We Discuss the Importance of Excellent Social Skills As a Person Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired, But What if We’re Quiet? (Hint: Quiet Is Highly Valuable)

Older woman reading at desk with light and magnifier

Who else loves Ted Talks? I suppose listening to them is a hobby for me. Now, having recently read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, I was eager to watch her Ted Talk: The Power of Introverts.

In her book and Ted Talk she explains that Americans (unfortunately) tend to praise and value extroverts over introverts. I agree; we esteem animated, charming, and boisterous people. In my opinion, we do this so much so that we think we need to train ourselves to become like this, to become entertaining and more vocal. We often think there’s something wrong with us if we are quiet, or if we prefer to work independently or if we want to spend Friday night inside (and curled up with a good book, or is that just me?).

With all my recent talk of group success and the importance of attending work-related social functions, I wanted to clarify: Group success is, in my opinion, ideal for the social health of organizations. However, I don’t mean that all work should be done in a shared space through talking and crowd-brainstorming (Yep, made up that word). Likewise, having excellent social skills doesn’t imply we are always conversing and accepting every social invite.

Furthermore, leadership, creativity and job success are congruent with both extroverts and introverts; In fact, Cain suggests the natural quiet space introverts enjoy gives them an edge. Whether you are an introvert who prefers a good chunk of quiet time, an extrovert who prefers a good chunk of communal time, or an ambivert like me who prefers an even amount of quiet and communal, you’re great. While everyone needs to learn how to be respectful, kind and empathic, you don’t need to change your make-up. In fact, please don’t. The world and world of work needs you.

Susan Cain suggests:

  1. “Stop the madness for constant group work.” In other words, independent work is good.
  2. “Go to the wilderness.” Everyone needs alone time to think and brainstorm and work by themselves.
  3. “Occasionally open up your suitcases for other people to see. The world needs you and it needs the things you carry.” This is directed to introverts. It’s great to be quiet and it’s also great to open up to people and show your story, interests and contributions.

I’ll wrap up with my thoughts, as Susan wrapped up with her aforementioned suggestions in her Ted Talk:

  1. There is nothing wrong with you if you are quiet. I like quiet (my husband is quiet) and good work happens when we’re quiet.
  2. Both quiet and talkative people benefit from learning how to connect with others effectively. This is especially true for people who have been blind or visually impaired from birth or a young age because it helps to know how to effectively use body language.
  3. Both quiet and talkative people can learn to be assertive, sharing their preferences, interests, needs, skills, and aptitudes.

Extroverts, introverts and ambiverts: you’re great.