One of the best points of Quiet is how much introverts and extroverts can benefit from each other, and how they often work well together in teams. I personally have found myself most successful in leadership roles when I am paired with an extrovert. The book brings up several examples of famous introvert-extrovert pairs. Let’s keep in mind that it can be difficult to tell if someone is really an introvert unless they specifically declare it. I am more concerned here about the “introvert characteristics” that they display.
Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs
Since many introverts, like myself, are nerds or geeks, this pair–the founders of Apple Computer–will really hit home. To the public, Steve Jobs is synonymous with Apple; even after his death he is the face of the company. He is the classic extrovert salesman. Steve Wozniak, on the other hand, is the “nerd soul” of Apple, and his 2006 autobiography details how he built the first PC–namely, alone. He sees solitude as an integral part of innovation: “I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has ever been invented by committee.” Without either half of this partnership, the world would certainly be different today. Without Jobs, there certainly would be no Apple, and without Woz, PCs as we know them today might not exist.
Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Stepping back in time a little, this pair changed America during the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s. Parks showed her “quiet strength” when she refused to give up her seat to a white man and precipitated the Montgomery bus boycott. She was a private person, worked as a seamstress and secretary, and her serene dignity engendered respect. Dr. King was a born preacher who also believed in nonviolent civil disobedience. He saw Parks as a “catalyst,” and used her example along with his impressive speeches to bring the topic of racial discrimination and civil rights activism to the forefront of our national conscience. Dr. King was one of my childhood heroes, but nowadays I am more focused on emulating Rosa Parks’s quiet strength.
Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt is one of the most admired women (ever!), yet she was painfully shy as a young woman and never really enjoyed small talk. She occasionally suffered from dark “Griselda moods” that drove her to solitude. It was her empathy for others and her passion for social justice that drove her to push past that. FDR, in contrast, was vivacious and charming, and while their marriage was not romantically a success, their partnership as a political team was unparalleled (see also, Hillary and Bill Clinton). Eleanor served as Franklin’s conscience, reminding him of issues important to the Americans, bringing him the true condition of the country’s people as she toured during the Great Depression. And FDR was then able to use his political talents to make the country a better place as the longest-serving president in US history.
Moses and Aaron
This one seems more dubious, as the introvert-extrovert labels rely on details translated from centuries-old documents; the Bible is not really meant for psychological analysis of its characters. When God appears to Moses as a burning bush, Moses has been working as a shepherd, a quintessential introvert job. He is meek and uncertain and describes himself as “slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Exodus 4:10, NRSV). He is only convinced to go to Egypt when God says that he brother Aaron should go with him to “serve as a mouth” for him (Exodus 4:16, NRSV). Essentially, Moses will handle the content and Aaron the presentation. And between the two of them, they convince the Pharaoh to free the Israelites.
It is possible to find introverts as literary protagonists as well. Jane Austen, from the Regency “Culture of Character,” has a particular talent for writing developed characters, many with positive introvert characteristics. Probably an introvert herself, she is a keen observer of the human psyche. She has several introvert protagonists, notably Fanny Price of Mansfield Park (whom I can’t stand) and Anne Elliot of Persuasion (who is my favorite of all her protagonists). Her most famous book, Pride and Prejudice, has some excellent examples of relationships between introverts and extroverts.
Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley
Jane’s quiet nature and empathy for others (even Mr. Wickham!) are introvert characteristics that balance nicely with Mr. Bingley’s clear extroversion. He is always with friends, rushing off here or there in pursuit of some amusement. They conclude with a happy ending together (although Mr. Bennet is sure that they will be “cheated assiduously” by their servants.)
Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet
I see Lizzy as being more in the middle of the introvert-extrovert spectrum. True that she likes long solitary walks and observes others closely, but she has key extrovert qualities as well. It is her vivacity and ease in society that mesh so well with Mr. Darcy’s introverted reserve and gravity. Elizabeth herself comprehends this:
“She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her. His understanding and temper, though unlike her own, would have answered all her wishes. It was an union that must have been to the advantage of both; by her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened, his manners improved, and from his judgment, information, and knowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance.” (Chapter 50)
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet
For a twist, here is an introvert-extrovert pair that never learned how to communicate with each other and suffered for it. Mr. Bennet likes to read alone in his library, rarely goes to parties, and doesn’t want to call on his neighbors for introductory small talk. Mrs. Bennet, on the other hand, is “quite unable to sit alone.” But neither can see the other’s virtues, only their deficits, so they have no appreciation for each other, and whatever attraction they had at the beginning of their relationship is not enough to keep it happy. It is important to remember that introversion-extroversion is but one facet of a personality and cannot be used to explain everything about a person or a relationship.
Reblogged this on Jedi by Knight and commented:
This is actually the most viewed single post on my blog, over 900 views so far (there’s a Vegeta joke in there somewhere…) It was inspired by Susan Cain’s book Quiet, where she discusses these real life pairs in more detail. And of course I had to add some P&P 😊
An interesting topic, this coupling of intro + extroverts. It makes a lot of sense from a yin/yang perspective, they complement each other.
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Enjoyed your post. I’ve read the book, and really enjoyed it. It gave me some insight into my extrovert boss, who has no idea on how to work most effectively with her introvert employees!
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