Quiet : The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking was and is intriguing for me to read because I am an introvert. I don't know that I would have labeled myself as that when I was younger but I came to a very definite realization that I have introvert tendencies as I proceeded into adulthood. While I may seem wordy online, I'm actually really, really quiet in person unless or until I get to know a person quite well. I have to be very comfortable with the people and the surroundings to want to talk much outloud. I am always alert and am paying attention to the conversation and activities around me, but I might not necessarily say anything about them at the time.
More recently I've found that people I know generally at church and in town are surprised to hear that I'm an introvert because my husband and I host so many gatherings in our home. It's true that I love practicing hospitality. It is also true that I am very calculating in the way that I go about doing so. For example, I prefer large crowds to small ones because I find that I am not required to do as much talking and entertaining if there are more people present. I would rather host one hundred people in my home all at once than five, unless I know those five really well. Also, after having any type of event (large or small) in my home, I usually spend the entire day afterwards resting quietly in my pajamas. I need to feel comfortable and be still after spending time with others. It is only in this way that I find myself able to recharge. I have also learned to pace myself when we have family gatherings. I have learned that I have to plan "time out" for myself during the gathering. This is not because I don't like my family but because I start to break down if I don't have a little time away and alone to be quiet. I begin to feel tense and stressed and even physically ill if I'm around people for consecutive days on end without a little time alone to regroup and breathe a bit on my own. Overnight guests are an absolute joy to me, but I quit apologizing for not coming out of my bedroom until 9 a.m. or so because I need that morning quiet time to rev up for the rest of the day's activities or else I will collapse before the visit is over and that's no good.
Quiet is an interesting book because the main purpose of it is to convince extroverts that introverts are just as valuable as they are. There is no "better" or "worse" way to be, but both types of people bring something to the table that is worth considering. I don't really need a book to tell me that my introvert tendencies are valuable. I feel very confident and secure in my quiet, regardless of whether or not it makes much sense to others. I have a lot of extrovert friends and I enjoy them a great deal - (I usually find them highly entertaining) - but I don't wish to be like them nor do I demand that they be like me. I found this book interesting because it enlightened me to the fact that extroverts do need to see the value of the introvert and I found Cain's arguments as to the benefits of including introverts into society in a manner that suits them to be most intriguing.
A question and answer section is included in the back of the book and one of the questions posed to Cain is why she felt the need to write this book in the first place. She makes the following statement:
"Because there's a bias against introverts. Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts, and many introverts believe that there is something wrong with them and that they should try to "pass" as extroverts. This bias leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and ultimately, happiness."
Throughout the entire book, Cain makes the argument that American culture, in particular, demands that each of this country's citizens be loud, outgoing, exciting extroverts. We are all made to feel as if we need to exude confidence with big, flashy smiles and be seen as determined and bold. We're supposed to be all about team sports and collaborate in hoards. She points out that workplaces now pack their office employees together in shared cubicles or open layouts, removing private spaces necessary for an introvert to recharge and problem shoot alone. Schools, she says, have grouped desks together so that students have to face each other straight on instead of work through math problems and creative writing assignments on their own, as individuals. She argues that American society has failed to see the value of creating quiet getaways for the introverts to do what they do best - which is to make thoughtful, calculated decisions in quiet places - alone.
Interestingly, she points out some examples of introverts and extroverts in the workplace and how the introverts' quiet, well-laid plans and ideas are frequently ignored because they are more modest and calm in the presentation of their ideas. She notes that in an office situation where introverts and extroverts are collaborating, the extrovert usually convinces the group to go with their plan and generally succeeds in convincing others simply because they are louder. The introvert sitting on the sideline is frequently ignored because they didn't stand up and do a dance, so to speak, to get people to hear what it is that they are suggesting the group/company do. Cain writes to encourage the extrovert to seek out the quiet introvert's opinion when collaborating and she also writes to encourage the introvert to work on being a little bolder in group environments so that they will be heard.
As only a little bit of an aside, Cain also notes that the introvert usually has the better plan because an introvert is more inclined to listen longer, ask questions, think more deeply and calculate risks more than an extrovert would. What is her point in mentioning this? The introvert generally has something to say that's worth hearing. Don't dismiss the quiet sorts just because they are quiet. Their ideas tend to be pretty good.
Truthfully I feel a little silly talking about this book because I feel like it's a bit of self-promotion in certain respects. I am the person she describes in this book. I identified with much of what she said regarding the need for quiet getaways to foster creativity and provide rest. I totally understand what she is saying when she argues that to deny an introvert quiet privacy is to risk their health and happiness because if I am on the go for too many hours a day or too many days in a row I begin to physically and emotionally wear out. I have to pace myself or I will literally begin to get sick - sometimes becoming overheated or I'll begin to suffer a sore throat. (I think that aspect is a little weird, actually, but it's truly what happens.) The only way I can recover and avoid becoming really sick is to be at home without anyone outside of our family coming around so that I can just be without feeling like I have to rise to some occasion and make conversation. Perhaps that seems unbelievable but it's true.
I did enjoy reading Quiet, mostly because it helps to remind me to pace myself well. And just so you know - I'm writing up my thoughts on this book after returning from a 7-day vacation to see family in which we were constantly on the go. I loved being with my loved ones and cherished every moment I had with them. But at the current moment, I am recharging in a quiet house. My kids are napping, I'm sipping tea, nursing a sore throat, and typing this up while enjoying flannel. I have no desire to leave my house for several days more. Weird? Perhaps. But so true.
Who should read this book:
- Introverts who are curious to hear more of the arguments for why it is that it's ok for them to be introverts. (That's if you don't already understand the reasons, of course.)
- Extroverts with introvert friends and family that they could better understand if they heard some of this information.
- Teachers who might learn how to appreciate and make room for the introverted student.
- Extrovert parents with introvert children who are in any way worried that their child is not equipped to survive in society in its current form.
If you would like to get a taste for this book, you might wish to check out Susan Cain's TED talk which has been viewed almost 10 million times.