“Shyness — An Evolutionary Tactic?” Read the New York Times Article, and Join the Conversation Here!


SHYNESS popup Shyness    An Evolutionary Tactic? Read the New York Times Article, and Join the Conversation Here!Today, the New York Times debuts the inaugural issue of a new section called The Sunday Review — including a piece  I wrote on the importance of shyness and introversion. It’s available here.

I’m optimistic that the Times‘ interest in this subject signals a turning point in our culture — that people are ready to see the value of introversion as well as extroversion, shyness as well as boldness, quiet as well as loud. I sense that a paradigm-shift is underway.

And I’m thrilled that readers of this blog are a part of it. Please join the conversation by reading the article and commenting below. I’ll be participating actively along with you.

Looking forward to a great conversation!

(*I’m excited to report that the article is now the #1 most e-mailed piece in the entire Sunday Times.  The Quiet Revolution has begun.)





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  1. Tracy on 26.06.2011 at 10:07 (Reply)

    This is FANTASTIC! I think I may email it to my family members as a way to get this discussion going there too?? (And after I write that I think, ‘well, I’m not sure, got to think about it a bit more’ . . . cautious. And that’s ok!!) I realize that the friends who I truly connect with and value the most are the ones who accept my introversion as a part of the thoughtful, quiet, creative person I am. Those who encourage me to change, “get out there!” or stop thinking so much can really leave me feeling defeated. I also find, as an educator, I love taking the time to get to know the introverted students. (And boy, can it take time) When they feel safe and understood, the connection, insights and thoughts they share are pure gold.

    Is there a way to comment on the NY times site? I tried to comment but couldn’t find where to do so.

    Thanks Susan!!

    1. Susan Cain on 26.06.2011 at 11:53 (Reply)

      Thanks, Tracy, you know what, as far as I can tell there is no way to comment on the NYT site! Strange, I know.

      I know what you mean about taking the time to get to know the shy or introverted students. I instinctively do this myself. I’m not a teacher, but since my kids are little, I’m around kids a lot. Would love to hear your thoughts as an educator of best practices for teaching these kids, and also what advice you’d give to parents choosing schools. What kind of school/teacher/classroom is best?

      Thx again for your comment.

      1. Christy on 26.06.2011 at 15:00 (Reply)

        “I know what you mean about taking the time to get to know the shy or introverted students. I instinctively do this myself.”
        I am also not a child-educator, nor do I have children, but when I’m in the company of children, I find myself more drawn to the quieter ones, the ones who play by themselves out of choice. I find I want to get to know them.

  2. Christopher on 26.06.2011 at 11:10 (Reply)

    Thank you, Susan. That article was really great and I will be ordering your book. As an attorney, former entrepreneur, former poet, and do-er of many other endeavors, I’ve always fought with my introvert/sitter side. Like the previous comment, the “just do it” and “get out there” mentality can be defeating.

    So many things that you said were spot on. I remember as a child just watching all the extroverts bounce around classrooms or recess playgrounds. I learned by watching and listening. I also wondered why they didn’t do the same.

    Other items resonated, like being able to manage better in business through listening to the ideas and operational concerns of team members. Same for the need to have solitude for the purposes of art or just thinking.

    Until reading your article, it never occurred to me that my behavior was not abnormal. So, thank you again. With your article (and, I anticipate, book), you’ve given validation to 41 years of my gut telling me that my natural approach was really ok. Better yet, it was actually right.

    1. Susan Cain on 26.06.2011 at 11:59 (Reply)

      You are welcome, Christopher, thank YOU for that note. And if you want to share any stories of how listening to your team members helped you, I’d love to hear them!

  3. Carolyn on 26.06.2011 at 11:19 (Reply)

    Hi Susan. I searched for your blog after reading the Times piece because I wanted to comment. I am an introvert and a therapist who works with adolescents as well as adults. This is a topic that sometimes causes individuals to seek therapy. It can be incredibly painful for those teens! I plan to print this op-ed and use it in sessions. Know that your work will directly ease the pain of many who you will never meet. Thanks for writing it.

    1. Susan Cain on 26.06.2011 at 11:56 (Reply)

      Carolyn, thank you so much for that — I have to admit that your comment brought tears to my eyes. If you have the time in future to share if and how the article helps, I would love to know. Will help me for future work (since I intend to build on the ideas in this article in my book, due out in January, and way beyond.)

      oh, also — can you tell the adolescents you work with that “it gets better”? (much like the campaign for gay teens.)

      Thx again, your note meant a lot to me.

  4. Cindy on 26.06.2011 at 11:52 (Reply)

    Great article! I am looking forward to reading the book as well. I have been told by many that I “need” to be more social and attend gatherings that just make me uncomfortable - very defeating. I’m glad to see this information, and hope it opens many eyes!

  5. Poppy on 26.06.2011 at 12:15 (Reply)

    Read it, bought a copy of the newspaper so I could share. Don’t have much to add, but thanks!

  6. Olga on 26.06.2011 at 12:20 (Reply)

    Hello, Susan.Thank you for your article. I always thought introversion is something one should fight with to become an extrovert. As being an interpreter-beginner, I always struggle before speaking on public and take it very painfully when it gets to criticism. I always blamed myself for this and thought it is wrong. Your article made me think of the opposite, maybe introversion means carefulness!
    Thank you for the article once again, and for changing my attitude towards myself and others like me :)
    Looking forward to your book)

    1. Susan Cain on 26.06.2011 at 14:41 (Reply)

      Hi Olga, many thx for your note. I understand the feelings you describe. Here is one thing I’ve done successfully to work with my sensitivity to criticism. I try to practice with very small criticisms, the kind that hardly bother me at all but that I still feel a bit. In those cases, I can see either that the criticism was invalid, or that if it was valid, it’s OK to accept it, vow to do better next time, and move on. Little by little I have applied that mode to larger criticisms. I still feel overwhelmed sometimes but have found that this gradual process works. Hope that helps.

  7. Joe on 26.06.2011 at 12:37 (Reply)

    I greatly enjoyed your article as I thought it made some great counter points those that would hijack the whole subject of evolutionary biology to justify a kind of hyper masculinity (extroversion and aggression) that wholly discounts contemplation, empathy and healthy skepticism (see “Pick-up artist” culture as a reference here). I also believe that the constant social chatter of electronic communications supplant time for deep contemplation about difficult and important subjects. That being said, I feel that your occasion for the article, a criticism of the idea of social anxiety, many have been the wrong angle of attack.

    I can honestly say that my life was saved from a kind of debilitating loneliness by just the drug that you decry in the article (Zoloft). I was quite successful academically, and I had a small, tight social network, but I was, for example, unable to use public restrooms, had strong phobic reactions to using the telephone, and had an irrational fear of eye contact with strangers (I always thought I would be accused of staring). Consequently, I would move into deep depressions and wall myself off. After a year of taking a different SSRI, I thought that I was ‘cured’ -that I had successfully reconditioned myself into being a normal (but still quite introverted) person. I went off of my medication with the consent of my doctor. Gradually, I moved back into old habits of behavior, and sank into a depression so dark that there seemed like no possibility of escape. After 9 months, I started taking Zoloft and the fog cleared and I regained my life.

