“Our lives are shaped as profoundly by personality as by gender or race. And the single most important aspect of personality—the ‘north and south of temperament,’ as one scientists puts it—is where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. Our place on this continuum influences our choice of friends and mates, and how we make conversation, resolve differences, and show love” – Susan Cain
One day it was announced that our company was planning on closing down a few buildings, in an effort to save money, and was moving everyone to a newly built modern building at our company’s original location. This new modern building would have open cubicles—with no walls whatsoever—to encourage discussion, open collaboration, and the sharing of ideas between coworkers. I immediately dreaded the idea of having to hold phone conversations out in the open and working while constantly feeling the gaze of my fellow employees who no longer were hidden behind my cubicle walls. Why on earth would they think that this is a good idea?!, is what I constantly found myself asking in frustration. This concept is being adopted by a lot of companies and corporations in what is being labeled as “groupthink,” or as Susan calls it “the New Groupthink.”
In Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, she deals with these issues and many others from the perspective of introverts, like myself. The book does an excellent job of detailing older research, when the personality traits of introversion were first being studied, up to today’s research, with its use of current technology (fMRI – functional magnetic resonance imaging), used in researching why introverts think and act in certain ways. Quiet does an excellent job of showing the results of such research, without diving too in depth or being too exacting, in the psychology or science behind specific traits. I found myself relating, nodding my head in agreement, smiling, and even laughing aloud at the certain characteristics and traits describing introversion.
There are certain cases of actual clients and people who were researched and interviewed by Susan Cain that bring to light a lot of interesting contradictions between introverts and extroverts. The book does not favor one personality trait over the other, and even makes a point of mentioning that not everyone will fall completely into one side or the other. There are introverts who are perfectly fine when making speeches and interacting socially, and there are extroverts who will occasionally seek out solitude away from the spotlight. There are varying degrees of introversion and extroversion. Then there are those lucky individuals, who are sometimes referred to as “ambiverts,” who have, essentially, the best of both worlds. As the foremost expert on myself, I can without a doubt say that I am a true introvert. I dread social events, will decline invitations, I don’t seek out open praise or the spotlight, I’m a disaster when speaking in front of a group, I’m better at working on tasks in solitude, and I’m perfectly content in quiet company with a good book. Yet these traits also enable me to focus more intensely on tasks, to be more persistent in the face of failure, and to seldom feel boredom with the things that I believe are deserving of my attention.
Quiet does an excellent job of stating the case that not everyone is made to fit into a certain one-size-fits-all category that has been the constant in our society. From expected social interaction, school systems, and even the corporate world, this ideal seems to be the norm that if you have nothing to say, then you clearly have nothing to contribute—which, as most introverts know, is not always the case. Susan Cain does a phenomenal job of letting those quiet individuals know that it’s okay to be an introvert! Revel in the fact that you are in the company of great individuals! We are who we are, and we all shine in our own ways. This is a brilliant book, written by a brilliant introvert who felt the need to speak up, and should be read by both introverts and extroverts alike.