Sunday, September 01, 2013

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

 I never considered myself an introvert in any sense of the word.  I do speak up and express my opinion and have a facility for small talk and speaking to strangers and meeting new people – all prime traits of an extrovert.  However, I do not like to work in group settings, and I prize quiet early weekend mornings – alone with a book, a cup of tea, and a dog stretched out beside me with a cat on my lap – all prime traits of the introvert.

Susan Cain has written an interesting and – at the same time – confusing book:  Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.  I admit I was not thrilled with the prospect reading a “self-help/business” book, but this one astounded and amazed me from the first page.  Cain has been widely published on a variety of topics.  She is an honors graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School.   

Cain points out numerous instances when an introvert has distinct advantages over an extrovert.  She writes, “Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, said Jung, extroverts to the external life of people and activities.  Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves.  Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough” (10).  This mixture of emotions and feelings matches me perfectly.  She even has a word for it: “ambivert.” 

Cain also comments that Jung believed anyone who would be a pure extrovert or introvert would most likely end up in a mental health asylum (14). 

Psychologists recognize a technical term, “highly sensitive” (14).  She cites studies which show that “70 percent of sensitives are introverts, and the other 30 percent tend to report needing a lot of ‘down time’” (15).  She adds, “If you are a sensitive sort, then you’re more apt than the average person to feel pleasantly overwhelmed by Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’ or a well-turned phrase or an act of extraordinary kindness.  You may be quicker than others to feel sickened by violence and ugliness” (14).  It is weirdly satisfying to read about yourself in a book written by a stranger.

In a “Manifesto for Introverts,” Susan Cain reassures the reader that it is okay to be “in your head a lot.”  In fact, she calls those people, “thinkers.”  Solitude is a catalyst for innovation, and love is essential; gregariousness is not.  She also quotes Mahatma Gandhi who said, “In a gentle way you can shake the world.”

I highly recommend Susan Cain’s Quiet for anyone who prefers to be shy and quiet.  Cain adds, “In the long run, staying true to your temperament is key to finding work you love and work that matters.  Celebrate your introversion.  Celebrate your extroversion.  But be mindful of opportunities to cross back and forth between the two.  5 stars

--Chiron, 6/27/13

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