Sarah Sands: Loudmouths and braggarts have had their day

Share
Related Topics

A former boss once recommended to me hiring a young man he had met at dinner. My heart sank because I knew this man to be bumptious and not that bright. My boss assured me that I was mistaken. The youth was bold, visionary and going places. "Is that what you thought?" I sighed. "No, that is what he told me," he replied.

A colleague and I named this trickery Madison Avenue. If you tell everyone how great you are, chances are people will believe you. Bold, confident and gregarious can easily be mistaken for being gifted.

For years I have noted how alpha self-confidence gets the benefit of the doubt. Strutting men in red braces have been given broadcast shows or, more dangerously, banks to run. They must know what they are talking about, because they are so assertive and combative. They must be worth listening to, because they don't seem to listen to anyone else. I have fled from these men all my life and it turns out I am not alone.

A new book called Quiet examines the cultural bias towards extroverts over introverts. At some point in the last century, we shifted from judging "character" to "personality". Character is associated with judgement and honour. Personality favours boldness and entertainment. Dale Carnegie's book How to Win Friends and Influence People then introduced salesmanship into the psyche. The author of Quiet, Susan Cain, visits Harvard where speaking up and socialising are life's two great virtues. One student boasts that "socialising is an extreme sport". But not everyone's voice can drown out a restaurant. There has to be a place for quiet people, who prefer one-to-one conversations, to observe or read or think.

For some people, happiness is addressing an enormous conference hall, under a spotlight, after a business-class flight. But for many, many others, a greater joy is being at home in pyjamas. Society has made us believe the first is preferable, but I long for the second. It reminds me of a quiet friend who was once courted by an alpha newspaper editor. My friend was promised adrenalin and action. "You will be called a c*** but then we will all go out to a nightclub and get pissed." The friend asked politely if instead he could not be called a c*** and not go to the nightclub.

I have always trusted the judgement of quiet voices above loud ones. Cain makes a convincing case for this in her chapter "Why did Wall Street crash and Warren Buffett prosper?" Alpha males relish stimulation and tend to get overexcited. There is a syndrome called Deal Fever: people lose their heads. It happened to Fred Goodwin. After the disastrous AOL Time Warner merger, a newspaper quoted Ted Turner on the deal: "It's better than sex."

Introverts are less likely to get caught up in team fervour. Warren Buffett, who acts alone and cool-headedly, says that temperament can be decisive in business. Until now, extroverts have been the cultural idea. But the economic and therefore cultural shift from West to East favours the introvert. In a survey of students, Americans rated friends highest who were outgoing and sociable. Asians admired people who were "humble" and "hard working".

No doubt about it, the East is quieter. We had better learn the Japanese proverb: "The wind howls but the mountain remains still." The library wins over the talk show. Enough of the show-offs.

Sarah Sands is deputy editor of the 'London Evening Standard'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jeremy Corbyn could be about to pull off a shock victory over the mainstream candidates Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall   

Every club should be like Labour – you can’t join as a new member unless you’re already a member

Mark Steel
The biggest task facing Labour is to re-think the party's economic argument, and then engage in battle with George Osborne and his policies  

There's a mainstream alternative to George Osborne's economics

John Healey
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works