9: Quiet

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop TalkingQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Bought new (that’s new as in not-used and new as in new release) at The Book Warehouse. I wanted to read this as soon as I heard about it and then Bellman recommended it, so I was sold.

Watch The Power of Introverts video here.

Susan Cain is a former lawyer. Yes, yet another lawyer-turned-writer. They’re everywhere, I tell you. Did I ever mention my theory (developed at law school) that law students fall into three groups: the ones who are in it for the money/prestige, the ones who are in it because they want to change the world, and the ones who really want to be writers. Because it seemed like every time I turned around someone was whispering, “well, actually, I write. I’m working on a screenplay/romance novel/fill-in-the-blank.”

What was so good about this book was not that I had a sudden epiphany that I’m an introvert while reading it. Obviously I know I’m an introvert. What was so good was the argument that it is just as good to be an introvert as it is to be an extrovert, that introversion is not something that needs to be fixed.

Realizing that that’s how I’ve always been made to feel: like I’m broken. Realizing that the reason everything is so hard, why some things never get any easier regardless of how many times I do them, is because those situations force me to be fake extroverted. Realizing that not everyone is exhausted by being “on.”

It explains why I had such an aversion to Dale Carnegie and that How to Win Friends and Influence People book. He epitomizes the ‘extrovert ideal.’ (That thing where a person you’ve just met uses your name in every sentence? Ahhhhh! That is the worst. Never do this to me. I will insta-hate you.)

She unpacks the difference between introversion (preference for environments that are not overstimulating) and shyness (fear of social disapproval). You can be introverted and shy, but you can also be introverted and not-shy (ditto with extroversion).

The framing of introversion as a preference for lower stimulation environments (rather than a dislike of being around people) is helpful. It’s not the people per se, it’s that too much is going on when there are a lot of people around. It explains why I prefer to run without music, for example, when most people (going by what I’ve read on running forums anyway) claim they’d die of boredom without music.

A lot of hay is made about the difficulty introverts have with public speaking. I’ve never had a real problem with public speaking where said speech is something pre-planned (I wanted to be an actor when I was a teenager). What makes me an introvert is how I feel afterward (exhausted, need to recharge). This explains, I think, why I was fine with doing the mandatory public speaking we had to do in English class, but was never interested in pursuing it further.

What makes me super-stressed are situations where I’m expected to speak without having a chance to think about it. Talking on the phone. Q+A sessions. Interviews. Making an off-the-cuff speech. There’s a example that deals with someone like that (Esther in chapter 5). It goes back to being overstimulated (overwhelmed), which interferes with attention and memory (a-ha!).

Quiet helped me to make connections between various traits I hadn’t thought of as being connected to introversion. Like a dislike of multitasking and a desire to avoid conflict. I kept having these “oh, so that’s why I like/dislike that” or “oh, so that’s why X is easy and Y is hard” moments. Better late than never. I feel like more attention should be paid to this when people are choosing careers. Because, sure an introvert can act extroverted, but who wants to be exhausted and depleted all the time? Seriously: I wonder how many people are unhappy for the basic reason that they’re an introvert doing an extrovert job or vice versa?