Today, I wanted to share with you a book that has changed my life in the most dramatic way: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain. I delayed writing this review for fear that I would not be able to properly articulate the depths of my feelings about this book.
You see, I have known for a long time that I was introverted and thus, shy. I mistakenly believed that this was something that wasn’t ideal, something that I was going to have to struggle against my entire life. I lay awake many nights, wishing, praying , that I would be more outgoing, that I wouldn’t enjoy being alone so much, that I would be more of what the world seemed to expect of me. I read more books than I can count about how to make friends and influence people, including the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I read books about my personality type: melancholy; and identified my Meyers Brigg: ISFJ. Don’t get me wrong, they helped but they didn’t set me free of the underlying notion that something was wrong with me.
Gretchen Rubin, one of my favorite writers, has said that Quiet is a “superbly researched, deeply insightful and fascinating read.” She was not wrong. Susan started on the book in 2005, seven years before it was first published. And spent an untold number of hours investigating the introverted personality. It shows.
In Part One she discussed, the “extrovert ideal”, the history of what took our society from admiration of the thinkers (IE Abraham Lincoln) to the obsession of extroversion (IE entertainers and celebrities). She discusses how classrooms have become more extroverted with increasing number of group tables and group projects. She talks about how teachers are concerned when the quiet student doesn’t talk much or they can’t tell what they are thinking. I believe a teacher approached my mother about this very thing when I was in middle school.
Then she hit on that question that I had asked myself over and over: Is there something wrong with me? Susan dives into the myth of what it means to be extrovert and what it means to be introvert: it is not about liking people, one is not more anti-social than the other. This misunderstanding is common and it is also damaging.
An extrovert returns to equilibrium when stressed by being around people. For an introvert, being around people is a drain on their batteries; it doesn’t charge them up. This was a game-changer for me. It wasn’t that I didn’t like or appreciate people. It wasn’t that something was wrong when I was exhausted after attending the very fun event (and it was fun). It wasn’t that I wasn’t friendly, or a snob, or thought of myself more highly than other people (although I’m sure there have been times when that was true).
Through impeccable research, Susan showed me what was really going on, why I seemed to need a vacay after my vacay. She even gave tips and tricks for living in this more extroverted world. Now after an event, I am likely to schedule alone time; she calls it a “restorative niche”. I go there often.
I am not ashamed to say that when I read this book I cried me a river. It was the most affirming book I had ever read and I have recommended it to more people than I can count. If you have someone who is quiet, if you are yourself, if your kid is, look through this book. Or go online and check out the Quiet Revolution. It will help you understand the people around you, and maybe yourself, in ways you can’t even imagine.
I write this in the Barnes & Noble café. The book, Quiet, is sitting in front of me on the table. I kid you not, a lady just walked up to me and asked me, “is that not one of the most empowering book you have ever read?” I heartily agreed.
til tomorrow, enjoy life