Thursday, February 16, 2012

Introversion as an Inherent Strength: My Thoughts on Susan Cain's Ground-Breaking Book QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT CAN'T STOP TALKING

Photo Credit: Crown Publishing

One-third to one-half of the people we interact with on a daily basis have introverted personalitiesquiet, reflective, sensitive, drawing energy from solitude. Yet, as author Susan Cain reveals in her new book QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT CAN'T STOP TALKING, it can be quite challenging to live as an introvert in a world that is characterized by what she calls the “Extrovert Ideal.” Whether in school, business, or religious institutions, people are often expected to be outgoing and life-of-the-party types, and this is viewed highly, while the quiet and reflective types are often viewed as socially flawed. Introverts often grow up in a culture where they are encouraged to become pseudo extroverts to be successful or just to get by.

As an introvert, I know how easy it can be to view introversion as a weakness to be overcome. I can recall many times growing up when people would comment on how quiet I was as if it was a bad thing and the struggle to be quick on my feet in conversations with people. For several years I was a youth minister in a church culture where youth ministers were expected to be clear extroverts. Just a quick glance at youth minister job listings reveals the desire of most churches to have someone who is “outgoing.” While I've learned to do what needs to be done as an introvert, there have been many times when I've viewed my introversion as a crippling weakness. That is, until I think about my three-year-old daughter who is also an introvert. I listen to the same comments said about her that I've heard all my life, yet I know she's exactly as God created her to be, which means that introversion is vital to who she is. And vital to who I am.

QUIET is a timely exploration of the advantages of being an introvert in a world that is often dominated by the Extrovert Ideal. It is a call for introverts to embrace who they are and call upon the strength of their personalities to be successful and make a marked impact upon the world. Through compelling research in the fields of psychology and neuroscience, as well as real-life examples of some of the most influential introverts, Susan Cain reveals that introversion is not a weakness, but instead a genuine personality type that has a distinctive set of strengths that are just as needed as those of the often more gregarious extroverted types.

What are some of these advantages to being an introvert? Introverts enjoy being alone and drawing energy from solitude. They're often very reflective, careful, and resilient. This combination often means that introverts are some of the most creative people in the world. Introverts have given us Harry Potter, the iPhone, Google, the theory of gravity, and The Cat in the Hat. QUIET opens with the inspiring story of Rosa Parks who relied on her quiet strength to make a change in the racial discrimination of the 1950s.

Cain guides introverts on how to rely on their free will to develop extroverted traits that are genuine to who they are and useful in certain contexts. This is called free trait theory. Though we'll never be genuinely naturally outgoing, we can find things that we're passionate about that help us to interact successfully within the Extrovert Ideal.

Introverts are often erroneously viewed as anti-social. I love when Susan Cain points out that introverts aren't anti-social, but differently social. Cain reveals how introverts can be socially strong by relying on our inherent “soft power” and our ability to ask questions and listen attentively.

One of the most helpful parts of the book that I appreciated the most was the chapter on raising introverted children. As parents of an introverted child, my wife and I want our daughter to have the best opportunity to develop into a healthy and confident individual who makes a difference in the world. We know this means raising her with her introversion as an intentional focus.

QUIET gives me hope for people like me and the many other introverts who struggle within an extroverted culture. The book reminds me that introverts have purpose and inherent strength. The book should be read by introverts and extroverts alike in order to understand each other better. I have no doubt that QUIET will be one of the best books I've read in 2012 and one I'll return to again and again.

I received this book for review from Crown Publishing

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