Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
I’ll confess. At this time of the year, I generally do not look forward to my employer’s annual holiday party. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not some horrible party where people must watch their every move, and I don’t dislike my fellow coworkers either. For me, it’s more the factor of feeling uncomfortable in a big room with 800+ people.
This is nothing new with me. When invitations to after-work social events happen, my shyness arises. When weekend outings to bars, birthday parties, or similar events come, I find myself forcing myself out the door...when I’d rather lay on the couch with a good movie.
So why do I seem anti-social? The answer is that I am really an introvert, which is the subject of Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. My interest in the book began when preview articles appeared, but it was the upcoming move to an open plan office space that pushed me to pick up a copy of Cain’s book. I was hoping to perhaps find insight on how to survive without my own private space to work.
In the book, Cain approached introversion not as some social disorder, but simply as a personality type. A Yin to the Yang of extroversion. Through interviews, social science studies, and personal experiences, she shows that introverts are not oddballs, outcasts, nor certainly people with a problem. Instead, she paints a deep picture of the many types and flavors of introversion.
You can look at me as an example. I could easily get up and speak in front of 500 people, but somehow feel uncomfortable in a party socializing with those 500 people. I used to go nightclubbing a lot, but would hide myself somewhere and people-watch, rather than be the life of the night. At work I prefer to simply sit in my office and work quietly, keeping to myself. I don’t even look for nor desire any sense of “celebrity” at my work.
Outside of my own self-examination, Quiet was an interesting read in itself. The book took me on a wondrous journey into how much our society has embraced what Cain called the Extrovert Ideal. The notion somehow that only extroverts can be leaders, winners, successful, etc. Cain speaks of many famous introverts more or less to disprove that ideal, and how many more introverts in their methodology of patience and deep thought have proven themselves as leaders and success stories.
What really struck out to me the most was how much our society plays the “alpha” and “beta” game in all this, and how much America has treated introversion as some kind of social disorder. I point out America mainly in how the author compared our society with others, especially Asian cultures where extroversion is seen as a lack of self-control.
More than just the issue in adults, the way Americans see introversion in children astounded me. Parents will literally believe something is wrong with their children if they are introverts. They’ll turn to behavioral drugs, psychiatrists, or forcing their introverted children into extrovert-oriented activities...all because they think by “converting” their children to extroverts they will ensure said children into a successful life.
Quiet was an interesting read, but I will state this is not some self-help book. While Cain touched on my dilemma of open plan offices, I didn’t find much to help shield me from the noise room I’ll be heading into. However, I did like how she tells introverts to find balance. That it’s ok to escape away from social situations to find inner peace, but yet to look to put some peer time to fully take advantage of the social world around us.
This book is more pure social science. While Cain writes in a down-to-Earth language that most can relate to, I found many times her completeness in discussions of studies done bored me. She would go into deep detail about data collection, analyzation, and conclusions. Too often in these parts I wanted to say “get to the point”. Outside of that, I think Quiet is a wonderful read not only for introverts trying to figure out this world, but even extroverts (especially managers) trying to figure out how to relate to those introverts.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking is available as a printed paperback and several e-Book formats. You can find out more at Susan Cain’s website.