“Quiet power results from quiet ego.”
I could relate to what Lua was saying about extroverts and ‘culture of personality’ because, like her, I am among that group of one-third to one-half of people who would be classified as introverts. We are good at listening because it is natural for us. But asking us to go to a social gathering of strangers ‘just for fun’ is like asking a risk-averse person to take up skydiving just for fun. It isn’t.
Today’s hyper-competitive mainland culture in the U.S. is a culture for extroverts. Many introverts have to fake it, costing them energy, authenticity, and even physical health. With its ‘culture of character,’ Lua was from an island culture that recognized the value of introverts. Its citizens are fully aware that the quiet ones are those that read, write, cook, fish, surf. They are the artists, engineers, thinkers, and solvers of complex problems. They have real power, just as extroverts do, but theirs is soft power, quiet power. It is power that feels no need to dominate, intimidate, or control others. Quiet power results from quiet ego. ‘In a gentle way, you can shake the world,’ Gandhi counseled.
Surprisingly, back in the eighteenth century, delegates at the Continental Congress said that George Washington was the quietest man in the room and the best listener. He was mindfully tuning in to the emergent desires of the group as they debated and deliberated and came to realize that independence from Great Britain was the genuine will of his ‘tribe.’ After quietly and attentively listening to the group, he became an advocate for what the group wanted and then, its leader. Quiet power.
Lua explained that listening also means listening to yourself, which requires solitude. And solitude is the catalyst for innovation and creativity and is necessary for the deeper thinking required to solve problems at their roots.
“To listen carefully, or observe something with the utmost attention, is the purest form of love. And love is no less essential for human happiness and well-being than food, water, and shelter.”
She whispered to me,
“You know, Mister Rico, the world is giving answers each day. But you must listen for them.”