quiet susan cainQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, 5/5

As a somewhat stereotypical introvert, it’s hard to view this book objectively: how can I resist the charm of a well-written description of the introverted personality’s inherent strengths, along with an expose of the myriad ways introverts are under-appreciated and disadvantaged in modern culture?  To be fair,  the complexity of the topic requires a twin book, championing an opposing viewpoint, but as far as provoking thought, discussion, providing encouragement to the less-than-bold and making some very interesting points, this book is well rewarding.

Though it sometimes feels that Cain unfairly pits the strengths of introversion against the weaknesses of extroversion, the author generally achieves a well-researched approach to the topic, appropriate to her background and expertise.  I appreciate that she restrains herself to a more observational, journalistic point of view, instead of succumbing to the allure of pop science pomposity.

There were several times during the book when I felt a sense of “What?  Other people feel like that and do those things too? And that’s considered introversion, not some psychological problem?”  It is encouraging to hear that there are other people in the world who reserve their small talk for deep relationships, find shallow social conversations to be unbearably boring, don’t feel connected to the crowd hype at events, would rather hear a teacher’s lecture than fellow students’ ignorant opinions (aired under the guise of “class participation”), would rather be independent than either leader or follower, feel two-faced for acting extroverted in some scenarios, sometimes don’t feel like socializing even with close friends, or feel that people who talk a lot often don’t have much to say.

One of the most helpful ideas I got out of this book was that it’s ok for the same person to have introverted or extroverted reactions to different scenarios: just because I feel reserved and unsocial in one scenario doesn’t mean that I am a faker or insincere for acting outgoing and high-energy in another.  According to Cain, finding something you feel strongly enough about (such as a job, idea, or relationship) to make it bearable to sometimes act extroverted, is a positive thing and often a sign of a “core personal project” (209).  “Free Trait Theory” gives people the freedom to sometimes act out of character when it is useful to do so, without feeling guilty about the inconsistency (209).

[Why I read it: saw it in a selection of recommended books at the library]


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