Today I was tooling around on LinkedIn.com for reasons related to my teaching job. Its LinkedIn Today news service featured this typically vacation–inspired reflection from FastCompany on the value of being quiet.
Sometimes we forget that the most productive people in an organization aren’t the ones who make the most noise. In fact, it’s often the quiet ones who out-produce everyone else.
Here are some reasons I think this is so.
Being quiet strengthens focus. It’s hard to focus on the task at hand when you yourself are making so much noise. The other team, who participated in the clamming wars, never took their eye off the prize. Our team, on the other hand, did a happy dance in the sand every time we hit pay dirt. In retrospect, this was probably valuable time wasted.
Being quiet calms others. Quiet people have the ability to calm those around them. For example, when everyone is stressing out because it looks like a team isn’t going to meet their deadlines, it’s usually the quiet people who are able to calm people down and carry them over the finish line.
Being quiet conveys confidence. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone when you are confident. You know you do a good job and you believe that eventually others will take notice.
Being quiet means you think before you speak. Quiet people are usually thoughtful thinkers. They think things through before making a statement. Something you probably wish many of your workers would do before taking up your valuable time.
Being quiet gives you the space to dig deep. Quiet people tend to delve into issues and ideas before moving on to new ones. Compare this to the surface people in your organization, who often move onto other matters without giving thought to the gold that may be sitting right below the surface.
Such speculation reminded me of a TED talk I had heard.
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.
I normally identify myself as an extrovert, “test out” that way in Myers-Briggs, and thrive in groups. But especially as a young’un, I was bookish and geeky, traits that carried all the way through graduate school, I wonder if I might be closer to the middle of the continuum. In her talk, Susan Cain calls these people “ambiverts.” She also extols the virtues of being able to repair to quiet places in order to better engage others in groups. As much as I do like groups, I do like the quiet allowed by my vocation and avocations. I realize it is a luxury for some to be able to jealously guard some time alone to do the really deep work.
This had me thinking, also, about yoga, even as it is practiced in groups. There can be something energizing about practicing in groups. (John Lofland might refer to these as “crowd joys.”) But especially for yoga, and other solemn assemblies, the group can also reinforce a collective solitude. It was just last week in one of the public classes I attended that one of my teachers spoke of the way it can sometimes be easier for him to meditate within a group.
This made me wonder, further, whether yoga could be a practice, then, that could cultivate ambiversion, a balanced capacity of extroversion and introversion: engagement with the world, and yet deep contemplation, partly to support that engagement. I love this as much as I love any dialectic, any tension and middle way between extremes, like contemplation and action, spirit and matter, and effort and surrender. Yoga is active, and physical, yet encourages mindfulness. I keep hearing that while the exertion stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, the deep and rhythmic breathing stimulates the parasympathetic. Action and relaxation.
Lastly, in wondering whether yoga might cultivate a balance between extroversion and introversion, I wonder whether such exploration of yoga’s capacities might open a path toward further exploration of the project of this blog. Namely, this means resolving the apparent dilemma of contemplation and activism. Solitude need not mean withdrawal from the world. Quiet need not mean quietism.