    I appreciated that you mentioned that there should be a line drawn between shyness and ‘social anxiety,’ but likening the inclusion of social anxiety in the DSM to the socially biased notion of homosexuality as a disease went a bit too far. Social phobia / social anxiety are very real conditions, and those suffering untreated don’t need any more reasons to fear getting help.

    1. Susan Cain on 26.06.2011 at 19:28 (Reply)

      Dear Joe,

      Thank you very much for being so candid with both your own story and your critique of the article. That’s not so easy to do, and I appreciate it. I’m truly sorry to hear about what you’ve been through — it sounds like it was awfully painful, something no one should have to suffer. I am not a physician, but what you describe sounds like true social anxiety disorder (as opposed to garden-variety shyness) — like something where you’d want to do whatever you can to be free of it. I didn’t intend my piece to be a commentary on situations like yours (except that now that the worst of your symptoms are alleviated, I would hope you could start to feel proud of the upsides of your temperament), and I sincerely hope that it didn’t read that way to others in similar positions.

      If you have any more thoughts/ideas on useful ways to draw these distinctions, I would love to hear more.

      yours truly,


  8. Cris Cohen on 26.06.2011 at 13:40 (Reply)

    I only just found about you and your work because of this piece in the NY Times. I really loved it. Reading it was like receiving permission to be myself.

    I have fought to be more extroverted because I thought it was the only way to succeed in life. It never felt right though. To quote the lyrics of Neil Peart, “I can’t pretend the stranger is a long-awaited friend.” Really, I am what Mike Myers calls a site specific extrovert. I do speaking engagements, but my default is to be more introverted. It was great to read in your article how this is not a fault, but might even be an advantage. Thanks.

    1. Susan Cain on 26.06.2011 at 19:29 (Reply)

      You’re very welcome. I have never heard of Mike Myers’ site-specific extrovert idea! Must look that up — thx.

  9. AR on 26.06.2011 at 14:32 (Reply)

    Hi Susan - I posted a link to your article on my FB page and a friend immediately shared it on his as well. I am certain a lot of people responded to your article, as the positives of introversion are rarely recognized. I am very similar to Christopher, above. I am a former lawyer, a partner in a small business, and an introvert. I feel like I’m always taking on roles that don’t match my personality, which involves a lot of self-doubt and desire to be anything BUT the center of attention. Makes getting through some days amazingly difficult, but I will think of your article and give myself more of a break next time!

    Your article also made me think about the “smartest guys in the room” at Enron and the financial wizards of Wall Street who led us into September 2008 and its aftermath. They may not all have been extroverts, but many seemed to be. I think the tendency of people to gravitate to those who seem so sure of themselves has often proven to be dangerous thing. Reading your article after watching “Too Big to Fail” on HBO got me connecting the two. Just my musings on a rainy Sunday.

    Thanks again!

    1. Cris Cohen on 26.06.2011 at 17:09 (Reply)

      Good point. The Enron reference is a great example of action (even disastrous action) being rewarded over thought. Sadly a number of other corporations still use that system for promoting people.

      1. Susan Cain on 26.06.2011 at 19:30 (Reply)

        Ah, I write about Enron and the Crash of 2008 in my book! Stay tuned…

  10. David Stinson on 26.06.2011 at 14:38 (Reply)

    Interesting piece. I’m not sure I agree with everything on the educational aspect though. Teamwork is vital for any number of jobs, and I don’t see any harm in teaching it as a skill. I’m sure people like Larry Page are perfectly adept at working in groups. In fact, as a somewhat quiet person myself, I nevertheless find that bouncing ideas off of people, which you’re forced to do in a team environment, is helpful. On the other hand, while anybody should be able to work in teams, that doesn’t mean that everybody wants to do the kind of work that’s applicable to teamwork. This has to do more with the subject area than the work method - so that might justify more arts instruction, for instance.

  11. Alin on 26.06.2011 at 15:11 (Reply)

    Hi, Susan,
    A great article that makes our shy and introverted kind feel that what we more or less conscientiously understand is good and right about ourselves really is so. There are instances, though, when the actual profession requires introspection, but the context is social, so that a good professional can end up punished for a lack of social skills. Science is a sad example, unless all you need is Einstein’s paper and pen.

    I want to draw your attention to a dismal evolution in my field, the Biological Sciences, which now faces a dismal job situation. I have attended a number of talks aimed at job seekers, praising the virtues of networking as THE way to get a job in field. According to its fans, networking will usually get and academic job, while nonnetworking, open market searches lead to success in 1% of cases (since the highest possible number is about 5% overall, it’s probably correct). As networking involves a collection of numerous weak connections maintained by small talk, it is the realm of the fast talking, superficial extrovert, who can charm in 1 minute of casual conversation. I remember a girl complaining about joining science for the promise of a sheltered intellectual space where she could find her own way, now being told to stop doing the silly thing (experiments) and go out and talk nonsense to people. We were actually told to drop work (useless) and do connections (profitable). This makes science singularly unappealing for the shy and introverts, and maybe even for the honest, were they to know the truth before joining. This was not such a problem when jobs were plentiful, but now selection against the socially awkward and withdrawn is brutal, leading to a future where science is in the hands of the socially skilled, ruling over exploited introverts who join driven by their passion, and ignorance of social reality. The latter are still needed, somebody has to do the work, but have little to no chance to rise to the leadership positions fitting their skills.

    So, my comment to your article is that it’s great to be what we are, thoughtful, observant, insightful, wise, creative people, but society expects us to behave differently, under threat of severe punishment. Withdrawn people must pretend, and learn to manipulate the others the way the extroverts naturally do, not just for their own good, but for the sake of our society.

    1. Susan Cain on 26.06.2011 at 19:38 (Reply)

      Hi Alin,

      That is indeed a sad development, and in science of all fields. I do have an idea for you, though. You say that “networking involves a collection of numerous weak connections maintained by small talk” and also compare it to manipulation — but how about if you think of networking in a totally different way, as a few strong connections rather than numerous weak ones? Whenever I go to a networking event, I consider it a success if I emerge having made just one — only one! — single connection. The kicker though is that it has to be a real connection, a real spark with someone with whom I share intellectual interests or good chemistry. I have found that many of the good things that happened in my career came from these “real” relationships. I have never had a very thick rolodex but I do have a deep one.

      Also, if you have trouble in those kinds of settings striking up that one conversation, there are groups out there that can work with you on that, using a sensitive, non “pick up artist” sort of approach.

