I finished reading Quiet by Susan Cain. The book is so aptly subtitled “The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”. It is an engaging book, that talks about what it means to be an introvert in a world that obviously highly values extroverts. We want our leaders to be bold, brave, gregarious and fearless. We want managers and CEOs who can boldly (and loudly) go where no one else has gone before. We assume that people who can easily communicate their ideas (regardless of how good those ideas are) are better than people who are quieter. Ironically, research shows that some of the best leaders are introverts and with one in three people being an introvert that should not surprise us.
It is commonly thought that introverts are shy, timid or anti social people and that is untrue, introverts like to be stimulated differently that extroverts. Also not all introverts are the same, just the same way that extroverts can not all be lumped into one big group.
Cain herself is an introvert who pretended to be an extrovert, and became a Wall Street Lawyer. It took her a while to realize she just wanted to do and be something else.
Cain explores a plethora of topics. Is introversion built in your DNA or is it nurtured? How do different cultures deal with introversion/extroversion? Can you be yourself in a world that wants you to be something else? Can you be an introvert and still act like an extrovert sometimes?
Finally her last chapter was perhaps the one that struck with me the most on how to parent an introverted child. My daughter is an introvert. I have always know that. I know that half of it is from her DNA and half of it from how we live our lives. She is perfectly content to sit and [pretend] read her books. She shies away from situations where things are too loud or crowded. I once left her at IKEA’s play area after she begged to stay but 30 minutes later they called me and said she wanted to be picked up. When I did, I asked her why she wanted to leave, she said “it was getting very crowded for me”. She will cover her ears when sounds are too loud and has only recently been able to watch movies (and I only let her watch things that are age appropriate) because the overly sad or emotional music is too much for her. I understand because I have been there and I know what it is like. My husband says I should push her to experience more things and I am adamant about it. I will give her the tools and teach her the skills she needs to deal with all of this but I think every child must be given the chance to be who they really are.
It is an interesting read. Chock full of information not just about introverts, how to deal with them and how to be one but also about why we are what we are. This should be required reading for parents, teachers and generally just about everyone.
I leave you with Susan Cain’s March 2012 TEDTalk about the subject.