Monday, 18 February 2013

Devouring Books: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

"How did we go from Character to Personality without realising that we had sacrificed something meaningful along the way?"

 I've been struggling to write about Quiet because it's a book that at the time I was a bit reticent to pick up at any point (I'm so not into non-fiction at the moment) but now that I've finished it I kind of can't stop thinking about it? And actually, it's not even that I can't stop thinking about it, so much as that something will come up and I'll be like 'oh man, I was just SUCH a classic introvert right there', and it's just made me really aware of a lot of my behaviour that I probably wouldn't have noticed before. Only, you know, in a less annoying way than that sounds.

So, Quiet. Basically it's a book about how awesome quiet people are, and how undervalued they are by society Western Societies, and actually parts of it read as an instruction manual: for teachers, on how to nurture introverted children, and for businesses, on why to hire introverts. It takes a look at the history of how introverts came to be so undervalued by, well, everyone, and then systematically looks at why that was wrong, and all the advantages there are to being an introvert in all aspects on ones life, and how it wouldn't hurt extroverts to look at the behaviour of introverts sometimes, and apply them to their own lives.

I can't even tell you how much I needed to read this book. I'm actually really secure with myself to what I think is sometimes an annoying degree, and I think a lot of that has to do with being an introvert- my brain is really good company for myself, and I always feel sad that there are people who must not like being alone inside their own heads, so seek out others to be around them all. The. Time. (I'm not saying this is true of ALL extroverts, but, you know, some of them.) But in spite of this, I've always felt that, when it's time to venture out of my bedroom and interact with other people that it's 'wrong' to be so quiet. To not always know what to say. To be bad at starting off conversations but ok at participating in them. To have more friends on the internet than I do in real life.

But no more! This book, honestly, feels like it could be a bit of a life-changer, even if it didn't feel that way at the beginning. Not in any major ways, but just knowing that hey, it's ok to be quiet, and it's ok to think that, when it comes to speaking, quality>quantity. Basically that, it's ok to be quiet because the world needs listeners just as much as it needs talkers, and right now, maybe it does even more so. There were a few things I was especially fascinated by, and I'm just going to bullet point them up right now:

  • That introverts are really uncomfortable with small talk when they don't know someone, but once they feel like they do, small talk is fine- This is SO accurate to what I'm like, only I really never realised it before. But I can't do small talk AT ALL, but I totally can once I'm more used to a certain person. Extroverts are apparently the opposite.
  • That introverts have trouble projecting artificial enthusiasm- I'm SO bad at this, (and also at lying in general) but I thought it was just me being an arsehole. Turns out that heyyyyy, it's just another introverted trait! (I also might still be an arsehole.)
  • I kind of already knew this, but I would be SO popular in China, where apparently in a study they asked children what they valued in their friends and they said 'being humble, altruistic, honest, hard-working', as opposed to American children who said 'being cheerful, enthusiastic and sociable'. Seriously, SO popular in China...
  • Public speaking is the number one fear in America.
  • "The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand or two million without thinking twice. The same person who finds it difficult to introduce himself to strangers might establish a presence online and then extend these relationships into the real world."- The internet=really good for introverts. Hey, writing is easier than speaking, amiright?
If you've been thinking that this book is anti-extrovert, then you would be wrong (and also kind of a douche. Like someone going to the NAACP and going 'you're so ANTI-WHITE!' You're missing THE POINT). But anyway. At many points, Cain talks about how good it is to have balance between introverts and extroverts, and I have to agree- I love extroverts, especially the ones that are good at getting other people to talk, and I find them way easier to talk to. The point isn't to say that extroverts are terrible people, but just to show how poorly valued introverts are, why this is the case, and then to prove that introverts DO have attributes that are worthy of attention and that wouldn't hurt EVERYONE to consider taking on, just like everyone NOW is expected to act like an extrovert. It's not a book about hating anyone, it's a book about appreciating everyone. And I love it.

I really think this is a book that anyone, introvert or not, can appreciate, and in fact, I think it's almost more important for extroverts to read to really get a better understanding of how introverts operate and why. I really think that it's the kind of book that tilts your view of the world juuust enough to have a new appreciation for all different kinds of people, rather than just the ones that society celebrates and puts on pedestals. There are times when we could all do with being a little quieter, and this book shows us why that's ok. Why, in fact, it's awesome. And I love it for that.

20 comments:

  1. Well this sounds like an interesting book. I agree that in our society it seems that being an extrovert is highly valued and quieter people can be overlooked, which sucks.

    I'm not an introvert but I have about the same number of friends online that I have in real life; the internet makes it so much easier to connect, I think a reason is that you can skip the small talk.

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    1. It DOES suck. And it's not like being extroverted is a bad thing, it's just that it's not the ONLY way to be. As this book has shown me :)

      I think the skipping the small talk thing is a big plus to online friendships, and also when you're blogging to begin with, it's like, you're not even sure that anyone's going to read anything you write, so you might as well just put all of yourself out there instead of something artificial, so you're being yourself at all times. Which is awesome for ze introverts, and, well, everyone!

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  2. Wow, how glad am I that this was totally one of my pre-New Year pre-orders and I HAVE A COPY RIGHT HERE. Phew, good call Ellie. I very much agree that reclaiming some kind of balance between the introverts and extroverts of the world would be nice. Like, not EVERYONE needs to join a million clubs and talk all the time and have ALL THE FRIENDS and be president of everything, y'know? Some people just like to listen and think and be... well, quiet. There isn't something fundamentally wrong with a kid who is quiet, or an adult who isn't super-sociable all the time - but sometimes these days it feels like society is trying to to imply that there IS. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, wonderful review, and if I enjoy it even HALFWAY as much as you did (which let's face it, I'm 99% sure I will) it should be a great read. :)

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    1. Good call Ellie indeeeeed! There genuinely isn't ANYTHING fundamentally wrong with people who like to be on their own a lot and don't talk all that much and, you know, read lots, but I've always kind of thought that was wrong? And so that I was a bit wrong? But now I feel a lot better :).