      I hope this helps…

  12. Christy on 26.06.2011 at 15:12 (Reply)

    A most intriguing article to read. I put a couple of the quotes in it on my Facebook wall. It also made me think how glad I am to have had the opportunity to grow more or less comfortably into my introversion. My mother, an extravert, did a lot of the urging me to be involved in things and do public things and talk to loads of people, so that now when I am with her I still feel a tiny twinge of guilt for not being more social-butterfly-ish, but it was never extreme, and it left room for me to examine and find my own traits and develop them without much distress. This has been a great blessing.

    I noticed that you used shyness and introversion together in most of your statements; I assume that was to account for the common conception that they mean the same thing?

  13. Jenna on 26.06.2011 at 15:27 (Reply)

    Hi Susan, I really enjoyed the article and look forward to your book. I’ve wondered about the genetics of shyness: my grandmother emigrated from Austria as a child when Hitler was gaining popularity. She kept very quiet (in America) about her Jewish background. I wonder sometimes if a highly reactive personality helped some historically persecuted minorities know when to leave.

    1. Susan Cain on 26.06.2011 at 19:53 (Reply)

      What an incredibly interesting thesis. I have never seen anyone talk about this, believe it or not, but I am going to poke around the academic literature.

      Victor Frankl writes about something related, though, in his “Man’s Search for Meaning.” I forget the exact quote, but something about how the sensitive people often survived the concentration camps better than the seemingly hardier souls because they were able to turn inward and escape the hell around them.

  14. william f wallace on 26.06.2011 at 15:32 (Reply)

    The third paragraph of your NYT Magazine article shows that you do not know the difference between introversion and shyness. Check out Hans Eysenck. He updated Jung’s hopeless mess on introversion and extroversion, using factor analysis. What that shows is that anxiety and introversion are statistically separate traits, independently inherited (largely).

    So there are stable introverts, like myself, who are not the least bit shy, and at the other extreme the very neurotic introvert who may show any kind of anxiety disorder, with most people in the middle (normal distribution).

    See the line in the last comment above mine: that person knows the difference between introversion and shyness.

    I would hate for your book to come out showing that you did not know this distinction.

    I am a social/personality psychologist.

    1. Susan Cain on 26.06.2011 at 16:21 (Reply)

      Hi William Wallace,

      Thx for your note and for the heads-up about the book. Actually I am deeply aware of the difference between shyness and introversion, and also of all the different taxonomies for measuring introversion/extraversion (Eysenck, Big 5, Gray’s axes of stable/neurotic and intro/extra, etc.). I mention the difference between shyness and intro, too, in my article: “Shyness and introversion are not the same thing. Shy people fear negative judgment; introverts simply prefer quiet, minimally stimulating environments.”) In the article I tended to speak of the two in the same breath for three reasons: (1) because I was talking a lot about people with reactive, “inhibited” temperaments, many of whom become shy and/or introverted later; (2) because even though the two are technically different, they are treated similarly by our culture; and (3) because of space constraints. In a short newspaper article there wasn’t time to go into the distinctions at length, so I hoped that the sentence quoted above would do the trick.

      But thx for the heads up — good to know for future reference that the distinction didn’t really come through.

  15. Lil GLuckstern on 26.06.2011 at 15:51 (Reply)

    I really enjoyed your article. As a child, I suffered from debilitating shyness, and only my natural ebullience saved me from isolation. Once I discovered that being an extrovert was fun, I grew into that, but I treasure my introverted moments. I think a balance, if it can be reached, is probably most functional. I treasure my quiet times, and although I can make conversation as well as anyone, I find I like my own company very well. As a Jungian trained therapist, and patient, I find that I am okay with with the introverted part of me. I have worked with patients who feel odd and find there is a lot of gold in their introversion. As you so beautifully state, these people often give more because they listen and see more. I will get your book when it comes out, and recommend it. Thank you for your article.

  16. Ian Birch on 26.06.2011 at 15:58 (Reply)

    Susan, thanks for your wonderful article in the New York Times today. Best of luck with the book!

    One of the most telling statements you made was that 50% of the population is introverted (and presumably 50% are extroverted) according to psychologists. Well - yes, of course. 50% of the population is above average height too (not the same 50% necessarily). Intro/extroversion is defined relative to the population - it’s not an absolute scale.

    Given that, it’s incomprehensible that introversion could rationally be viewed as some sort of disease (just like being above average height is not a disease or affliction that needs to be corrected).

    And yet, as you point out introversion is seen negatively.
    I can only dream that the accomplishments of introverts that you listed in your article will spur the next wave of pharmaceutical development to produce the selective serotonin reuptake enhancer (S.S.R.E.) that will make patients more creative and better leaders of proactive teams, amongst other benefits. (side effects include learning more about your favorite subject, and quality time alone). ha, ha.

    Overall - I love your balanced approach: #7 in your “16 things I believe” has been a lifesaver for me. Despite scoring highly as an introvert on Myers Briggs many of my extroverted colleagues had no inkling of my preference, although it was clear to all my introverted colleagues.
    It’s always helpful to have more than one behavior style - and we can recognize that pretend-extroversion doesn’t have to be on the scale of, say, Donald Trump.

  17. Elaine on 26.06.2011 at 17:21 (Reply)

    You say that shyness and introversion are not the same thing, and yet throughout the article - except for that one disclaimer - you lump them together. I am most definitely an introvert, but I am not shy in the least — nor am I particularly demure or gentle. I’m smart, articulate, funny, and opinionated. I wish you’d make your distinctions about introversion more clear.

    For me, the truest definition of introversion is that too much interaction with people (along with crowds and noise) drains me, while an extrovert will thrive on it. I can interact happily and well as long as I respect my need to balance those interactions with solitude and space.

    Beyond that, this article suggests many questions that it doesn’t begin to answer, such as the different experiences of male vs. female introverts. I look forward to the book and hope it will be a more comprehensive exploration of introversion and its place in our culture today.

  18. Sid on 26.06.2011 at 17:28 (Reply)

    This is one of the most amazing articles I have read in the recent past, and as an introvert, I do read a lot of articles! You are so right on multiple counts. All counts perhaps.

    Personally the most painful thing is this - I am perfectly happy being an introvert and living in my own self. It is when I need to interact with people that this is made so clear to me, like I am inferior to everyone around. It is painful and fortunately or unfortunately, I’d like to change.

    I see it all the time - the teacher thinks the smartest people are the ones who “talk” in class and meet him after class hours for doubts when I am perfectly fine figuring out the solutions myself. I can give you a million examples but you probably know those already.

    Ok, so again, a great read, a thoroughly enjoyable experience. And this is a great blog.

  19. Toomaj on 26.06.2011 at 17:55 (Reply)

    I must say, your article practically revitalized me! I was starting to think that there’s actually something wrong with me. Because, everyone around me has told me at least once that I should change myself, that I’m making a mistake with the lifestyle I’ve chosen. But thanks to you and your wonderful article I know that I’m not “sick”, or I don’t need “to seek professional help”, or I’m not “crazy”.
    I hope people change their views about introverts, and spare us the advice on how to live!
    Looking forward to your book. Thanks again.

