Generally speaking, power is associated with extraversion; we imagine a bold and outspoken figure of authority towering above us, telling us what to do. We identify this figure as powerful because he or she publicly demonstrates social influence. We believe that certain people have power and others do not. But why? Are we confusing power with resources and privilege? Can power be found elsewhere, such as in the realm of introversion–art, writing, music, contemplation and even solitude? How do these introverted types of power compare to the extroverted types, or is all power essentially the same?
These are the questions that ran through my mind after reading “How Power Affects People: Activating, Wanting, and Goal Seeking,” by Ana Guinote (2016). The framework of Guinote’s article develops the idea that people become powerful through extroversion and her research provides ample evidence that extroverted people experience increased feelings of “innovation, energy, optimism, confidence and clarity” when engaged in social situations (p. 361). Guinote (2016) also examines how power can intensify egocentric behavior and feelings of legitimacy, leading to corruption.
But what Guinote (2016) does not mention is that feelings of power can also be experienced by those who are not necessarily considered “high-powered.” Take a painter for example: Isn’t it possible, indeed probable, that the introverted artist painting alone in her studio feels powerful? Isn’t it also true that artists have the power to influence the thoughts, values and behavior of others? What is the power of introverts? How do they influence others? Are they also challenged with the social responsibility of not becoming corrupt?
These questions, in part, have been addressed by Susan Cain (2013) in her book entitled Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Cain (2013) argues that society excessively admires extroverts and that introverts often never come to see their full potential because they are caught up trying to live up to the “extrovert ideal.”
Cain writes: “a widely held, but rarely articulated, belief in our society is that the ideal self is bold, alpha [and] gregarious…” and that “introversion is viewed somewhere between disappointment and pathology” (p.296).
So again, how do these introverted types of power compare to the extroverted types? What exactly is the power of introversion and what makes it recognizable? You tell me!
Cain, S. (2013). Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. New York: Broadway Paperbacks.
Guinote, A. (2017). How power affects people: Activating, wanting, and goal seeking. Annual Review of Psychology, 68(1), 353-381. doi:10.1146/annurev-psych-010416-044153