These 3 ‘Secret Strengths' Can Make Introverted Kids Become Highly Successful Adults, Says Bestselling Author Susan Cain

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If you notice introverted children keeping to themselves, concentrating overly deeply or staying quiet in public settings, don't panic.

Some of the traits that can make parents think something's wrong with their child may actually be "hidden superpowers" that make for successful adults, says bestselling author Susan Cain.

Cain, a renowned TED speaker and lecturer, has written extensively on the experience of introverts, ranging from workplace settings to the lives of teens and kids. In her 2017 book "Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverted Kids," for example, she implored parents and teachers to embrace their kids' differences, rather than forcing them into extroverted tropes.

About 56.8% of people around the world identify as introverts, according to a global sample of Myers Briggs Type Indicator results published in 2020.

That doesn't mean more than half of the world's population is quiet and withdrawn: It's more about "your sensitivity to stimulation," Wharton psychology professor Adam Grant wrote in a 2014 LinkedIn post.

"Extraverts crave stimulating activities like skydiving and stimulating beverages sold at Starbucks," Grant continued. "Introverts are more likely to retreat to a quiet place, but they're very happy to bring someone else with them."

Some people have trouble recognizing that distinction, leading them to unintentionally stunt introverted kids' growth and development, according to Cain's book. Supporting introverts during their childhood instead can help mold them into high-achieving adults, she added.

That starts with recognizing their "secret strengths." Here are Cain's top three:


Traditional models of leaders are looked at as outgoing, talkative, and bold. They embrace new challenges head-on and command a room — all stereotypical traits of extroverts.

But leadership doesn't require "being highly social or attention seeking," Cain wrote. Instead, she believes that true leaders "are motivated by the desire to advance ideas and new ways of looking at the world or to improve the situations of a group of people."

That means "quiet leaders" can have the same impact as outspoken ones. Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg are some of the richest and most powerful people in the world — and they all are self-professed introverts.b

"Quiet leaders" can solve problems more effectively and better identify what risks are worth taking, due to their ability to process information "more carefully than other people" and their conservative approach to decision making, Cain said in a 2012 "Talks at Google" lecture.


In the introduction of her book, Cain shares a question that she got asked all the time as a child: "Why are you so quiet?"

It was usually asked out of concern, she noted. People assumed her quietness was a sign of discomfort or anger. In actuality, she was just listening and observing her surroundings.

Listening is one of life's essential soft skills. It helps you make informed decisions, avoid conflict and identify problems — and Cain says introverts make for the best listeners. They "specialize in forging deep, personal relationships, " she wrote. "These traits can transform you into a powerful leader."

What's more, "as avid listeners, introverts can capture information that some extroverts might overlook," McGill University professor Karl Moore and student Willing Li explained in a 2021 Harvard Business Review article. "Unlike extroverts, introverts aren't known to jump to conclusions, and as a result, they garner more attention and appreciation from an audience when they do speak."


Extroverts are known to thrive in group settings. They are "recharged by external stimuli, such as personal interactions, social gatherings, and shared ideas," said behavioral scientist Francesca Gino in a 2015 Harvard Business Review article.

Introverts, however, contribute their best work and ideas on their own. 

"Introverts have a remarkable ability to be independent," Cain wrote. "We find strength in solitude and are capable of using our precious alone time to focus and concentrate."

This is why pushing introverted kids to do group projects, attend social gatherings or raise their hand to speak publicly may end up backfiring. Encouraging a balance of interaction-heavy situations and solo activities can help children become better, more emotionally sound decision-makers, Chicago-based clinical therapist Fariha Newaz wrote in a 2017 blog post.

It also helps children be more confident and open to new opportunities and challenges, Newaz noted.

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