I’ve got a book suggestion and it may change your life.
No, I’m not talking about Gone Girl: A Novel although I did just finish the thriller and it’s dark, creepy and fantastic despite some language and sub-plots that I found a little bit offensive. If you’re in need of a page turner, get ON it.
The book I really want to talk about thought is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.
If you’re wondering how I’ve had so much time to read, let me admit it’s a bit out of the ordinary. I’ve had a good reading month partially because I had a weekend away to myself, and partially because the books in my hands have been stellar. Plus, as we’re going to discuss here. I’m an introvert! I LOVE, love, love time alone with a book but don’t usually make enough time for it.
First, for those of you that know me in real life from work or church, you might be thinking there’s no way I’m an introvert. I get this. The typical stereotype is that introverts are shy, weak, timid, socially awkward, reserved. As a kid, I probably fit a lot of these descriptions but I’ve learned how, in certain situations, to function as an extrovert. I give my dad a lot of credit. Being raised by a man who has never met a stranger in his life taught me how to make small talk with the best of them. But just because I can make small talk, it doesn’t mean I like small talk. Ahhhh, yes, a typical introverted thing to say.
Did you know that one out of every two or three people you know is an introvert? That number is even higher in nations outside the United States. As Cain says, “If you’re not an introvert yourself, you are surely raising, managing, married to or coupled with one.”
No doubt, this book helps us introverts to not only better understand ourselves but the people around us.
Some of the my favorite chapters in the book discuss:
- How introverts feel “just right” with less stimulation, how we’re drawn to an inner world of thought and feeling, how we often work more slowly and deliberately, and we tend to dislike conflict.
- How extroversion has become a cultural ideal that has affected the way businesses and schools function.
- How a study has shown that introversion can often be identified in infants, and the debate around whether this is an inborn trait or something learned. (I believe it’s a combination of both.) This chapter brought up a lot of interesting thoughts around what parents can do to help their children navigate new social situations with greater ease while also taking pride in their introverted strengths.
The best part of this book, for me, was feeling affirmed in how I often feel in social situations. For instance, the three office jobs I had after college all had their unique challenges and successes. I consistently received high performance marks during annual reviews, but each individual boss would essentially say the same exact thing: “You are bright and smart–I really wish you’d speak up more in meetings. I’d like you to work on this.” I always felt crushed after this conversation because I was trying, I really was trying.
The thing is, group discussions have always been difficult for me especially if they are dominated by extroverted people. I have trouble bouncing from one idea to the next because I’m usually still thinking through the topic before, and I hate interrupting which often needs to happen in fast moving group discussions. It’s not that I didn’t have ideas, I just felt my best ideas came when I had time to ruminate on them by myself. Now I know this is okay–perhaps even more effective. You can read more about this in an op-ed that Cain wrote early last year.
One of my favorite quotes of the whole book? “The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk. Use your natural powers–of persistence, concentration, insight, and sensitivity- to do work you love and work that matters. Solve problems, make art, think deeply.”
If you’re not a big reader or don’t have time for this book right now, might I suggest a few other things instead? Take the introvert extrovert test. Then, consider watching Cain’s Ted Talk. It’s a great summary of the book or read Quiet’s conclusion only–it’s the best chapter at only three pages long.