  20. Michael Murphy Loeffler on 26.06.2011 at 19:05 (Reply)

    Dear Susan,

    Thank you for your wonderful article. I face the pathologizing of introversion in my psychotherapy practice each week. This is a brief paragraph on a paper I wrote regarding introversion as well.

    “I realize I’m more introverted and been exploring this topic through research and self work and found that in 2010 there has been controversy in the now active working groups for the DSM V in which the DSM V working group was planning to link introversion with schizoid withdrawal, which makes it indicative of a personality disorder. I was taken aback and appalled that my own desire to seek to understand my inner world could be seen as “pathological”. John Beebe, a prominent San Francisco Jungian scholar and psychiatrist, has argued otherwise and it has been rumored that his work on personality types along with a letter from the President of the International Association for Analytical Psychology (IAAP) have swayed the American Psychological Association’s perception that introversion is pathological (Solomon, 2010).”

    Solomon, H. (2010, May 12). Proposed Changes to DSM V: Introversion. International Association for Analytical Psychology, Retrieved December 6th, 2010, from http://iaap.org/frontpage/archive/proposed-changes-to-dsm-v-introversion.html

    1. Susan Cain on 27.06.2011 at 09:35 (Reply)

      Thx, Michael, yes I was horrified by this development too! I checked out the proposed language for the DSM-V recently and they seemed to have removed the introversion language, thankfully. Have you heard anything of late?

      In Christopher Lane’s book on the medicalization of shyness, he writes that this sort of thing had been proposed in previous editions of the DSM, too, until some psychologists wrote in protesting that under those definitions a majority of the people in the field would be considered ill. It’s an interesting read.

  21. Cynthia Friedlob on 26.06.2011 at 19:41 (Reply)

    Excellent article! FYI, I believe that you did, indeed, sufficiently distinguish between being shy and being an introvert, especially in the context of an article as opposed to a lengthier book. As an introvert who is not shy, I understand the distinction well. I do agree that society treats both the same way because of the general preference for (extreme) extraverted behavior — thus my long-cultivated and hard-won ability to appear extraverted when absolutely necessary! Looking forward to your book!

  22. K on 26.06.2011 at 22:43 (Reply)

    Thank you for this article and writing the forthcoming book! I recall a time in the 3rd grade when my efforts to be more like the extroverted children resulted in me being sent home with a note pinned to my coat on several occasions. As time went on I became more comfortable in my introverted skin. I hope your book brings a greater understanding, respect and value for those of us who enjoy the quiet within, so that we won’t feel the need to conform.

    1. Susan Cain on 27.06.2011 at 09:37 (Reply)

      K, I had a similar experience in an eighth grade creative writing class, of all places! To this day I cringe when I think of it.

  23. Jay on 26.06.2011 at 23:53 (Reply)

    One of the most encouraging articles I’ve read in some time! I did have a question about one of the statistics you cited. You stated that 15-20% of many species are “sitters” and 80% are “rovers.” Does this breakdown imply that rovers usually out-survive sitters? I’m just curious as to what your take on it is or if you’ve found any studies that show how the sitter/rover ratio can vary depending on the characteristics and habitat of the species. Thanks!

    1. Susan Cain on 27.06.2011 at 09:41 (Reply)

      As far as I know, the stats are the same across species. I don’t think it implies that rovers out-survive sitters but rather that in most habitats, there is room for 20% of the given population to use this style as an adaptive strategy.

  24. Fern on 27.06.2011 at 01:38 (Reply)

    A fellow introvert linked me to your article over FB, and I’ve shared it on a blog. (Don’t ask me to text-I only do more controlled environments!)

    I can be a fake extrovert when I need to at work (though I have to wind myself up for meetings so much that I sometimes talk TOO much at them), but yes, if I can’t get away, if I don’t have my little space… it’s bad. And the group projects I was in on at school? I know how they go. The extroverts talk and talk while the introvert does the project, and they all get the same grade. Not a fan.

    Your comments on the fish experiments are duly noted. Like most Is, I work with Es, and I’ve gotten used to it, but when I first started, and someone said we would try an “experiment” at work, I sat down and thought out the parameters and asked what would be defined as failure and… got accused of being negative and not with the program. I’ve seen a lot more problems of that sort (and the “experiments” are always poorly thought through and get people deep into worse problems than they started with) than of the sort where people can’t adjust to new environments. I’m definitely better at adjusting to new environments than some of the Es are at thinking things through ahead of time.

  25. Becky on 27.06.2011 at 05:58 (Reply)

    Hello, Susan. I really enjoyed reading your NYT article and look forward to reading your book. It is high time this topic was discussed broadly.

    While I’m interested in how sitters can become more obvious (and appreciated) participants in all parts of society, I have a more specific question for you. I have always been a sitter, with mild shyness, considerable introversion and moderate depression thrown into the mix. I’ve been taking Zoloft for almost 20 years and it seems to have helped me in many ways although I’m still a ‘sitter’ generally speaking. Sort of an adventurous, outgoing sitter. :D Anyhow, I have begun dating someone who is a more extreme sitter type. We like each other very much but he is highly reluctant to do new things in his life and in general doesn’t seem to need me very much in his semi-solitary life. It’s almost like the ‘idea’ of having me in his life is enough for him. Is there anything I can do to encourage him to venture out a bit more or am I trying to change the spots on a leopard who is happy the way he is? Am I being a traitor to my own kind?

    A shorter way of asking this is: Will your book address sitters in love? :)

    1. Susan Cain on 27.06.2011 at 09:51 (Reply)

      Hmm, tricky questions! One thing I would say is, I would NOT worry about being a traitor to your own kind. (I know you asked that question partly tongue in cheek, but it’s worth saying for the part that of you that meant it.) When it comes to relationships I think you go with what works and that’s that. (And there are plenty of sitter-rover relationships out there…in fact I have such a marriage myself.)
      While you might be able to encourage him to venture out a bit more, esp to do things that are interesting to him, I wonder if you’re better off evaluating the relationship for what it is now and whether it gives you what you need. There are many, many varieties of sitters and/or introverts and/or shy people, so impossible to say that what works for one sitter will work for another. It’s possible that you crave more in-person intimacy than he does, even though you’re both sitters. Ask yourself, if things were to stay exactly as they are now, are your needs met? And if not, could you find other ways to meet them? Only you can know!

      1. Becky on 27.06.2011 at 12:22 (Reply)

        Thank you so much for your reply. And I believe you’re right. I don’t think he can provide what I need. Now to get my heart to back off!

        Looking forward to reading your book….

        1. Anne Elliott on 27.06.2011 at 21:37 (Reply)

          May I second the request for a discussion of sitters in love? Or perhaps it’s discussed in the book? This is an area where introversion/shyness have been especially problematic for me, so I’m definitely curious about what you’ve learned in your research. (By the way, I’ve recently been guilting myself over a situation similar to what Becky describes. I thought your response was really helpful, so thanks!) :)

          1. Susan Cain on 28.06.2011 at 09:20 (Reply)

            I will do a future post on this, Anne and Becky! thx for the request.

