Claire Kalikman

Yale Well, an organization that promotes student wellness on campus, hosted a conversation last Wednesday between Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and Kimberly Goff-Crews, secretary and vice president for student life, about introversion and extroversion, vulnerability and leadership.

This talk is part of a series of events hosted by Yale Well and the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, which conducts research on emotional intelligence. During the conversation, which took place in Battell Chapel, Goff-Crews and Cain discussed subjects such as leadership and how to succeed at Yale as an introvert.

Leaders are often thought of as type-A, extroverted and commandeering, Cain said. But ultimately, she said, introverts are often more effective leaders than extroverts.

“What happens is [introverts] tend to get really passionate about one or two areas,” Cain said. “They go really deep, acquire expertise, build a network of people who have the same passion and inspire trust in people.”

Cain cited a study that looked at the 11 best-performing companies in the country and found that every one of those companies is led by a CEO with introverted tendencies.

Cain also explained what it means to be an introvert, emphasizing that introversion is a neurobiological phenomenon defined by the way in which people react to different stimulations. There are no pure introverts or extroverts, she added.

Tanya Yajnik SPH ’19, who attended the talk, said she agreed with Cain’s point that introverts often make good leaders.

“Even as an introvert, if you’re really committed to things, you can be a good leader,” Yajnik said. “But [Cain] brought up a good point that, for an introvert, it’s important to recharge and take time for yourself so you can be the most productive.”

At the talk, Cain also offered advice about how introverted students can navigate their time at Yale. It is important that institutions like Yale build spaces both for people to come together and for people to spend time alone, she said. She also recommended building designated quiet time into orientation programs.

Discussing ways for introverted students to work around obstacles and use introversion to their advantage, Cain said it is important for introverts to prioritize alone time. She acknowledged the pressure to go to parties and network with peers, and she recommended that introverted students worry less about those activities and instead focus on building a few meaningful relationships.

Cain created a TED Talk on the Power of Introverts in 2012 that has over 17 million views.

Claire Kalikman | claire.kalikman@yale.edu