Friday, March 22, 2013

Book Review: Quiet

I've been having something of an identity struggle lately. I know part of this is because I live in China and already feel a bit isolated. I know part of it is that I live and work with folks who are far more social than I am. But, a recent experience left me feeling completely awful about myself and the fact that I really *do* prefer to be by myself a lot of the time. When I hang out with folks I far prefer quiet bars, coffee shops, restaurants and parks to crowded clubs, noisy streets, and parties. If folks decide to go out at 10:00pm, I 'm already asleep.

Often, I feel as though I'm my own worst enemy. That I should change and be a night-owl who enjoys lots of people around her. I've been told that this is the only way I will make friends or find a partner.

Then, I read Quiet. 

Susan Cain, the author, asserts that in the United States we reward outgoing behavior. Businesses are built on extroverted networking, people believe that the most outspoken are the most intelligent, and the  squeakiest wheel often gets promoted.  Yet, according to Quiet, it is assumed that around 50% of the population are introverts.

Some characteristics of introverts: small groups of close friends, needs alone time, works better alone than in groups {or at least needs alone time to plan and organize thoughts before collaborating}, generally likes reading and solitary pursuits. Sound like anyone you know?

Of course, this is a generalization. Many introverts can be extroverted when needed, or in certain situations. In a classroom I am extremely extroverted, both as a student and a teacher. I am an outgoing manager and challenge course facilitator. Around people I know well I'm loud. But, I still value the time when I go home and sit by myself in my apartment or a park bench, getting lost in a novel.
For one of the first times, I felt validated as an introvert. I realized I don't have to change who I am to be successful, make friends, or have fun. Could I broaden my horizons a bit? Who couldn't? There are always ways to improve and be more social, but there's no need to feel inadequate.

If you are an introvert, know an introvert, manage introverts, are partnered with an introvert you should read this book. Cain presents us with interesting anecdotes, powerful statistics, and a nicely written narrative. She often states the same things twice and the book can get repetitive, but overall this was a valuable book that I highly recommend.

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