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David Bouchier: The Empire Of The Extroverts

Katrina Br*?#*!@nd

The labels “introvert” and “extrovert” have been around for a hundred years to describe two personalities we all know well. Introverts are reticent, quiet, and quite enjoy being alone. Extroverts are more sociable, generally louder, more talkative, and more active. These are stereotypes of course, but where would we be without stereotypes? Most of us have no trouble in accepting one or other of these labels for ourselves, and for me it’s easy. On a test of introversion, I scored 100 percent, which is the best I have ever done on any test.

There are disadvantages to being an introvert. We have been beaten up at school, ignored by waiters at hundreds of restaurants, and interrupted in millions of conversations. We haven’t complained about this of course, because introverts don’t like to complain. But we received encouragement a few years ago from a book by Susan Cain called Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. It seems even more relevant now than it was when it was first published.

The author argued that the loud and confident character is not necessarily better than the quiet and thoughtful one, although the former is usually more powerful and better paid. Introverts are not necessarily anti-social hermits, or shy people with an inferiority complex. They can be actors, or politicians or even cheerleaders. It’s just that introverts don’t go to the party after the show, and they don’t want to run the show. They like to be quiet, sometimes. This book made introverts feel better, but it didn’t change anything. Extroverts were too busy expressing themselves to read it, and in any case, they don’t care. Noise is good.

Our ingenious communication devices have created a noise-saturated world, an avalanche of disconnected words and images with no continuity and no logical sense whatsoever. We can’t really think about it, because there’s no quiet moment to think, and everyone can join in at full volume. Any moment of potential silence can be filled with more talk, any moment of potential solitude quickly squashed by reaching out to some electronic ‘friend’ via text or tweet. It is an extrovert’s paradise.

On the other hand we do need our extroverts, and not just in the circus. They are the fundraisers, the protestors, the leaders, the movers and shakers whether we want to be moved and shaken or not. Consider what the world would be like if it were run by reflective, quiet introverts rather than noisy, active extroverts. It would be so dull. War would end at once of course –  it’s far too noisy. Politics would become less of a shouting match and more of a thinking match, with a corresponding loss of drama and hysteria. But it’s not going to happen. How would a bunch of introverts take power without creating a lot of fuss? It would be embarrassing even to try, and the extroverts would scream and yell until the only way to get any peace would be to let them run things again, as usual. We might as well let them get on with it, not that we have any choice.

Copyright: David Bouchier

David began as a print journalist in London and taught at a British university for almost 20 years. He joined WSHU as a weekly commentator in 1992, becoming host of Sunday Matinee in 1996.