10 Quotes from Susan Cain’s Quiet to Inspire Introverted Architects
Architects are people who have the ability to blend art and analytics beautifully.
They are great at understanding the needs of others and constructing spaces that can impact the personal lives of the people who live in them, as well as shape the face of communities and cities.
Their ability to work internally, in their minds, is an incredible asset—they can plan out entire cityscapes from their drafting tables.
Many architects are introverted by nature—preferring the quiet calmness to high-intensity chaos. But today, in the west, introverts sometimes get the short end of the stick. In a world which favors the loud and outgoing—quietness can sometimes be perceived as boring or even a weakness.
I just finished the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain, and felt so inspired I wanted to share with you some of the most impactful ideas.
Susan Cain argues that actually; we need introverts just as much as extroverts.
She talks about how extrovert came to be seen as a great asset to society when corporate capitalism overcame a predominantly agricultural way of life, and makes a compelling argument for a society that values different personality types equally.
We need introverts as leaders, creators, and influencers.
But many introverts try to force themselves to showcase extrovert qualities which do not come naturally to them.
Maybe as an architect, you feel like you have to be loud and expressive to sell your plans to clients.
Maybe you feel like when you go to a networking event, you have to hide your true personality and become someone different to be able to connect with potential clients.
Maybe you feel like you need to become more like an extrovert colleague or contemporary in order to be successful
Cain assures you this is not the case.
There is a lot of power in being introverted. They can think deep, they notice things, they build strong relationships, and they are excellent listeners.
I would strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of the book, but if you’d like some instant inspiration, below are the 10 quotes I found most impactful (they might even inspire you to pick up a copy of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”)
10 Quotes from Susan Cain’s “Quiet” to Inspire Introverted Architects
Without further ado, here are the quotes.
1. You don’t need to be loud to have great ideas
“There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”
Remember the age-old adage that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”? This idea that the most noticeable or loudest person in the room is the one who is most likely to get attention might be true—but just because they are drawing attention doesn’t mean that they will have the best ideas.
Ideally, you want to work for clients who are looking for high-quality work that speaks for itself. Not clients who are easily swayed by the loudest and flashiest architect in the room.
Stop thinking about them as competition, or that you have to match their volume to get noticed. It’s a game that an introvert is not likely to win.
The right clients will see through the dazzle and focus on which architects are doing the best work instead of those who are making the most noise.
2. Check your ego
“We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.”
Architects transform the scape of the city.
An extrovert with a giant personality [read: ego] might try to build a massive structure that will be very noticeable, and perhaps quite grand —but won’t take into account the needs of their client, the area around where they are building, or how it will affect the cityscape long term: it’s being built as a homage to their ego.
What clients need, what cities need, are architects who can take a step back and look at the big picture—how does this work for the client? How does this affect the city?
By thinking about these things first, you can meet the needs of your client while building more beautiful, more efficient buildings, and in turn, cities.
Introverts are often good at listening and taking the time to understand what their clients need—they won’t design a building to appease their ego.
3. Honor yourself
“The trick for introverts is to honor their styles instead of allowing themselves to be swept up by prevailing norms.”
Imagine you are at a networking event. There is a big group of people standing in a circle, laughing and joking together, you don’t know any of them, and the thought of walking into that circle makes you feel a bit sick.
But you think to yourself “No, I came all the way out here. I am going to go jump in and tell that funny story about that project, that will win them over and I will get a dozen business cards and a bunch of new clients.”
So, you pluck up your courage and march into the circle and tell your story. And it flops. People are looking at each other, and you, and then at each other again, and you feel like you could just melt into a puddle on the floor.
And it is awkward.
But it doesn’t need to be.
You don’t need to put yourself in situations that make you feel like that.
Introverts tend to prefer meaningful one-on-one conversation to small talk and to all the chatter and noise at partiers.
You could talk one-on-one with someone who is also standing on the outside of the circle.
You could ask the host to introduce you to a few potential clients.
You could take some photos of the group, and then invite others to help you tag the people featured in the photo and use that as an “in” to meet new people.
Don’t force yourself into situations that feel unnatural and that will make you feel bad about yourself.
