The Clasp by Sloane Crosley These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

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

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Publisher: Penguin
Format: Kindle e-book
Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled "quiet," it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society--from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer. Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects. She talks to Asian-American students who feel alienated from the brash, backslapping atmosphere of American schools. She questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. And she draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the surprising differences between extroverts and introverts. Perhaps most inspiring, she introduces us to successful introverts--from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Finally, she offers invaluable advice on everything from how to better negotiate differences in introvert-extrovert relationships to how to empower an introverted child to when it makes sense to be a "pretend extrovert." This extraordinary book has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how introverts see themselves.
I’ve wanted to read Quiet since its release, as I am an introvert. It was a truly enlightening read and I’ll take on board and remember parts for the rest of my life. I highlighted and made so many notes whilst reading, so I’ll have to just do my best at picking out the most important parts for me.
First of all, it was interesting to read that a third of us are introverted. You wouldn’t have guessed it, would you? Not the way our Western culture has evolved over the years anyway. People in England can be quite reserved (stiff upper lip and all that) but I wouldn’t describe us as an introverted nation, which is why it rung true that introversion is seen as a “second-class personality trait” these days.

I don’t think it’s so much of a problem in school (I never found it a problem anyway) but more in the work world these days – especially if you work in an office. After all, we’re all supposed to be leaning in and reaching for the stars by being as vocal as possible. The part about office layouts was fascinating and really rang true. Open plan offices are the devil for introverts like myself. When you’re stuck in a bank of desks upon desks and can hear everyone’s conversations and you’re all on top of each other…ugh. Enough to raise the blood pressure and that’s before the computer has even been turned on and you discover the twenty meeting requests in your inbox. The best office layout I’ve ever been in was one where we were grouped together in clusters but you were kind of like little pods, in that there were three little walls with shelves and things. Obviously, if you work in a team based culture, you need to interact with your team but having that personal space was a Godsend. Susan Cain uses the Pixar and Microsoft campuses as examples of office spaces that are helpful to introverts and extroverts and all those in between. However, I wouldn’t go as far as the place that has ‘no talk Thursday’s’. As much as I know I’m an introvert, I also want to get on well in my career and understand that meetings and lots of talking is just part and parcel of modern day office culture.

I definitely identified with the “horror of small talk” part. If you ask me about something in particular, I could probably have a really good conversation with you. Ask me about the weather? Or what I did at the weekend? Ha! I loathe small talk because I’m rubbish at it. This also linked into the part about introverts having “trouble projecting artificial enthusiasm”. I’ve always said I’m a rubbish actor and that’s why I never succeeded when it came to those big graduate recruitment campaigns where you have multiple interviews and group tasks and tests. I just can’t pretend to be interested in something I’m not. Sorry, not sorry. However, when I do have something I’m interested in (not necessarily passionate about – just something that mildly piques my interest) I find it very easy to just sit down and get lost in the task.  I wish people would read this and know that just as Susan Cain says, introverts like myself can be just as loud and chatty as extroverts are perceived to be when we are in “environments that nurture [our] authenticity”.

If I could pass on one quote to everyone it would be that introversion is not shyness. So many people mistake the two. It’s not shyness or standoffishness or moodiness. Oh and there’s nothing worse than someone saying ‘smile’ or ‘cheer up’. Usually, I’m quite happy thanks! I know I wear a blank look most of the time, have a softly spoken voice, and appear ‘closed-off’ but if you could just see inside my head – the hundred different things zipping around. I don’t think there’s anything better than having a rich inner life and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

There was an interesting section on parenting with the gold star going to the parents who introduced their introverted daughter to lots of things and gently pushed her but if she felt truly scared, they’d allow her to stop and let her know it’s not a problem. This was exactly what my parents did. They never called me shy or pushed me to be louder, neither did they coddle me and allow me to slope off alone all the time. Due to their style, it means that now I am an adult who is quite happy to try new things and go to new places alone knowing I’ll always have that ‘eeek what am I doing?’ feeling to begin without past experience dictates it will pass and I’ll be fine.

Finally, the advice I took to heart was: making a deal with myself to do things like going to bars etc (which I really don’t like but how are you going to meet new people in your house watching Downton Abbey?) a certain amount of times a month and not feeling pressured to do this any more than scheduled. I also know –and have known for the past year or so – that I need to find what it is that makes me tick because we work better doing things we believe in. Finally, spending my free time the way I like (NaNoWriMo is a brilliant excuse) but also remembering the needs of my family and friends. The stories about the introvert and extrovert couple reminded me of my sister and me. I could quite happily spend the whole Saturday pottering around reading, writing, catching up on my shows, doing chores all one my lonesome but then my sister will say to my mum at the end of the day ‘what’s wrong with Soph, she didn’t talk to me all day’.

Overall, this was a really interesting read. I hope managers and parents and teachers will give it a go and be more mindful that we’re all different. It sounds simple enough and we are constantly told we’re all different but it seems like a lot of people don’t put this piece of advice into practice. Next time you feel like telling someone to ‘cheer up, it might never happen’, take a step back and remember they’re probably as happy as Larry. They’re just not shouting it from the rooftops and that’s ok – ok? 

Post a Comment

Thank you for commenting!