You don't smile enough. You look angry.
You're not a people person.
You're too detail oriented.
You're so quiet, what's wrong?
These are all things that have been said to me throughout my life both as a child and as an adult in both personal and work situations. All of these comments imply there is something wrong with me. There isn't anything wrong with me. I'm an introvert in a highly extrovert culture. Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking argues that introverts have some really powerful strengths which are often overlooked.
Cain, a self-professed introvert, writes a thoroughly engaging and researched book about introverts: how they interact in a predominately extrovert culture and how their brains react differently to stimuli than extroverts. Quiet also includes some very practical advice for introverts about how to better communicate in different situations as well as how to improve public speaking. There is also good advice for extroverts to keep in mind when living and working with introverts who account for 1/3 to 1/2 of the population. This book is full of research in the fields of psychology and neuroscience, but it's anything but dull reading. Cain makes some compelling arguments, has plenty of research to back them up, and has many examples to support her arguments. She gives examples of famous and important introverts such as Rosa Parks, Steve Wozniak, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Mahatma Gandhi.
Did you know that the United States is one of the most extrovert countries in the world? As an extrovert society, our culture values the characteristics of extroverts. Extroverts are often viewed as having outward attributes such as being outgoing, friendly, cheerful, and talkative. Extroverts are often seen as the life of the party and viewed as great leaders. Introverts also have valuable attributes, but their quieter, internal characteristics are often overlooked. Introverts tend to be persistent, they don't give up easily on complex problems. They are introspective, they are thinkers, dreamers, creators, and problem solvers. They tend to be more cautious and less prone to risk. Cain argues that there can be serious ramifications when extrovert characteristics are consistently valued over those of introverts. These consequences can occur in every aspect of our society from business, education, personal relationships, and even religion. For example, she argues that there were too many extrovert, risk takers in top levels of management leading up to the 2008 financial crisis and that the introverts, who were more cautious and warned of impending consequences to risk, were overlooked, dismissed, and ignored.
A popular misconception about introverts is that they are antisocial, they don't like people, and they dislike social interactions, but this is not true. Introverts do value relationships. Introverts are just more sensitive to their environments. Introverts and extroverts have different preferences for certain levels of stimulation and it turns out, there are genetic reasons for this preference! Introverts living in an extrovert world can often feel bad about themselves and feel like they're not living up to the ideal. Introverts often feel like they don't fit in. People who are quiet are often incorrectly viewed as lacking in social skills, intelligence, and personality.
Although I already knew I was an extreme introvert before reading Quiet, I really enjoyed this well written and engaging book. Quiet offers new insight and highlights the strengths and positive aspects of being an introvert as well as practical ways introverts can use their quiet strengths to their advantage. It also gives specific, brain-based and genetic reasons why introverts are the way they are, rather than attributing it to personal short-comings or a lack of social skills. Susan Cain's perspective on introverts is positive and refreshing.