I don’t know how many times I have thought to myself, “the next person to tell me I’m ‘too quiet’ is getting a punch in the face.”
I’ve never done it, but I’m still young.
Telling me that being quiet, introverted, or shy is the quickest way to make yourself look, frankly, rude and stupid to me. Because I’m not like you, there must be something wrong with me. This is the message introverts receive, whether intentional or not. We’re raised to believe we’re flawed, that introversion means something is broken. Well, it’s not.
Susan Cain discusses this idea in psychological depth in her book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.”
The title alone sums up a large idea of the book.
Whether in school or the workplace, so many good ideas are passed over because one group of people won’t shut up, and the other can’t speak up. This is why group work isn’t always as wonderful as it’s proclaimed to be, and why some of the best discussions and brainstorming sessions can be found online, because as Cain points out, for introverts, it can be easier to open up and share an idea in the controlled environment of the Internet.
Cain also discusses several other ideas, such as whether introversion or extroversion is a result of nature or nurture (or something in between) and the idea of being highly reactive and sensitive.
But Cain’s main focus, in each discussion, is that our society (our being American) has made it nearly a sin to be anything other than an extrovert. And by pressuring people to fit the mold, we lose out on a massive power source.
The book isn’t 250 pages of anti-extrovert propaganda, though. Cain makes it clear that, even as extroverts have a lot they can learn from introverts, introverts can also push themselves and learn a lot from extroverts. The point is, neither group is perfect, and neither group is flawed. They are being psychologically and biologically who they are.
This book was so refreshing to me. I get so tired of people telling me that being quiet is wrong. There is something wrong with me because of it.
People who don’t know me assume I’m a doormat and won’t stand up for myself or my opinions (people who know me would likely laugh at that idea, in certain contexts).
Some people who do know me (know being a relative term, I suppose) work themselves into hurt feelings because I don’t engage in meaningless small talk. I don’t like small talk.
This book is a great read for everyone. For extroverts, it helps them understand their introverted friends and loved ones (and I know a few people I wish would read this book and take it to heart). For introverts, it helps us understand ourselves a little better, put words and definitions to our feelings and characteristics, and understand how it can come across to others.
“Quiet” is a little bit of everything: a serving of self-help, a double portion of psychology, with a dash of teaching and parenting thrown in. And, it’s an interesting read.
If you take nothing away from this book, or this blog, take this one thing: imagine how it would feel if someone told you the thing that made you /you/ was wrong. Imagine how you would feel about yourself if everyone told you that a defining trait was a flaw, something you should “work on.” Because that is life for introverts. Is it really surprising, then, that so many of us say we don’t like other people?