After decades of fighting against a societal norm that was starving my soul and crushing my spirit, I discovered I was, indeed, a highly motivated introvert. This was a bit counter-reputational, if you get my drift, but explained so much of my constant internal struggle and state of exhaustion.
Susan Cain, in an engaging, anecdotal tone, shares powerful truths about the role and function of introverts in a Western world largely dominated by the sheer, overwhelming, influence of the extroverted ideal.
Starting with an historical shift, in the late 18th century from a “character based” to a “personality-based” culture, we began to feed our fascination with celebrity and the snazzy Hollywood persona. We discovered the power of public opinion and wished to tap into ourselves.
Mr. Carnegie, himself, through the cultivation of the quest for an entertaining public image which drove sales on his book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, is still the most influential business book in the 20th century.
“America had shifted from what the influential cultural historia Warren Susman called a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality—and opened up a Pandora’s Box of personal anxieties from which we would never quite recover. “ (p.21)
Throughout the well-developed thoughts expressed within the pages of Quiet, the author talks about the Extrovert Ideal, the biological predisposition to introversion/extroversion, comparison of cultural responses to these traits, and then insight into relationships and our professional worlds.
For me, this was an eye-opening and insightful read from beginning to end, yet, perhaps the most enlightening portion was found in the following two phrases:
“Double pneumonia and an overscheduled life can happen to anyone, of course…but [for the Professor] it was the result of acting out of character for too long and without enough restorative niches. (emphasis mine)”
“Others seem aloof and self-contained, but their inner landscapes are rich and full of drama. So, the next time you see a person with a composed face and a soft voice, remember that insider her mind she might be solving an equation, composing a sonnet, designing a hat. She might, that is, be deploying the powers of quiet.”
Ms. Cain offered not just permission to consider introversion as a strength but logical explanations regarding the benefit of encouraging those among us who don’t fit the Extrovert Ideal.
Go, read this book. It will encourage you; my fellow Introvert, or it will help you, the mysterious and confusing Extrovert, in your effort to relate to those in your life who live more quietly.