  26. Kayle on 27.06.2011 at 07:16 (Reply)

    Not a fan of this: “A BEAUTIFUL woman lowers her eyes demurely beneath a hat. In an earlier era, her gaze might have signaled a mysterious allure. ”

    Or of the phrase “‘painfully’ shy”. Both reinforce dangerous stereotypes that need to be challenged rather than perpetuated.

    Thanks for the article.

    1. Susan Cain on 27.06.2011 at 09:55 (Reply)

      Fair points, Kayle.

      Re: shyness, though, I do think that too much of it is painful. What I was trying to say was, let’s acknowledge that and address it, but at the same time respect the temperament that often accompanies that pain.

  27. Kayle on 27.06.2011 at 07:22 (Reply)

    And I agree with Elaine’s comment, above. The article started out making a distinction, but then continually conflates shyness with introversion throughout the article.

  28. Kayle on 27.06.2011 at 07:31 (Reply)

    I think you also made the INT mistake with Alin’s comment of problem-solving, on a micro- level, by reading a cry for help into the smaller situation at hand rather than the overall sociological problem. Networking tips are fine, but when scientists (and artists, and Everyone Else) are getting fired and hired on their social skills alone (and I know it’s true-I stopped passing for an extrovert and immediately faced increased aggression on the job from extroverts) networking tips is not going to solve the problem. Hint, hint: You also study things and write articles that get printed in the New York Times…

  29. Peace on 27.06.2011 at 08:23 (Reply)

    Realizing that medications for painful shyness (aka anxiety) turn people into extraverts, rather than helping them become self-assured introverts, is a step in the right direction. In masking or changing temperament, are the medications causing more problems? The high school student gripped by panic attacks now has no panic attacks, “participates” in class, but is “acting out,”is “the life of the party,” and no longer cares for reading, writing, learning! Adapted, yes, but well and healthy? Not really. The medications almost seem to have the same effect that alcohol does — One might give the impression of being a part of a group….

  30. Niel Malan on 27.06.2011 at 12:23 (Reply)

    Now I’m starting to wonder if extraversion is not the sickness? I mean, American brashness is a byword all over the world.

  31. Kris on 27.06.2011 at 13:43 (Reply)

    I just came to read the article on the NYTimes website. It immediately made me think of Dr. Elaine Aron and her research on HSP’s - higly-sensitive persons.

    If you do not know her and the term HSP, be sure to visit the website (hsperson.com).

    I am a HSP (and I no longer wonder what is “wrong” with me, and I thank the good Doctor Aron for that).

    1. Susan Cain on 27.06.2011 at 16:51 (Reply)

      Yes, I am a huge fan of her work, and devoted a whole chapter of my book to her research and personal story!

  32. Amy on 27.06.2011 at 15:09 (Reply)

    I really enjoyed the article in the New York Times. It was so refreshing to read a positive article about introverts! It seems like there are so many negative articles out there that have the message that introverts are inferior to extroverts.

  33. César on 27.06.2011 at 17:07 (Reply)

    Thank you Susan,

    reading your article really made me feel better. As an introvert myself I think it made me feel understood.
    As you say shyness and introversion are not the same. Why do you use both terms almost as equals? I’ve always being an introverted but I’m no longer shy. When you’re introverted you may not bother to talk to people that are not going to take te time to really listen but if you’re shy it feels painful to talk to strangers. While one may want to preserve your own introversion, shyness is something I’m definitely glad to get rid of.

    There’s also the question of whether or not this should be called introversion or it is just one character trait of something bigger.
    For one, it’s not really that I want to keep my thougths from other people, in fact I’d love to share them but they are mostly misunderstood. It’s strange that “extroverts” can talk a lot but seldom say what’s really inside of them, they even contradict themselves often. Meanwhile introverts can say a lot more with just one sentence. Perhaps a more adequate word would be thoughtful, we are just people who ponder about the truthfulness of what comes into our minds, who look into their minds and hearts for a better answer, who seek new ways of expression and explore new horizons, we do create new ideas and works or art.

    I agree that the extroverted approach is useful, the world would see more work done if everyone were this way, but not a lot of progress. So, most of the things extroverts do now, were at some point devised by introverts.

    The problem arises when the “extroverted” majority despises the “introverted” minority, specially in this fast changing times. We “extroverts” think slower (because we think) and that’s many times percieved as a sign of being dumb or weird, and as our reasoning may be hard to follow laziness and lack of time also play against us. However, in the long run the other approach is usually the more expensive and the more time-consuming.

    Thus one problem is, what can we do for the “extroverts” to listen to us?
    (And sometimes I doubt they listen to themselves, they just feel and impulse and follow it without questioning or feel terribly bad about thinking twice)
    The other being: Can we expect the “extroverts” to understand our behabiour or should we get used to them expecting us to behabe like them?

    Thanks for reading, I don’t even know if I expressed this thoghts clearly as I am not a native English speaker.


  34. Susan on 27.06.2011 at 17:23 (Reply)

    Thanks, once again, for a great article and a fabulous conversation. It makes me so happy to see so many introverts accepting who they are — and fighting the efforts of kind but misinformed extroverts to “fix” them.

    I don’t know if I’m just paying more attention (and writing about introverts, as well) but the tide does seem to be shifting away from negative references to introverts. And your book will be a great help to that effort. Can’t wait to read it!

    1. Susan Cain on 27.06.2011 at 21:32 (Reply)

      Thank you Susan. I feel the same way about the turning tide! We must compare notes in the year to come.

  35. Allison Gray Teetsel on 27.06.2011 at 20:41 (Reply)

    I can’t thank you enough for writing this article. I have struggled not with my own introversion, but with the perceptions of others for most of my life. I’ve always preferred to spend my time either alone or in a small, intimate group, rather than in a crowd. In school, I was set apart for this and for being quiet. I may have started out shy, but I outgrew my shyness quickly. Others didn’t (and still don’t) seem to understand that it wasn’t that I was avoiding them or keeping quiet out of fear, anxiety or intimidation. I speak up when I want to…when I feel I’ve got something worth saying. More recently, this has proven a problem in my professional life. I worked in an office where I was the ONLY introvert (Meyers-Briggs analysis supported this). I was constantly thrust into brainstorming meetings where, from my perspective, nothing got done besides a lot of people yelling over one another. My boss would hold me after meetings and tell me that my contribution and involvement was “lame”, and that he expected more from me. I was also often accused of being “mopey” or called “Eeyore”. A lot of the time, I was just in my own head, trying to focus on my work. The constant criticism and allegations that I was giving any less than 100% made me angry and resentful, especially when I saw the praise my coworkers got just for being loud and outwardly excited. I think it is essential that we nurture the tendencies of both introverts and extroverts. As you point out, introversion is NOT the same as social anxiety. While social anxiety can be crippling, introversion can actually be quite empowering if allowed to develop and thrive. I have noticed a lot of discussion regarding this issue recently (within the last year or so). It is at the same time relieving and empowering to see people “speak up” on the side of introverts. There is nothing “wrong” with us, and quite a lot can be gained by allowing us to process information, develop ideas, and observe our surroundings the way that comes naturally to us.

