Shy showoffs sitting on the social spectrum

I’ve always thought of myself as a shy showoff…others may disagree, especially my fellow singers in the choir bigMouth and those with whom I jam on guitars and sing etc. But, nevertheless, to my mind, it explains why you’ve probably never seen me give a lecture a science or journalism conference but you may have heard me sing and play guitar in front of 600 people at West Road Concert Hall in Cambridge or perform at the Royal Albert Hall in front of quite a few more than that. Anyway, character traits are almost always spectral. Some people are highly extrovert, exhibitionists, hankering after fame and celebrity, others prefer the quiet life and their books illuminated with a comforting reading light rather than the sulfurous glow of limelight.

I was intrigued to watch a recent TED Talk by Susan Cain on the subject of the power of introverts, then that discusses how there are many people who are neither extro- nor intro-, but ambi-verts. As with those of us almost equally happy to use left or right hand for countless tasks, an ambivert is equally happy to be chatting and laughing out loud (or playing guitar in front of a crowd) as alone musing on the meaning of liff. All of us, wherever we turn on the character spectrum should recognise that others may be on a different wavelength and that there are benefits to learning how each perspective can benefit the others.

In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.

2 thoughts on “Shy showoffs sitting on the social spectrum”

  1. I totally concur with Susan Cain’s opinions and lecture. Up to the age of 40, I too was shy and this markedly affected any promotion at work. Then after a change from paid employment to a period of self employment and then an adult teaching course (involving public speaking), I had to adapt a ‘dual persona’ and a more outgoing, confident stance although in the background I was (and still am) an introvert. As scientists, we are trained in presentation skills although often we do not market or sell ourselves very well, and the public perception of Science could be better, but fortunately this is improving thanks to science communication via the media. So I too believe that having a balance is the ideal, alone deep in thought about ideas and then collaborating and presenting them to society when ready.

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