Carve your own path with your unique style, and honour it.
4. Don’t change
“Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured…Spend your free the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.”
It’s Friday night. One of your clients has invited you to a large party, and there is some potential you could meet some new clients.
But it has been a gruellingly busy week, and you feel exhausted. You would much prefer to curl up on the couch and binge watch the latest season of “The Handmaid’s Tale” then go to their party.
If it’s not going to be fun, and you are not going to enjoy it—then don’t go.
But if you do that every time, it is possible that you may lose out on potential clients.
So, if you feel the need, counterbalance this. Take it into account, and come up with different ways to get the same result.
An alternate solution would be to spend an hour (before you open Netflix) emailing past clients and making connections on LinkedIn to look for potential projects and set up some meeting for next week—from the comfort of your couch.
5. Be yourself
“So stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don’t force yourself to seek breadth. If you prefer single-tasking to multi-tasking, stick to your guns. Being relatively unmoved by rewards gives you the incalculable power to go your own way.”
Maybe you have a business partner who is gregarious and outgoing. Or perhaps your mentor is very extroverted. And it works for them. They might have ideas on how the business should be run, and specifically, how you should work.
Imagine a situation where your partner thinks that changing the whole office to an open plan concept would be ideal for sharing ideas—but you know for a fact that if you can’t shut the door, the noise will be a constant distraction for you and you won’t be able to focus, and it will impact your ability to deliver great work.
Or your mentor thinks that you should start speaking at architecture conferences and events because that is what she did and has had some success at it, but in truth, the thought makes you feel nauseous.
You can take their advice and ideas, but stick to your guns.
Don’t be stubborn for the sake of it, and realize they are trying to do their best. Ask them to help you come up with solutions that will help you do your best work and get new clients, but won’t put you in a situation where you are not being the best version of yourself.
6. Do what you do best
“The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk. Use your natural powers — of persistence, concentration, and insight — to do work you love and work that matters. Solve problems. make art, think deeply.”
Personally, this is my favourite quote from the bunch. It jumped off the page at me.
As an introvert, your way of thinking and tackling projects and problems is powerful.
Instead of the first idea that comes to mind—you revel in taking time and persistence to find the best solution.
Don’t let anyone rush you. Take the time you need. Avoid distractions.
The solutions you will find will shine brilliantly.
7. Choose the right projects
“Indeed, your biggest challenge may be to fully harness your strengths. You may be so busy trying to appear like a zestful, reward-sensitive extrovert that you undervalue your own talents, or feel underestimated by those around you. But when you’re focused on a project that you care about, you probably find that your energy is boundless.”
There are two projects on the table and you have to choose.
The one is a smaller project: a type of community centre for underprivileged youth. The client has a lot of needs and not a lot a big budget. It is going to take a lot of work to incorporate all the ideas they have had from their community brainstorming sessions. But the client is inspiring. He is incredibly passionate about the project and how it will change the lives of the kids in the community, and he wants to work specifically with you because of your track record of being able to solve problems and create intuitive, beautiful spaces.
The other is a large project for a huge international company, they are opening an office in your city, and the paycheck will be considerable. They know exactly what they want because they have done this before, in several other cities. But the client is mega-demanding and needs you to pitch several ideas to the different rungs of hierarchies, and you will have to work with four different teams from four different departments on two different continents. It will mean endless meetings and pitches before you even get to the building stage. The paycheck will be hefty—but even thinking about working with them begins to stress you out.
Choose your clients wisely.
Going for the best paying project won’t always be the best for you. When you find a project that you feel passionate about, that you feel excited about, will give you a boost of energy and motivation, and will ultimately be better for you in the long run.
Work on projects that you care about and with people who value your skills, and that bring the best of your strengths so you can create the most original, creative work.
8. Get in the flow
“Flow is an optimal state in which you feel totally engaged in an activity…In a state of flow, you’re neither bored nor anxious, and you don’t question your own adequacy. Hours pass without your noticing.”
As an introverted architect, getting into the good flow—and cultivating situations where you can get into the flow, is important.
