Over a year ago I wrote a post called Pulling out the Introversion Card. I know. It’s a bad pun on the “pulling out the race card” phrase. But one of the points I was trying to make with that post is how difficult and awkward it is to defend, excuse, or explain your own behavior. No matter how much you think you understand yourself, you’re never going to be truly objective about your own self. While reading Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking I kept thinking about that.
Let’s face it. Most of the readers this book is going to attract are going to be introverts. The author herself is an introvert. And I’m not saying that Cain is being biased. The book is well researched and points to many studies in the psychology of human personality. But the gist of the book is basically saying that we need to champion the introverted personality instead of discouraging it the way we have been doing for years. All throughout the book I was like “amen sister!”. But she’s preaching to the quire. The people that really need to read this book, the extroverts, are probably not going to read it in huge numbers.
The reason we love reading pop psychology books is because they’re comforting. In the case of this book though I think you have to be careful about that comforting feeling. It’s very tempting to say to yourself that you don’t have any serious problem with say, shyness, because your just an introvert, and that’s ok because Einstein and Gandhi were introverts, and look what they accomplished. But the truth is that you’re probably not even close to becoming an Eisntein or Gandhi.
Another thing to be careful about the book is that while Cain clarifies in the book and in interviews that she’s not saying that introverts are morally superior, or smarter, or in any way better than extroverts, there’s still this sense that extroverts have been the loud dimwitted bullies to the quiet introverts. So the extroverts that do eventually read this book are not going to admit that they’re extroverts. Extroverts are like hipsters in that way. They’re easy to spot, but no one will admit to being one.
All I’m trying to say is that I think there’s a thin line between excusing yourself and defending yourself. Even though I’m 100% sure that I’m I true blue introvert, and I wish that certain members of my family read this book, so they can get a third party perspective that makes them realize that I’m not “anti-social”, I still believe that personality is more malleable than fixed. Every single person that reads this book, intro or extra, has to really dig deep and ask themselves if they’re really doing something that they can’t do anything about, or if they’re just being fearful.
With all the sort of critical things I have said about the book, I think Quiet is a five star caliber non-fiction book. If your quiet and shy, and think there’s something wrong with you, please do read. If you find yourself bored and anxious when alone, please do read too. It’s a powerful book that flips the coin on our ideas of truly remarkable personalities.