Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.
We live in a world where extroverts are idealized and the most common advice given to parents of introverts is to look for ways to help their children be more outgoing. Cain argues convincingly that introverts have their own strengths that shouldn’t be ignored, even in situations where extroverts are traditionally considered better for the job. She gives her own early career as an example, citing a time when she was working as a trial lawyer on a high-stakes negotiation. She wouldn’t normally have been put in that position, but rather than pretending to be aggressive, she was quiet, considerate, and paid careful attention to the needs of both parties, resulting in a solution that worked better for everyone and won her acclaim from both sides. In the first section, Cain covers topics such as the shift in the early 20th century from valuing character and quiet virtue to valuing personality and popularity. She talks about the myths that charismatic, extroverted people make better leaders and that group work leads to greater creativity. Next, Cain looks at the biology behind introversion and how introverts can overcome their privacy-seeking tendencies to be inspiring public speakers and leaders. There are also dangers to extroversion, and Cain argues that part of the reason for the Wall Street crash was the risk-seeking behavior that often goes along with the extroversion that Wall Street so highly rewards. She looks at relationships and work for introverts, dealing with extroverts, and when it’s helpful for introverts to act more extroverted than they really are. Finally, Cain talks about how to cultivate introverted children and give them both the tools they need to survive in a world that rewards extroverts and the confidence to use the skills and strengths that come with introversion, both for the home and school.
For myself, this has me wondering all over again where I fall on the scale and what I can do to Support My Full Potential, etc. Cain introduces the term “ambivert”, and while I know I was very introverted in grade school, from college and beyond, I’ve tested just on the margins of either side of the introvert/extrovert line. I think I’ve tended to appreciate the extroversion more, and reading this book is good to give me more confidence in devoting time to introverted desires.
As a mother, I think we do pretty well with giving our son both time with friends and time alone to concentrate on his own projects. I really want to discuss some of the ideas with my son’s teacher, not because I think my son is particularly introverted, but just because Cain has very helpful ideas on balancing group and individual work in the classroom, the importance of everyone learning how to focus on their own, and how to make group work and class speaking more educational and less pure terror for introverts. Wherever you fall on the scale, if you’re interested in how people work, this is a fascinating book.