    1. Susan Cain on 27.06.2011 at 21:31 (Reply)

      Any boss who tells an employee that she is lame must indeed be lame himself.

      You speak of this boss and office in the past tense — are you in a better situation now, I hope?

    2. Jonathan Ehlinger on 28.06.2011 at 11:53 (Reply)

      Wow, so much of what you have said describes my experience as an introvert so exactly, it is frightening. In the jobs I have had I have pretty much always been assigned the nickname “Eeyore”. I have learned to embrace it, but really it annoys the hell out of me. I have also been consistently labeled “aloof”, “standoffish”, and “intimidating” because I appear to be un-engaged and, when I do engage, I seem matter of fact and “intense”. The reality is I don’t have something to say until I have something to say. I don’t feel the need to speak unless I fell there is something I can actually contribute beyond a bunch of noise. In the meantime, I am in my own head thinking about many things, perhaps too much, but that is what I do. As horrible as this may sound, it is so nice to know there are others who experience the same thing.

      1. Susan Cain on 30.06.2011 at 13:28 (Reply)

        Ah yes, the desire to speak only when one actually has something to say. If only more people had this desire! I can tell you that many, many, many people feel the way you do. When I interviewed people for my book that was one of the most consistent themes to emerge.

        Also, if I may say so: I don’t think you should accept people calling you Eeyore — it is not respectful of your gifts, which seem evident even from your short note. Could you say, lightly but firmly,”I’d prefer you don’t call me that”?

      2. Channah on 16.03.2012 at 22:50 (Reply)

        I realize that I am a little late to comment, but maybe someone will find this valuable anyway. I too have been frustrated by people giving me complements that they intended as insults. I think that the best thing to do in that case is to thank them for the complement while offhandedly explaining to them why it is such a complement. If someone were to call me Eyeore, I think I would say, “Thank you, Eyeore’s self-sacrificing kindness and generosity are an example to us all.” If you are not convinced of this, go back and read the book or watch the movie again. You will find that Eyeore (at least the classic Eyeore) tends to react to all the slights offered him by his friends with self-sacrificing kindness and generosity. His friends apparently forget his birthday (though not really), steal his tail, tear down his house, and I can’t remember what else. His reaction to these events is always a positive one.

        1. Channah on 16.03.2012 at 22:54 (Reply)

          I forgot to add, I have my doubts that people would continue to call you Eyeore if you reinterpreted their comment in such a way. By refusing to accept their hidden message, I think you would ruin their label.

          1. Channah on 16.03.2012 at 23:20 (Reply)

            Im sorry, after I post comments I usually re-read them in context. Often I then notice things I wish I had said. This is again so here.
            You may fear that if you made my comment and they then continued to call you Eyeore, you would have undermined your grounds for requesting that they not call you this. This is not so, because all you would need to do is play the humble card, and say really you aren’t that wonderful of a person, and would rather they just call you by your own name.

  36. Danielle on 27.06.2011 at 20:48 (Reply)

    Here’s a beautiful quote that I have just come across. I’d like to dedicate it to all the introverts out there who are hurting.

    “I am somebody. I am me. I like being me. And I don’t need anybody to make me somebody.” - Louis L’Amore

  37. Martin Fass on 27.06.2011 at 21:27 (Reply)

    Dear Susan Cain,

    As I see others are doing, I will share your NYT page with a (small) group of people. The discovery of you and your writing has happened for me at a significant time. I’m at a point of examining where I am, where I want to be, especially in light of two situations occupyng my attention.

    The first, constantly growing disappointment in the promise of President Obama. (Expressed so well, as it happens, by Maureen Dowd on the page following your own essay!) Finally, I see, and without trying to deny its reality, at my age of 76, the massiveness of extroverted noise from Washington, and how we are all affected.

    The second, a focus on our little Maltese, Stanley, whom we had to have euthanized 12 weeks ago. He was a quiet, introverted, marvelous fellow.

    All the best to you.

    -Martin Fass

    1. Susan Cain on 27.06.2011 at 21:29 (Reply)

      And to you, Martin. What a lovely note. Thank you.

  38. V on 27.06.2011 at 21:39 (Reply)

    I really enjoyed reading the insights in your article regarding introversion and shyness, and especially appreciate its contribution to the idea that the diversity of temperament that exists among the human family is a source of strength, and that we should not feel compelled to conform to a particular narrow mold that happens to be highly prized at a particular time.

    I wondered if you’ve come across Jim Collin’s thoughts on leadership in his book Good to Great. His highly data-driven study found that companies that made a successful transition to sustained greatness were invariably led by individuals who combined the qualities of personal humility, often including shyness and self effacement, with a strong will for the success of the organization (a concept he terms, a “Level 5 Leader”). He found that such leaders were more likely to build a strong team around themselves and empower others, share credit with others, reflect on what they could improve when challenges arise, etc.

    1. Susan Cain on 27.06.2011 at 21:40 (Reply)

      I sure have heard about Jim Collins’ notion of Level 5 leadership, and write all about it in my book — thx for mentioning it here!

  39. Nancy N on 28.06.2011 at 08:30 (Reply)

    Even though there are other books out there on introversion, your thoughtful dissection of the world of introverts pleased me deeply. I could see myself, my growing up, and my working years described in your examples. The comment by Steve Wozniak reminded me of the insight I had at the end of a four-day silent meditation retreat: I had an inner hermit that valued and needed quiet. And that is what I’ve had to teach my managers: give me a project and leave me alone. Now that I’m retired, I make it clear to any organization I volunteer for that I don’t do committees or teams. And because I live alone (in a new for me house) at the end of a street with woods on two sides, a cul de sac on the third, and a distant neighbor on the fourth, quiet comes with the territory and feeds me well. I didn’t realize until I moved here how noisy and disruptive my former enviroment was. A overflowing river of inspiration and creativity has come with the silence.

  40. Carolyn on 28.06.2011 at 08:59 (Reply)

    Hi readers. What an interesting discussion this has been. I have a few comments about the comments. I understand first hand the difficulty living in a world that values extroversion over introversion, and the ways in which the latter can be unfairly targeted and misunderstood. To balance that, however, I do believe we all, regardless of our nature, bear some responsibility to adapt to our surroundings effectively. For instance, when I taught one boss that I would actively participate in team efforts by providing verbal or written feedback after the meeting with my ideas and suggestions, there was no concern about my doing so in the meeting. Another point: not all introverts are deep thinkers, and not all extroverts are impulsive and superficial, as well as ineffective. These wildly inaccurate stereotypes are as negative as the one that supposes introverts are uncommunicative and dull. I know an introvert who has thoughts no deeper than what item he will buy next for one of his solitary pursuits, who is a rather selfish and unpleasant individual, and an extrovert who practically saves the world on a daily basis with her outgoing nature, fierce intelligence, intense focus, and boundless love.

