Wednesday, February 13, 2013

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

 NonFiction/Psychology - 333 pages
Crown Publishing (first published in 2012)

I just want to first mention that Susan Cain speaks from a very personal and intimate place about the topic of introverts.  The whole time I felt powerfully connected to the book, as a result.  The book is broken into the following sections:  Part One-The Extroverted Ideal; Part Two-Your Biology, Your Self?; Part Three-Do All Cultures Have an Extrovert Ideal?; Part Four-How to Love, How to Work.  As you can see, the book clearly calls into question and evaluates the intricate networks of our lives and society that are dominated and praised for extroverted individuals.  So Susan Cain brings this piece of writing to open our minds to a world of individuals that are forsaken, set to the side, dumped to the fringes, but who all the while have contributed to our lives in ways we have chosen to forget.

One of the first introductions in the book is the notion of 'who is the introvert?'  Is it the 'timid and shy' individual?  Is it the individual who has 'radical humility' and 'quiet fortitude?'  Is it the individual who can by 'her mere presence enough to galvanize the crowd,' like Rosa Parks?  "We're told that to be great is to be bold, to be happy is to be sociable."  Is it possible that the society we have come to be encultured by has blinded us from our truest nature?  Well, Susain Cain makes sure to make you aware of worlds you were never told could harness your greatest potential.

"Now that you're an adult, you might still feel the pang of guilt when you decline a dinner invitation in favor of a good book.  Or maybe you like to eat alone in restaurants and could do without the pitying look from fellow diners.  Or you're told that you're 'in your head too much,' a phrase that's often deployed against the quiet and cerebral."

This book is a testament to a natural phenomena that I think all of us can relate to.  We all teeter-totter between being an introvert and an extrovert, sometimes being more of one than the other.  We do it whether it's for a job, or for our personal journey in life, or whether it's with our family members or a loved one.  We may also change our mindset depending on what kind of circumstances we're going through.  But, "there is no such thing as a pure extrovert or a pure introvert.  Such a man would be in a lunatic asylum."  Quiet drives this point home, and you'll come to see it's a powerful frame of mind to come to accept and surrender to this universal truth.

There is no place more demanding to be an extrovert than the bussiness world, it seems.  Harvard Business School is the epicenter of extroverts, as Susan Cain puts it midly.  Oh boy, I'd feel mentally and spiritually exhausted in a world like she describes Harvard to be.  Then again, I have nothing against extroverts.  It's just the idea of one right versus the other that bothers me.  Susan Cain makes sure to emphasize that both extroverts and introverts have important roles in our society - both types of individuals should be praised and welcomed, equally.  Susan Cain goes even as far as to say that it's of massive and crucial importance for introverts to be more tolerated and embraced.

While Harvard has produced some of the most important individuals of our nation, I would say Susan Cain's urge to look at a more comprehensive perspective is also important.  She contrasts US's environment to China's culture.  "In China there was more emphasis on listening, on asking questions rather than holding forth, on putting other's needs first.  In the United States, he feels, conversation is about how effective you are at turning your experiences into stories, whereas a Chinese person might be concerned with taking up too much of the other person's time with inconsequential information."  We must open our minds to consider that any extreme can be limiting to our growth as a nation, culture, and as human beings.  It's important to consider introverts just as important as extroverts in our society, if not even more....

There are stories upon stories, examples upon examples about how introverts contribute to a qualitative style of living.  Just as important, there are plenty of stories of how each, introverts and extroverts, carry important roles in our society - and we cannot be GREAT without one another but we must recognized the strengths each provide.

"Our lives are shaped as profoundly by personality as by gender or race.  And the single most important aspect of personality - the 'north and south temperament,' as one scientist puts it - is where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum.  Our place in this continuum influences our choice of friends and mates, and how we make conversation, resolve differences, and show love.  It affects the careers we choose and whether or ot we suceed at them.  It governs how likely we are to exercise, comit adultery, function well without sleep, learn from our mistakes, place big bets in the stock market, delay gratification, be a good leader, and ask 'what if.'"  

It is the above statement that you'll find in the very first few pages of the book.  But it is in fact, a statement you will come back to at the end of the book because it places into perspective why this discourse of the introvert versus the extrovert in our society matters.  It's a matter of our whole existences whether we place importance on one or the other rather the integration, tolerance, understanding and freedom to nurture and love both types of individuals.  It is crucial to the growth of our whole lives - spiritually, intellectually, globally, and as mere humans.

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