It was senior high. I had miss a morning class due to some unjustified reason (laziness or too much sleep that was). It was a February day like any other. My mother had eventually agreed to write an absence note for me, using as an excuse an imaginary appointment. The following afternoon, I thus went to the chief supervisor’s office to justify my absence. ‘If you don’t mind my asking, could you tell me what sort of appointment that was?’ she asked after stamping my report card. I stayed silent for a second, unaware of the lie I could make up.
‘No’ I replied slightly.
‘Wow, you’re so introverted and shy, Giulia!’ she concluded.
I was reassured that the chief supervisor hadn’t asked any more questions and had believed me. As I left the office, however, I found her last remark rather disturbing. Shy, fair enough, I’d always used this adjective to define myself. Introverted, on the other hand, was a word I did not use often to introduce myself. These two adjectives weren’t hurtful. It was rather the ‘wow’ (the English for ‘oh là là’) which emphasized the comment that made it sound like a reproach.
In school, I had always known that my being reserved was not appreciated, except for my lack of chitchatting. Ever since primary school, teachers were creating seating charts to seat both the most and the less talkatives on the front row. My trimestrial class reports were constantly drawing attention to comments highlighting my regretful lack of participation in class. If you’re an introvert, can you count how many times you’ve been asked the daunting question: “But why are you so quiet?“, without knowing how to respond? For long, I have perceived my introversion as a drawback. This was until I stumbled upon Susan Cain’s Quiet:the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, last summer.
Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.
Quiet is a bible for introverts, and a rich encyclopedia for extroverts too. Thanks to a solid documentation, Susan Cain has collected myriads of information (don’t forget your pencil to underline the most striking excerpts!).
Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts express intimate facts about themselves online than their family and friends would be surprised to read, to say that they can express the “real me” online, and to spend more time in certain kinds of online discussions. They welcome the chance to communicate digitally. The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice. The same person who finds it difficult to introduce himself to strangers might establish a presence online and then extend these relationships into the real world.
From an historical point of view, you’ll learn about Dale Carnegie, also known as the very first self-help
book writer, and the ‘rise of the salesman’. The author also dwells on the long-lasting myth of the Extrovert Ideal that is prevalent in the Western world. Drawing information from works such as Jung’s (on personality), Elaine Aron’s (on hypersensitivity) or Jerome Kagan’s (on temperament in infancy), Cain gives the reader expansible scientific answers.
What the author genuinely achieves through this book is to prove that introverts can thrive, and she offers them all the tools to start on the acceptance path:
So stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don’t force yourself to seek breadth. If you prefer single-tasking to multi-tasking, stick to your guns. Being relatively unmoved by rewards gives you the incalculable power to go your own way.
Thus, Quiet will help introverts reconcile with themselves, extroverts understand introverts and make everyone on the spectrum work on their relation together, at home or in the workplace, in accordance with their respective personality. You will find that there’s a way to master your innermost powers as an introvert, and that most of your assumed weaknesses can in fact be turned into great strengths. Data, tests, anecdotes and historical references (many of the great men and women throughout history were indeed introverts) may place Quiet at the top of your Favorite Books list.
Have you read Quiet? How does such comments make you feel as an introvert or an extrovert?