I’ve always been an introvert. I’ve known it pretty much since learning the terms (whenever that was but some time before taking psychology my senior year of high school). But knowing and understanding exactly what being an introvert entails are only recently coming to the forefront of public awareness as more research into introversion/extroversion personality types is being conducted. One of the things increasing introvert awareness is Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.
As an introvert herself, her insider’s perspective makes all the concepts remarkably accessible for other introverts (like me). It’s wonderfully reassuring and affirming to see all the scientific data that demonstrates the physiological differences between extroverts and introverts, studies that show there really is nothing wrong with being an introvert and it isn’t something you can just “fix.” I was lucky in that I wasn’t pushed too hard to stop my introverted ways. There were instances when I was younger where I really didn’t want to go to my friends’ enormous birthday parties or where I was signed up for endless extra-curricular activities. My favorite break was when my parents went to my brother’s soccer games on Saturdays and I had hours alone in the house to myself. Susan Cain’s Quiet shows that I’m not the only one who felt like that growing up.
I found the last few chapters particularly useful as they focus on the relationships between extroverts and introverts. Examining the different communication styles of each personality type, she looks at how, where, and why miscommunications occur. Growing up with an extroverted mother and many very extroverted friends and relatives, I am now able to understand how fallouts and fights happened. It’s inspiring to read about how many famous and influential people in history have been introverts and it’s a little unsettling to realize that it’s because of our culture’s fascination with charismatic and persuasive extroverts that some of the biggest challenges we’ve faced as a nation have arisen. Cain focuses on the financial crisis of 2008, but I would like to see her take on the rise of twenty-four hour cable news stations. As personality crosses over more into generating stories to fill time on these networks, the substance and fact-checking that introverts tend to obsess over (but in quieter nooks and calmer environments) seem to be slipping away.
The last chapters also focus on how to interact with introverted children so that they thrive. From the concern that extroverted parents and a culture fascinated with the extrovert ideal view introverted children as something to be treated through techniques for expanding an introvert’s experiences safely and gradually. The final chapters have helped me understand better why I have an easier time with my niece (also an introvert) than my more extroverted brother and mother. While Cain addresses some of the challenges introverted parents face, she looks at their relationships with their introverted children. I would have liked to see what she has to say regarding introverted parents with extroverted children. As an introvert having babysat extroverted children, I find them more exhausting and can only imagine introverted parents struggling to find the quiet space they need to recharge.
Susan Cain’s Quiet is enlightening and reassuring for introverts everywhere. She makes it okay to own being an introvert and to relieve some of the stigma that, it turns out, has probably been harmful to extroverts as well. Here’s a link to a video of Susan Cain talking about her book and experiences. And here’s a link to a simple illustrated guide for interacting with introverts (funny but also very accurate).