I knew very early on that I was an introvert. Of course I didn’t know that’s what it was called back then; I doubt many people did. As a kid, I was simply referred to as “quiet” or “shy”. I was just as happy being alone in my room with a book as I was outside playing with my friends. Shy? You bet; painfully so at times, especially around girls. (I can’t remember the last girlfriend I had that didn’t have to make the first move. And that includes my current wife). But as Susan Cain writes in her book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking“, shy and introverted are not necessarily the same, and it is important that we recognize the distinctions.
The author herself is an introvert. She came to terms with the aspects of her personality type and quit her job as a New York City corporate attorney. Now she is a life coach providing mentoring to fellow introverts and wrote this book. Based on her experiences from her role in corporate America, she is concerned our society consistently downplays the worth of introverts in the workplace, and identifies areas that introverts can not just compete but excel in today’s workplace.
While I doubt that many introverts will get a lot of new knowledge out of the early portion of the book, I do think it is comforting to know we are not as “odd” as we sometimes might believe. One problem with being an introvert that is that we like to be alone. Ergo sometimes we feel we are alone in terms of how we view ourselves. By definition it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. I think the book was written more for those who aren’t introverts to better understand the introverts in their lives. While most of us introverts have been successfully navigating the rapids of this extroverted world for most of our lives, viewed by others, we introverts are seen as idiosyncratic or quirky, when we simply have a different way we interact with the social world.
Cain draws on her training as a corporate lawyer to explore introversion. Through research, interviews with subject matter experts, antidotal information and personal experience, she cautions that today’s world values extroverts more than ever before. Her concern is that “Cult of Personality” extroverts take precedence in the fast paced, fast-talking, over communicative social media world in which we now all live. Gone are the days when it was not only acceptable for people to be reserved, thoughtful and patient with their communication styles, it was encouraged. Introverts are in danger of losing ground to thrill-seeking, risk-taking extroverts that communicate in a broader manner that resonates with the world today. Extroverts are taking over arenas like politics where diplomacy and consensus are anathema to partisanship and rhetoric.
Susan Cain is a strong advocate for introversion. This book empowers introverts to recognize that they have worthwhile qualities to bring to the table and are worthy of inclusion. She looks at ways for parents to interact with their introverted children, how introverts can “act” extroverted as required to fulfill the functions of their jobs. However underlying all of these suggestions is that there is nothing wrong with being an introvert, and with an estimated one-third of population being introverts, the world should start making allowances for US.
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