Do You Need a Lot of Quiet Time?

If you’re someone who needs solitude or down-time regularly to recharge, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Susan Cain has owned a blog and written a book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,” in defense of all of the introverts who need to carve out some silence in the world.

Q: Why did you start your blog and write the book?

A: For the same reason that Betty Friedan published “The Feminine Mystique” all the way back in 1963. Introverts are to extroverts what women were to men at that time — second class citizens with gigantic amounts of untapped talent. Our schools and workplaces are designed for extroverts, and many introverts believe there is something wrong with them and they should try to “pass” as extroverts. This is a colossal waste of talent, energy and, ultimately, happiness.

Q: What makes introverts unique?

A: Extroverts need much more stimulation (social and otherwise) than introverts do. Sitting still at their desks can make them feel stir-crazy (under-stimulated) while attending office birthday parties can do the same for introverts (over-stimulated).

Q: What are the advantages to being an introvert? The disadvantages?

A: The advantages to introversion are numerous. I’ll name just a couple here. For one thing, studies suggest that many of the most creative people are introverts. Introverts are careful, reflective thinkers who can tolerate the solitude that most creative work requires. Also, contrary to the view of introverts as anti-social, introverts tend to have more time to devote to close friends and family; if you’re not spreading yourself thin socially, you tend to go deeper.

There are disadvantages too, social discomfort probably the chief among them. Introverts want to socialize, just like everyone else — all humans are social animals — so there’s an inherent conflict between the desire to connect and the need for quiet.

Q: As an introvert, do you require a lot of “quiet?” Where do you find it?

A: Personally, I don’t need physical quiet so much as the freedom to “be” quiet. Think of it as respites from social engagement. I love working and reading in coffee shops, because I enjoy being around others without having to actually talk. After I get the breaks I need, I start craving engagement again.

Q: What’s your advice for anyone who’s trying to find more quiet in their life?

A: The most important step is to believe that you’re entitled to it, that there’s nothing wrong with you for wanting quiet. Once you truly believe this, you’ll take the steps you need to secure quiet in your life. We are told from the time we’re toddlers that we should be active, engaged, and “out there” all day long. It can be very hard to challenge decades of social programming.