I feel very fortunate that over the last year or so (okay, maybe the last decade or so) I seem to be led to one book after another that perfectly encapsulates and explains something about my personality, character, preferences or self that I had long since given up hope of ever understanding.
Each time I find one of these books (or it finds me), I have the exact same reaction: “Wow! This one is IT! This is the one I have been waiting for! This is the most brilliant book EVER!”
Of course, with my latest literary find, I literally DO mean it more than I ever have before. Of course.
Entitled, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,” just the title itself had me drawing a deep breath of relief – as in, “Oh thank god I’m not the only one who has noticed.”
Our world really does seem like it can’t stop talking sometimes, doesn’t it?
Furthermore, sometimes I get the impression that those of us who crave less verbal volubility in our lives are doomed to be forever misunderstood as lazy, unfriendly, stupid, bad-tempered, or bad-mannered.
In fact, as I turned each successive page of “Quiet,” I came face to face with one quality after another within myself that I had often previously attempted to “fix,” change, explain away, hide, or reverse….in other words, for most of my life, I have wanted to be somebody other than me.
Susan Cain, the author of “Quiet,” is herself an introvert, albeit that she was trained at first Princeton and then Harvard as a corporate lawyer before she turned consultant, researcher and writer. In “Quiet,” Susan outlines not only her own personal story of introverted awakening, but also reviews our current culture’s “Extrovert Ideal,” in the process showing how our relationships, our schools, our workplaces, and the very fabric of our Westernized lives are being systematically reorganized around mechanisms which favor the strengths of the extrovert – to the detriment of the strengths of the introvert, and, in the end, of us all.
With anywhere from one-third to one-half of all people being introverted at any given time, that is a lot of folks who are just plain being edged out, left out, and actively encouraged to change our basic nature to better suit the ever-shifting cultural sands of the world around us.
My favorite line in the whole book is found on page 210. When I read it I stopped breathing for a full 30 seconds. How rarely do I find such a short paragraph saying so much with so few words (one of the many strengths of the introverted temperament)?
In this passage, Cain writes: “Shakespeare’s oft-quoted advice, “To thin own self be true,” runs deep in our philosophical DNA. Many of us are uncomfortable with taking on a “false” persona for any length of time [blogger's note: here she is talking about what I just shared above - trying to change our personalities to better fit the current reigning ideals]. And if we act out of character by convincing ourselves that our pseudo-self is real, we can eventually burn out without even knowing why.”
Of course. It simply makes sense. Cain interviews introverts from all walks of life, of all ages and both genders. She also gives generous page-time to some of history’s most famous introverts, including Rosa Parks, Gandhi and Steve Wozniak (co-founder with Steve Jobs of what is now Apple Computer).
She clearly illuminates how an introvert who is honoring their innate personality and temperament can speak in ways far louder and more far-reaching than mere volleys of words could ever convey.
I suspect I will be blogging and writing more about one of my new and most favorite mentors, Susan Cain. But for now – whether you are extroverted or introverted (the book does NOT slam extroverts, but merely aims to give some airtime to those who are less inclined to claim it for themselves) – consider giving “Quiet” a space on your bookshelf or e-reader, and you may just find yourself more deeply appreciative of your introverted self, best friend, partner, boss, or child…..and of the need we each have for both extroverts and introverts in this world we share together.
Today’s Takeaway: Do you sometimes feel like your personality can get in the way of your goals, your happiness, or just who you want to be? If applicable, taking a few hours to read through “Quiet” may help you deepen your understanding and appreciation both of yourself and of others.
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Last reviewed: 14 May 2012