Quiet is a word I’ve always identified with. I wasn’t much of a talker growing up and loved my retreats into solitude where I could find creative ways to entertain myself. I always wondered why I was so quiet and often longed to be more outgoing; so when I ran across Susan Cain’s Ted Talk, you can bet it immediately struck a cord with me. I loved it. I was so intrigued that I just had to find out more.
I picked up Quiet - The power of Introverts... expecting to come out of the listening experience with a profound understanding of what it was that made me tick and how to use a deeper understanding of this personality trait to my advantage in my personal and professional life but ehh… I don’t think I can say I completely got what I was looking for. Though the book is filled with interesting gems, it didn’t quite deliver when it came to helping me craft my plan for total world domination (not that it promised to deliver that). There are a few tips for making the most out of your introversion but the book is so story-heavy that the tips almost get lost.
What I did enjoy was the affirmative tone (Think SNL’s old “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” skit.) Off the bat, Quiet hits the nail on the head with statements like: “Fast talkers are ranked as more competent and likable than slow ones even though there is zero correlation between the gift of gab and good ideas.” It goes on to state: “We perceive talkers as smarter than quiet types. Even though grade point averages and SAT and intelligence test scores reveal this perception to be inaccurate.” Amen sister.
The book does a great job of encouraging its readers to embrace their introverted temperaments and discourages us from doing this silly thing we do of trying to pass for extrovert. I’m so guilty of this and I'm just now learning to embrace my introversion. As part of the supporting argument, the book lists several accomplished and famous introverts like Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs. Here is where if you’re an introvert, you start to feel pretty awesome knowing you’re in such great company. So I get it, we’re supposed to stay true to our own nature because this is who we are but conversely, Susan knows that this is a world run by extroverts who are drawn to other extroverts. She even states so in the book. I don’t think I can realistically expect to get ahead if I refuse to display at least a few extrovert qualities. Though some introverts still manage to find success staying completely true to who they are, I feel like the cards are stacked against me that respect.
It seems as if Susan thinks that we should simply be who we are and let the rest of the world adapt to us. While I think this is a noble idea, I feel like I’ll personally experience time travel before I see this happen. Time and time again, I’ve witnessed the introvert get passed up for the fast-talking, boisterous extrovert. I strongly believe we still have to play the game and the game for introverts, includes sometimes stretching the limitations of your comfort. Sometimes it’s in your best interest to mingle and network and participate in meetings and discussions even though you’d rather be spaced out somewhere alone in your own personal Shangri-La. The universe thinks extroverts are awesome and it’s going to take more than this book and a refusal to acclimate to convince it that we introverts are just as awesome (or even awesomererer).
The references to the Introvert/Extrovert study by Jerome Kagan were the best things to happen to Quiet. They provided me with some of the deep insight that I was looking for when it came to understanding why I was quiet. As a child I always thought something was wrong with me. Perhaps, if I had some of this information back then, it might have spared me a lot of worry. I wanted so much more of this type of information but instead I got stories and more stories. Don’t get me wrong, some of the anecdotes were insightful and encouraging but it felt like there were far too many of them and they seemed to drag on forever. Admittedly, I nearly fell asleep on several occasions (I drive to work remember? DANGER DANGER). Even the reader of the audio book spoke in a quiet, lifeless tone. I found myself quickly turning off the audio and switching to the radio on full blast in order to wake myself up again. Jeez Louise, had this book been about half its size, I may have felt a little differently about it. In the end, yes, it moved me a little but no major strides were taken here. It was just okay.
Thanks for reading. Let’s continue to make those quiet power moves ladies.