By Susan Cain
Introverted? Extroverted? Sensitive? Self-conscious? Think fast? Think slow? Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking takes the reader through loads and loads of research on personality traits. She ties these traits to the broader categories of introversion and extroversion. As an introvert, and as the name of the book suggests, she is in constant defense thereof. For me, it was an exploration of my introverted side and insight into friends, family members and colleagues that tend to exhibit far more introverted traits.
I picked this book up because it was the book of choice for my day job’s women lawyers book club. It provided a lot of fodder for us to discuss. There’s a bit of confirmation bias when reading this book–we all seemed to accept the premises that pinpointed our own personality traits and painted them in a positive light. And of course, Susan Cain is not neutrally telling the story of introversion; she’s making the case for it. I think we all walked out identifying more strongly as introverts than when we walked in.
Cain makes an interesting distinction between shyness and introversion.
Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not.
I am definitely shy–and maybe it’s because of the fear she describes–or maybe it’s because I know I’m in a situation that calls for extroversion and I don’t really want to put on the show. What Cain does over and over in this book is cite research as fact despite how meandering and all over the place (and in some case old) much of that research is. I would have liked a bit more discussion of Free Trait Theory. Also, I find the transient nature of personality to fit certain situations super interesting. Is there some innate bottomline personality that’s our “true” “authentic” self? I don’t know and I kind of wonder how much utility we get out of researching the answer.
My personal takeaway is that people should not take too much stock into any of it. If you find yourself exhausted by “putting it on” all day, then perhaps you’re in a job that’s not the right fit for you. You probably shouldn’t feel exhausted just by existing in that environment. But if it’s working for you, I wouldn’t worry too much about whether you’re being your authentic self.
Everyone shines, given the right lighting.
I think this book is particularly good for parents who aren’t natural personality fits with their kids. Cain talks about extroverted parents facing teacher reports of introversion. These folks throw their kids into every social context in an attempt to fix them, even though there is nothing wrong with them. So I 100% recommend it to those types of parents. Everyone else should read only psychology happens to be in your zone of interests.
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