If you're an introvert, the kind of person who favors a good book over a fun party and a soothing sunset over the latest superhero sequel, it's easy to feel that society's volume knob is always turning irreversibly upward. Our popular culture lavishes fame on flamboyant celebrities and fortune on self-promoting athletes. On campuses and in legislative halls, freedom of speech is taken as license to shout.
However, this month has provided several introvert-friendly stories from an unlikely trio of fields: office design, space exploration, and professional basketball.
On June 9 in Chicago, office furniture manufacturer Steelcase Inc. revealed its line of "Quiet Spaces" office designs. Created in collaboration with author Susan Cain ("Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking"), these five work rooms cater to introverts' needs. Dimmable lights, mellow decors and opaque glass offer sanctuary from the "open plan" work area.
The open plan (no walls or cubicles, just desks and tables in a large room) is supposed to maximize the use of floor space and promote team spirit and communication. However, studies show that the distractions and lack of privacy in such an environment actually damage more introverted workers' productivity. The Quiet Spaces line is based on the theory that companies can boost productivity by providing a variety of work environments and letting different employees use the ones that suit them.
Later the same week, NASA released the results of a study to determine which kinds of people would be best suited for long space missions, particularly a three-year mission to Mars. The study suggests that extroverts, who value excitement and seek it by interacting with other people and by staying on the move and engaging in a variety of activities, would find a Mars mission's conditions very difficult.
"You're talking about a very tiny vehicle, where people are in very isolated, very confined spaces," says researcher Suzanne Bell. Simulations showed that extroverts' talkativeness irritated their quieter teammates. Of course, any introvert who has taken a long trip with an extrovert can attest to that.
Researchers also believe the mission's monotony would bore and frustrate extroverts, while introverts, who value calm over excitement, actually like routine.
On June 15, the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Miami Heat to win the NBA championship. The Spurs are the quietest team in a league known for trash talk and macho posturing. They don't gloat or boast. They just win and let the results speak for them.
Team leader Tim Duncan is famous for his stoic reserve, but even he looks like a Chatty Cathy compared to the Spurs' newest star, 22-year-old Kawhi Leonard, who produced a Most Valuable Player Award-winning performance in the finals.
Leonard's introverted nature fits the Spurs' ethos well. He's low-key and bling-free. He owns one watch and one gold chain and doesn't even have a Twitter account.
So take heart, introverts. From the basketball court to the office to Mars, the quiet ones are striking back.
Tommy Richardson lives in Erath County. His column appears monthly. He can be reached at email@example.com.