Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Both a good friend and my mother-in-law recommended this book to me in the course of two days, so I figured I should pick it up. It’s only $2.99 on Amazon for Kindle right now, so if you’re interested I say seize the moment and order it.
I am an introvert with some outgoing tendencies. I’d almost always rather stay in at night than go out for the sake of going out, but I do love being active during the day (a long walk alone or with my husband, exploring a new neighborhood, is kind of my version of heaven). I love to read, love to analyze things, and just generally enjoy thinking through issues to come up with solutions to problems. I don’t have a problem with public speaking (I give presentations often at conferences), but I loathe ‘networking’ and have a hard time making small talk with people I don’t know.
Being an introvert in the U.S. can be a challenge, and this book focuses on the ways U.S. society holds extroverted personality types up as the ideal, and how that isn’t necessarily beneficial to individuals OR to society. Working in teams, being a confident public speaker, and feeling good networking or marketing one’s self are all seen as end goals that introverts need to overcome, as opposed to what they really are: ways of doing things that work for some people but not for all.
When reading this book I was reminded of when the new CEO of Yahoo cut all telecommuting options off. When I read comments on some of these articles (I know, I know, but stick with me here) I was sort of amazed at how many people took the position that if you feel more comfortable working at home and not in a big open plan office with the “team,” then you weren’t the kind of person who deserved to work in the tech industry. The implication was that success comes to those who thrive in that type of environment; everyone else was either worthless or needed to ‘overcome’ their preferences for solitary work to get ahead. I think that’s bullshit, and this book provides support for my assessment.
It is not my favorite book; I found that it wasn’t organized in a way that necessarily best presented her arguments, and the last chapter on raising introverted children seemed important but also sort of tacked on. But Ms. Cain makes some good points about the benefits of allowing people to work within what feels comfortable to them; it’s not about allowing everyone to stay safely within their comfort zones, but instead about recognizing that there are different comfort zones, and forcing a minority of one type of person out of theirs to accommodate the majority of another type isn’t the way to get the best out of people. I will definitely return to it for reference when I am faced with those arguing that my introversion is some sort of flaw to be overcome as opposed to a strength.