      I reckons you will like it too! It's a bit like 'mluergh, another study Susan?' when you're reading it (although that might have just been my mood) but now I just feel all warm and glowy about it hehehe.

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  3. I'm part way through reading this :D

    So far it's made me recognise that I am quite introverted, and that maybe me wanting to just stay at home at the weekends/in the evening isn't me being sad and pathetic and having no life, it's just the way that I am.. And there's nothing wrong with it!

    I'm not that far through it yet, but there was something in it about how introverts generally need time after socialising to just be by themselves.. which is definitely true for me!

    I'm looking forward to reading the rest of it, once I find the time (I'm reading 4 books at the moment, which is a little ridiculous as I'm only used to having 2 on the go at once, hmm).

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    1. Yaaaaay!

      That's EXACTLY what the book did for me! I mean, I wasn't exactly feeling BAD about wanting to stay at home and read and internet and like potter around, but I definitely thought it wasn't exactly what you were SUPPOSED to do, but... Hey, it's fine!

      That's true for me toooo! Well, I'm good for a little while, but if I like go away with people and I'm around them allllll the time, I definitely need some alone time after that!

      Duuuude, this thing which you describe is a total book blogger malady. I used to basically just read one book at a time (2, tops) but now it's just MADNESS. I'm trying to reel it back at the moment because I'm frustrated at NEVER FINISHING BOOKS, but I'm still reading 3! ARGH!

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  4. When I started reading this I thought my head was going to fall off with all the nodding in agreement. I think I'm the classic introvert. The annoying this is that I can talk for England when I'm comfortable but most of the time I just prefer to be quiet. It's not that I don't like talking...well, I don't hate it at least (small talk is the BANE of my life). I'm pretty much the complete opposite to everyone in my family so I have the reputation of being the weird, quiet, nerdy one. Lovely. But actually, to all those haters, I love being an introvert and this book is certainly making me think that being introverted isn't an awful thing even though I probably should embrace the odd extrovert. Share the love, learn some tricks and all that. Anyway, awesome review.

    All hail introverts.

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    1. I'm SUCH a classic introvert too. And ok, that talking for England when you're comfortable but other than that being quiet thing? TOTALLY WHAT I'M LIKE TOO! I don't hate talking in general either, it's just that I don't always have things to say, and when other people don't have things to say, sometimes they just talk anyway. And I HATE that.

      I really just like how this book is just like 'um, YEAH it's fine to be an introvert, and better than that, you know what? It's actually GOOD.' Feels pretty awesome. I'm still totally impressed by extroverts, I just know for a fact that I basically can't be like that, and that's ok too! :)

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  5. Sounds interesting, and it's nice to be reminded how undervalued I am ;-) Next time the honeyman picks on me for being bad at starting conversations with people, I'll remind him that there's a whole book saying that that's okay!

    But seriously, cool topic of discussion. And I am SO with you about being comfortable inside your own head. I love my own company. I NEED my alone time. And it makes me sad that some people (my siblings, mostly) are so uncomfortable being alone with their own thoughts that instead they feel the need to be out and surrounded by people all the time. It's a weird culture we live in.

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    1. Yeah! Yeaaaah! I mean, it's a biological thing, it's not just a, like, 'I can't be bothered' thing. WE CAN'T HELP IT!

      Yesssssss for loving your own company! I'm not sure that like all extroverts DISLIKE their own company, but there must be a lot that do, maybe only because they've never been alone long enough to really get to know themselves. That sentence sounds kind of schizo and crazy, but it isnnnn't! As you know :)

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  6. I really should read this book.
    And I'm now convinced that you have not only stolen my personality, but my worries too! :P

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    1. Definitely!
      Haha, HOW DID YOU FIND OUT?! But no for reals, introverts forevs!

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    1. Do iiiiiit! Honestly perspective changing :)

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  8. Ah, I need to read this book. Great review - thanks for emphasizing that it's not anti-anything, just pro-everything. Makes me want to read it even more.

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    1. You doooooo! (Everyone does). I did feel like I needed to emphasise that, because there were points where I was reading it where I was a bit like 'hmmm, are you being sort of prejudiced against introverts, lady?' but then she'd go 'extroverts are lovely! I love hanging out with them!' and I'd be like oh, no, you're not! It's just, yeah, obviously she's talking about introverts and their strengths and also how they can be useful to extroverts, because, well, that's what her book's about. There's never any like, 'and this is what's WRONG with extroverts' because that's very much not the point of anything.

      That was such a long paragraph for a comment...

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  9. After seeing this YouTube video that I think was sponsored by this post about introverts I really want to read this one. I don't know if I'm an introvert (or maybe a shy extrovert) but it sounds so interesting either way.

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    1. It is waaaaay interesting! And I think definitely interesting if you're not sure if being an introvert even applies to you. Cause you could be reading it and then go 'Ohmigosh, this is me! (more or less)' So, you know, fun!

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  10. I nearly nodded my head right off while reading your review so, of course, must acquire this book as soon as possible. Thank you!

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  11. Wow, all those bullet points apply to me. I can be outgoing in a group of people I know and am very familiar with but doing small talk with people I don't know it's torture.

    I actually like that I'm an introvert, that I prefer take time to gather my thoughts before I speak. (Is that pretentious?) I like being focused and in my head rather than being the center of attention.

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