Thursday, June 5, 2014
On the continuum
Title: Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking
By: Susan Cain
It is intriguing to read about one’s own traits in a book, especially when the author finds positive value in those traits we find difficult to accept in ourselves. Yet I can’t help thinking that all of us have "introvert" sensitivities and tendencies at least some of the time during our development, or in certain situations. I am coming to think that human natures are all on a continuum; it probably isn’t fair or accurate to say we fall into one basket or the other. In fact, the evolving definitions of introvert and extrovert are among the topics Susan Cain usefully investigates. She traces some of the cultural history that led to the Extrovert Ideal glorified in the United States over the last century, and compares it to other cultures less focused on the individual. She also describes research supporting the need for solitude in order to excel at a task, and research suggesting that brainstorming in a group is not as effective as we have been led to expect.
Cain suggests we need to value the quiet thinkers around us, but I felt the book failed to deliver on the promise of the subtitle: the "power of introverts." And there was some extrovert bashing (or maybe I'm just too introvertedly sensitive; is that my "power"?). My sister, a practicing psychiatrist, pointed out that Cain, a lawyer, is accustomed to thinking in us/them or right/wrong terms. Maybe that’s why the introverts got all the positive adjectives and the extroverts come off as bulls in the china shop. Regardless, it’s a book worth reading and discussing with others to continue the exploration--and perhaps shift our understanding and, eventually, our culture towards a more even-handed appreciation of intro- and extroverts.
View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction