Monday, April 17, 2017

Q is for Quiet – Review of the Book: Quiet - The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain

Whether you consider yourself outgoing or not, chances are you know at least a few introverts.  That is because at least a third of the people we know in this country are introverts. Introverts are those friends of yours who prefer listening to what others have to say rather than doing the speaking; who are incredibly creative and stellar at innovation and  but dislike self-promotion; who favor working solo rather than working on a team. Many of the greatest contributions to society can be credited to introverts such as Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Newton and Bill Gates.

Yet those who are not introverted often view those who are in a negative light. They may regard introverts as aloof, arrogant or rude, suggesting to the introvert that they are too serious or frequently asking if they are okay?  Given the message, largely by extroverts, that there is something wrong with being them, introverts often feel like they should try to change their natural preferences and become more social or try to act more upbeat and boisterous.  Yet those who have attempted to accomplish this, are often unhappy and quickly feel burnt out.  This is because introversion is no more a choice than extroversion.  Introverts and extroverts are different, different in the way they process information, their desire for social interaction and their need for solitude.  Different does not mean “better than,” or “not as good as”.  Different means, well, different.

One book that has had a major impact on the way introverts are viewed, and how they view themselves, is, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, written by Susan Cain. In this presentation that shows the strength and influence of introverts in our society, Cain argues that we significantly undervalue introverts.  She clearly shows just how much we lose in doing so.  Documenting the growth of what she terms “the Extrovert Ideal” during the 1900’s and the author establishes how much it has taken hold in our culture. She goes on to introduce the reader to a number of successful introverts who describe not only what it took for them to achieve their goals but also how the Extrovert Ideal caused many of them to attempt to mimic the characteristics of extroverts.  Cain mixes these personal accounts with social sciences research and her own well-reasoned views of resiliency of introverts and the manner in which they are able to accomplish things that extroverts cannot.  This book is a must read for everyone, introverted, extroverted or somewhere in between.

[Please see the related article, The Psychology Query, Third Edition, on temperament]

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