, QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Crown, 2012)].

Please answer each question True or False, choosing the answer that applies to you more often than not:

1.  I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities.

2.  I often prefer to express myself in writing.

3.  I enjoy solitude.

4.  I seem to care about wealth, fame, and status less than my peers.

5.  I dislike small talk, but I enjoy talking in-depth about topics that matter to me.

6.  People tell me that I’m a good listener.

7.  I’m not a big risk-taker.

8.   I enjoy work that allows me to “dive in” with few interruptions.

9.   I like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale, with only one or two close friends or family members.

10.  People describe me as “soft-spoken” or “mellow.”

11.   I prefer not to show or discuss my work with others until it’s finished.

12.   I dislike conflict.

13.  I do my best work on my own.

14. I tend to think before I speak.

15.  I feel drained after being out and about, even if I’ve enjoyed myself.

16.  I often let calls go through to voice-mail.

17.  If I had to choose, I’d prefer a weekend with absolutely nothing to do to one with too many things scheduled.

18.  I don’t enjoy multi-tasking.

19.  I can concentrate easily.

20.  In classroom situations, I prefer lectures to seminars.

The more often you answered True, the more introverted you probably are.  Lots of Falses suggests you’re an extrovert. If you had a roughly equal number of Trues and Falses, then you may be an “ambivert” – yes, there really is such a word.

Susan Cain Bio:

SUSAN CAIN is the author of the instant New York Times bestseller QUIET: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking, which is being translated into more than 20 languages. Her writing on introversion and shyness has appeared in The New York Times; The Dallas Morning News; O, The Oprah Magazine; and on Time.com and PsychologyToday.com.

Cain has also spoken at Microsoft, Google, the U.S. Treasury, and at TED 2012. Her TED talk, which has been viewed almost two million times, was the most rapidly viewed talk ever. She has appeared on national broadcast television and radio including CBS “This Morning,” NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show.”

Her work has been featured on the cover of Time magazine, in The Atlantic, Wired, Fast Company, Real Simple, Fortune, Forbes, USA Today, The Washington Post, CNN, Slate.com, and many other publications.

She is an honors graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School. She lives in the Hudson River Valley with her husband and two sons.