While an extrovert might get more tasks done and thrive on interruptions and busyness, being able to simultaneously draft a room while answering calls and text messages, eating lunch, talking to her assistant, and ordering materials for another project—and introvert might find this incredibly challenging and stressful.
Instead, take your time and avoid distractions.
Tune everything out. Say, “Ok, I am going to work on this draft for a few hours.” then turn off your phone, close the door, and get into the zone. Being in the good flow is essential for introverts.
Creating that space for yourself will help you create truly beautiful work, instead of being distracted be many things.
9. Be persistent
“Persistence isn’t very glamorous. If genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, then as a culture we tend to lionize the 1%. We love its flash and dazzle. But great power lies in the other 99%.”
The idea behind this quote (which is a play on a very popular quote from Thomas Edison,) is that it is easy to have a good idea or a creative insight. Or to talk a big game and sell the client on a burst of dazzling creativity.
But to follow through with that idea, and turn it into a reality, takes a level of patience and dedication that few people have.
And ultimately, it is better for you as an architect to actually finish a project well and collect the paycheck, over talking a big game and, in the end, creating nothing.
Lean into your power of quiet persistence.
While a competitor might be blinding the client with a flash of razzle-dazzle, if they can’t actually finish the project, or change the project halfway through when they realize what they’ve promised isn’t possible, it will look poorly on them.
It is better to think carefully about what is possible and what is achievable and sell a client on an idea you can actually deliver.
10. Its OK to step out of your comfort-zone
“Figure out what you are meant to contribute to the world and make sure you contribute it. If this requires public speaking or networking or other activities that make you uncomfortable, do them anyway. But accept that they’re difficult, get the training you need to make them easier, and reward yourself when you’re done.”
On some of the above quotes, it is advised to “not change yourself” and to “honour yourself” and we want to make sure that stays at the forefront. At the same time, there is nothing wrong with pushing yourself out of your comfort zone from time to time, it can help you learn more about yourself while helping you build your business.
Remember earlier in the article, when we used an example where your mentor suggested that you should start speaking at architecture conferences and events to help you build your business?
Instead of shutting her down right away saying “No. I am an introvert. I could never do that.” consider it more carefully.
Stepping out of your comfort zone (i.e. speaking at a conference) is less intimidating if you’re doing it for something that you are passionate about. Working on projects you truly care about is essential.
While I wouldn’t suggest launching yourself on to a stage and rambling without any prep, with a bit practice and some great structure, public speaking can help you improve your communication skills and how you express ideas. It could ultimately be a beneficial learning experience.
While you still want to be true to yourself, there is nothing wrong with stretching yourself and your skills to see where your limits are – but if you are working on things you truly care about, you’ll find you have the energy and enthusiasm needed to step out your comfort zone.
If you are an introvert—own it and use it to your advantage. As a society, we need to level out some of this loudness.
If going to a networking event with 300 people isn’t your cup of tea, embrace it! Find other ways to make connections and revel in the quietness, without the bustle of big crowds.
- Introvert are necessary for building a more balanced and thoughtful culture. Our culture needs more introverted leaders, because they are persistent, not-hyper focused on their egos, and they are good listeners.
- It’s OK to not be the loudest person in the room. You don’t need to force yourself into being more extroverted if it ends up making you feel bad. If it’s not going to be fun, and you are not going to enjoy it, then don’t do it. When others want you to force you into a situation that requires a level of extraversion that you aren’t comfortable with— honour yourself and stick to your guns.
- Find clients who are focused on the quality of your work. Work on projects that you care about and with people who value your skills, and that bring the best of your strengths so you can create the most original, creative work. You’ll notice that stepping out of your comfort zone (eg speaking at a conference) will exhaust less you if you’re doing it for a project that you truly care about.
Want more? Check out Susan’s TED Talk “The Power of Introverts”
Or buy a copy of her book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”
What to read next
Want to read more articles from us? Here are some suggestions:
- The New Architect
- Why we Choose Profit over Rapid Growth
- Here’s what we believe in at ArchiSnapper: SIMPLICITY
- The Ideal World According to an Architect-Entrepreneur