    Re Kayle’s comments: I was taken aback by the negative, relentlessly critical tone of your comments. I wonder if that has something to do with your sense that colleagues “turned” on you? You offered four criticisms, three with which I did not agree, and you offered nothing positive. I have always referred to the shyness I experienced as a child and adolescent as painful, and I always will. Because it was, quite literally, painful. Also, I don’t think Susan made a mistake when she responded on a micro level rather than a sociological level, I think she made a choice. One that was hers to make. Perhaps you could offer a sociological perspective to expand on her reply. I would like to hear your ideas.

    Re Peace’s comments: Please understand that medications for panic and other anxiety disorders absolutely do not turn someone into the life of the party. In all my years of working with panic disorders, I have never seen someone with panic use medication that altered their basic personality, or decreased their interest in learning. Learning is enhanced with a reduction in symptoms of panic. At best, they allow someone suffering in a very real way to manage anxiety effectively so they can live their lives, whether they be an introvert or not. Many extroverts suffer from panic, it isn’t specific to introversion. I would agree that we use way too much medication, often inappropriately, in our society. I think a bigger concern with anti-anxiety meds is that people pop them all day to manage symptoms rather than make the necessary cognitive, behavioral, and lifestyle changes needed to eliminate symptoms.

    I have learned quite a bit from this discussion. Thanks to all who joined. I have lots of new research to do now! Looking forward to the book.

    1. Susan Cain on 30.06.2011 at 13:31 (Reply)

      Thank you, Carolyn, beautifully stated.

  41. Alla on 28.06.2011 at 09:24 (Reply)

    I’m so happy to have found your article and now your blog. I’m shy and an introvert and only now understanding that THIS is what I’ve struggled with. On the surface I’m functional but deep down I’ve felt like I’m barely treading water. I have always felt like I just didn’t “fit” and now I finally understand why.

    A commenter above took issue with your use of “painfully shy”- but I’d argue that term is 100% correct. It does hurt to be the square peg and is difficult to establish self-esteem when the world around you values what you just don’t possess. I find that the advent of social media makes it even more challenging. The constant chatter is maddening and increasily it feels like one needs to engage or perish both socially and professionally.

    So thank you for your article and blog. Introverts and the shy need to know they are not fundamentally flawed and can lead meaningful and productive lives. And society needs to recognize the value of these individuals, especially as the pace of our society continues to hasten.

  42. Tyler on 28.06.2011 at 11:53 (Reply)

    This was a great read. I have always been a “sitter” but have changed my ways somewhat after starting college, becoming more outgoing but I still would much rather be a part of the party than the center of attention. I am in my final semester and have chosen a career path that is normally an exclusive extrovert field- Public Relations. This article put a smile on my face because all my life I’ve felt I’ve missed out on living and learning experiences but I didn’t. I learned through observation and feel like I’ve learned more than those who experienced it. Objectivity is key and I think many extroverts lack the ability to look at things that way.

  43. Shyness article in New York Times - SocialPhobiaWorld.com on 28.06.2011 at 12:33

    [...] this earlier today. Its an interesting read and its not extremely long. I hope you enjoy it! “Shyness — An Evolutionary Tactic?” Read the New York Times Article, and Join the … if this has already been posted please delete this post/let me [...]

  44. Douglas Eby on 28.06.2011 at 12:35 (Reply)

    Thanks for such a stimulating article. One of many rich quotes, this one by Winifred Gallagher: “The glory of the disposition that stops to consider stimuli rather than rushing to engage with them is its long association with intellectual and artistic achievement. Neither E=mc2 nor ‘Paradise Lost’ was dashed off by a party animal.”

    Dr. Elaine Aron would likely agree, and finds all HSPs (highly sensitive people, with sensory processing sensitivity) to be creative. Sensitivity is of course not the same as introversion or shyness - they are all different, but overlap.

    But the language of mainstream media and the majority (probably extroverted) about us sensitive and/or introverted or shy people often disparages our qualities. One example in your article is the term “sitter” - especially in our achievement-oriented, extrovert-heavy culture, this label implies someone who is not a “doer” and therefore less valid and valuable.

  45. Valkyrje on 28.06.2011 at 12:52 (Reply)

    Hi Susan,
    thank you so much for this article! It brought warmth to my heart reading this and feeling like I wasn’t alone anymore and that my so-called flaws might actually be advantages (at least at times). Ever since I was a little girl and started school my teachers told me to speak up because they knew I had the answers, I just didn’t have the guts (or whatever you would call it, the extroversion) to express them. This comment’s been following me all my life all the way to - most recently - my oral exams at uni and it’s been tearing me apart hearing it over and over again because I’ve felt like there’s something wrong with me and that I need to change to be successful and “normal” (gosh, I can’t stand that word). So I just wanted to thank you, again, for helping me realise that it’s okay to be this way, to be the careful one who looks twice or even thrice before crossing the road and that it’s something to be proud of.

    Lots of love from Valkyrje from Norway

    1. Susan Cain on 30.06.2011 at 13:33 (Reply)

      Thank you for this lovely note. And best of luck with your university career and beyond.

  46. Jamie on 28.06.2011 at 19:33 (Reply)

    I never read the New York Times, but for whatever reason I went to their website today, clicked on Most Popular, and saw your article. I also never comment on what I read. However, your article was so great that I felt compelled to post my very first online comment. Finally…something I can relate to and someone who ‘gets’ all the other wonderful introverts out there!

    As a 30-year-old INFJ, I become more and more aware of how my introversion impacts my everyday life as I get older. I see rovers dominating meetings and leadership positions. I see smooth, fast talkers getting their way and getting promoted. I see how difficult it is to find
    real friends who really care, listen, and want to have deep, meaningful conversation. All of This makes me feel so out of place and so different from the rest of society, but I’m slowly learning to accept and appreciate my introversion. I’ve also realized I need to adapt or
    change my career path. Things like pitching ideas to managing partners, being in the midst of childish office politics, and making an appearance at large events exhaust me mentally and physically!

    Also, in all the blogs and articles I’ve read, you’re the first person to touch on pharmaceuticals affecting a person’s psyche. This is a topic I think about a lot, as I find it disturbing how the personalities of my co-workers, family, and friends have changed. It’s been interesting to work with those who can’t sit still and are in overdrive all day, as well as those who are so numbed out and show no emotion. It’s also difficult to watch family members
    become buggy-eyed and hyperactive and friends who think everything is just great all the time. And yes, these people don’t hesitate to tell me how their doctor prescribed Prozac to help deal with the demands of two young children, or Adderall to help focus on homework. Ok, off my soapbox…

    In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy my rich inner life — quiet evenings watching the rabbits and birds in my back yard, invigorating jogs while listening to inspiring music, and the never-ending desire to learn, grow, and think of new ideas.

