Even though I've always been happiest when I've had the day to while away reading, even though people described me as shy when I was little (to which I disagree), even though large groups exhaust or overwhelm me, I didn't embrace my introversion until early 2012. I read Adam McHugh's fascinating book Introverts in the Church. I loved it so much, I held a weeklong series and still describe it as the most lifechanging book I read in 2012.
Every time I mention I'm an introvert (or my Myers-Briggs type: INFJ), people ask if I've read Susan Cain's book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. I really wanted to read it but there are a trillion books I want to read on my To Read list and so there it languished, until a review copy became available through the Blogging for Books program.
I wish Quiet had been written years ago. I saw myself on every page.
"Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions." p. 11
Not only did I see myself on every page, I saw that my introversion has always been an intrinsic part of me, even those years I believed I was an extrovert. INFJs are the most extroverted of the introverts, which was part of my confusion, but I also succumbed to what Cain describes as the Extrovert Ideal.
Extroverts are prized in American society at every turn, from business on down to elementary school. Cain spends time delving into how extroversion has seeped into our churches (with a shout out to McHugh and his book, prompting me to say, "I know him! I know him!"), schools, economy, and work environments. She profiles well-known introverts (like Steve Wozniak and Rose Parks) and shows how their introversion helped them in their calling. She also interviews a bevy of experts and every day folks.
The result is compelling. While the focus is on the power and talents all introverts hold, a good deal is geared toward extroversion and what works and what doesn't. Especially the pitfalls of extroversion, which have led us on precarious paths.
For instance, introverts are more likely to be passed up for work promotions and not have their ideas credited or research funded. How many breakthroughs and advances have we missed out on as a result? If they express caution, such as the case of those who spoke up in the months and years before the bank crisis, they're either not heard or not taken seriously. In today's classroom and workplace, group work is expected and preferred, to the detriment of those who do their best work privately or 1:1. I would do horribly in either scenario! It shouldn't be a surprise that productivity often decreases in these scenarios.
We have much to learn from one another and there's a danger when we go to an extreme with either temperament. It's best to let people work out of their strengths and complement each other.
I could have kept reading for another 300 pages at least. It's a fascinating topic, whether examining personality research, delving into what shyness actually is (guess what? I'm not shy!), and detailing the hallmarks of Highly Sensitive People, who can be introverts or extroverts.
I highly recommend it for everyone but particularly those in leadership positions and parents, especially if their personality style differs from your child. The same goes for those who are married to someone with a different personality style. Cain has a way of presenting the information so you can see yourself but also identify areas of improvement.
I have no doubt I'll refer back to Quiet often in the years to come.
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Disclosure: I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.