Sunday, April 14, 2013

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

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: 4 of 5 stars

What an enlightening book. I've known for years that I'm an introvert, but I've never seen it so thoroughly explained. I've often wondered what's wrong with other people, that they can't be alone with their own thoughts for a few minutes. I've wondered what's wrong with me, that I can't adjust to certain social expectations. But now, I know introversion and extroversion go all the way down to how our brains process information, and just how much it affects.

I didn't realize my vivid dreams were a matter of introversion, nor did it occur to me that my being bad at confrontation is another symptom. I'd learned recently about "performing extroversion," but I hadn't realized it varies based on whether one is a high social monitor or a low social monitor. Those with high social monitoring can fit in with extroverts better, but they strike many people, especially low social monitors, as fake, or sellouts. The book doesn't mention this, but it seems a high social monitor might burn out of social situations faster.

Another factor that goes into introversion is whether one is reward-seeking, or threat-avoidant. I scored rather high on the threat-avoidant scale, meaning new situations have me pausing to look for the catch, rather than jumping in to find out how much fun it might be.

Mostly, the book gave me words for things I experience, and some tips on raising an introverted child. It told me very little I don't already practice in my everyday life. I already do retreat on weekends so that I might recharge. I already carve quiet niches into my work life. My job is even so flexible that it's my co-workers who are expected to network and meet new people, while I deepen working relationships that are already there and use my strengths in the office.

The book discusses the link between anxiety or depression and introversion, as bad situations stick in an introvert's mind and continue to affect that person a lot longer. I've often been chided by extroverts about my clinging to negative experiences; now I know it's how I'm wired.

I'd be interested to know if the rise in depression and anxiety diagnoses correlates at all with the devaluation of introversion in our society. The book does get into the history of the current admiration for extroverted traits, but it falls short of discussing the impact this has had on the 1/3 to 1/2 of the world made up of introverts the author cites throughout the text.

If you're an extrovert, there is useful information for you within these pages. It will tell you how to better relate to your introverted friends, and how you might support your introverted co-workers. If you're an extrovert raising an introverted child, the chapter on raising introverted children is essential, so you know not only that your child isn't punishing you for bad parenting, but also how to best bring out your child's favorable traits.

Overall, I found this an excellent, friendly resource for anyone who wants to know about the role of introverts in modern society. I can see more introverts being drawn to it, because of the subject matter. Despite a few blind spots, it's a fairly comprehensive book that depicts that introverts are not better people than extroverts, but that it behooves us, as a society, to include them.

I listened to this book on audio. Kathe Mazur does a fine job with the narration. She reads clearly, and doesn't stumble over names or concepts. Her voice is pleasant to listen to.

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