    Thank you for your wonderful article, your wisdom, and for reminding me it’s ok to be who I am.

  47. Denton on 30.06.2011 at 07:26 (Reply)

    I googled Susan Cain after reading the NYT article on introversion and ended up here. It is a thoughtful insightful article by someone who is obviously very intelligent. I am shocked to discover that Susan was a corporate lawyer who once represented Goldman Sachs. GS makes the mob look like a charity organization. Please change the bio to something more flattering, like reformed serial killer/cannibal. (Still a fan, just kidding…mostly.)

    1. Danielle on 30.06.2011 at 18:48 (Reply)

      Dear Denton:

      Lawyers unfortunately do not have the luxury of choosing their clients. They are imposed on the lawyers usually by senior partners. Lawyers really have no choice in the matter. They are given files to work on and that’s that. Moreover, she was a corporate lawyer, not a civil litigator nor a criminal lawyer. The type of work they do is very different.

      1. Denton on 01.07.2011 at 05:21 (Reply)

        I spend my time on political sites where people communicate through the exchange of sarcasm laced insults. It is difficult to find anyone willing to debate the substance of an issue rather than compete in the “I’m a bigger douche” contest. The people who populate psychological sites are interested in sharing their feelings, swapping personal stories, and forming personal relationships. The two commenting genres have an extreme difference in sensitivity levels and goals. I value truth over feelings, and I’m guessing most of the people on sites such as these reverse those priorities. If you really want to debate the morality of the legal profession generally, or corporate law specifically, I think you have no leg to stand on. On a par with lobbyists, corporate lawyers are a primary tool in the corporate tool box used to corrupt our political and legal systems. Corporate lawyers are arsenic in the veins of ethical business practices. What to me was a mild joke reflecting a larger truth is to you probably seen as just being “mean” to Susan. Now that I’ve contaminated this psychology site with political ideology, let me say as a hardcore introvert that I find Susan’s insights enlightening, and her writing excellent.

  48. Deborah Owens on 06.07.2011 at 20:27 (Reply)

    As a Psychotherapist/ Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice in the Philadelphia area I see my fair share of people struggling with these issues. Its refreshing to note the up side of these traits and marvel at the integrity and positive side. Anxious more reserved people are often attuned, loyal, sincere, real,empathetic and bring out the best in others on a team rather than the stifling extraverts sometimes do.

  49. Brittany on 09.07.2011 at 22:49 (Reply)

    Congrats on your article becoming the #1 most e-mailed piece! Great article!

  50. william f wallace on 11.07.2011 at 08:00 (Reply)

    Just wondering: women have far more trouble with body image growing up than men do (which swimsuit is not a problem for the vast majority of guys).

    So I wonder if a teenage girl, introverted AND shy, has it much worse than her male counterpart.

    William F Wallace, Ph. D. psychology
    Brandon MS

    1. Susan Cain on 11.07.2011 at 11:27 (Reply)

      Interesting. I think it can work both ways. It’s often harder for shy, introverted males because shyness runs counter to our ideal of dominant, aggressive masculinity — though some men, if they’re not too shy or if they’re non-shy introverts, manage to position themselves as the “strong, silent type.”

  51. Lynn on 27.07.2011 at 15:27 (Reply)

    Susan, I just came across your June article and I am so grateful to you for writing about shyness. I feel empowered by the fact that I require, and truly enjoy time to myself now that I understand more about it. I can see my quiet demeanor as a gift rather than a curse. I don’t feel so alone after reading your article and blog. I recently read a new book about shyness by Helen Rivas-Rose called BRAVE: A Memoir of Overcoming Shyness. Reading about Helen’s journey will resonate with many of your readers and blog posters.

    My experience is that I suffer less being on the shy/introverted spectrum from doing the work of Bryron Katie. http://www.thework.com I came to see that believing my thoughts about my own worth and looking for love, approval and appreciation from others played a big role in my problems with shyness. Byron Katie’s book, I Need Your Love, Is it True, How to Stop Seeking Love, Approval and Appreciation and Start Finding Them Instead, is full of wisdom. It introduces an inquiry process that is like meditation and helps people go inside and find their own truth about thoughts that make them suffer. Like, I am not as good as others because I am shy. I found out that when I seek approval from others it is a problem. I need to give approval to myself.

    True Thanks for your work on this subject.

    1. Susan Cain on 27.07.2011 at 19:36 (Reply)

      Lynn, thank you for your lovely note. Believe it or not, I’ve never read Byron Katie’s work, but will now check it out. Thx again, and best of luck to you. (P.S. One of my blog readers is also engaged in a Shyness Project, in which she’s working to overcome her shyness while still being true to who she is. You might want to check it out!)

      Also, did you know that I have a book coming out in January? It’s called QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and it’s avail for pre-order now on Amazon!

  52. Kristie on 16.03.2012 at 11:24 (Reply)


    Thank you for taking the time to explore, research and expound on such an intriguing subject. Sometimes introverts are such good listeners I wonder if they tend to let the the extroverted group do so much of the talking while disregarding their less thought out “insights” as just that: less than thought out. The introverts inherently know their true value, but the noise of the extroverts can get so loud it can be difficult to hear individual thoughts, a danger in itself.
    It may be time for the quieter set to pay attention to and address the negativity held by those who are more vocal. Thank you for leading the way.

    I myself was so quiet as a child my parents wondered if something might be wrong with me. In school I was the quiet observer, yet still quite successful in my endeavors. As a result, I was often called on to act as a “leader”, even though I was better suited to, and preferred, working individually. I do believe, however, it is an asset to work toward building on one’s weakness, while valuing and believing in one’s strengths. It makes for a stronger character. I also believe that each temperament needs to be valued for it’s worth by those in authority: parent, teacher, employer. Diversity is imperative to growth.

    I very much look forward to reading your book, as I have enjoyed discovering these articles. Thank you for your work.

  53. julie on 16.03.2012 at 23:27 (Reply)

    If I had to speak up or get in front of the class i would just have a huge panic attack!!! I was not made for such things!! Its funny because i can be on stage but standing in front of all those horrible kids was more than i could handle! i was so lucky to have teachers who got me and helped me out!!

  54. adult Friends} on 09.04.2014 at 14:36 (Reply)

    You actually make it seem so easy with your
    presentation but I find this matter to be actually
    something that I think I would never understand. It seems tooo complicated and very broad for me.

    I’m looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

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Quiet: The Book

- Wall Street Journal

Bill Gates names "The Power of Introverts" one of his all-time favorite TED Talks.

Best Nonfiction Book of 2012

QUIET has been voted the best nonfiction book of 2012
by Goodreads.com


1. There’s a word for “people who are in their heads too much”: thinkers.

2. Our culture rightly admires risk-takers, but we need our “heed-takers” more than ever.

3. Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.

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