Tag Archives: introvert

Book Review – Quiet by Susan Cain

quietI’ve just finished reading Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I’ve been reading it for a month which I know is a long time to be reading one book but it made me think so much I kept having to stop and reflect. It’s so interesting!

I was drawn to the book as I’ve long classified myself as an introvert. I’m someone who needs time alone to re-charge my batteries, who prefers socialising one-on-one or in small groups (rather than big parties), who can feel overwhelmed if there is too much stimulus – too many loud noises, different demands on my attention, or a new or changing environment. I like reading and writing and drawing and thinking. I need time to reflect. I want to really get to know people and am utterly frustrated by (and useless at) small talk. These are all classic introvert traits.

Despite being aware of all this upfront, I still found the book eye-opening. Cain has done so much research and explores the extent to which western society has promoted the ‘extrovert ideal’ and has, over the last century, set itself up in a way that often undervalues the many different strengths that introverts have, making it more difficult for them to thrive. It sets out to redress the balance proving what this group – one third to one half of people – have historically done for society and looking at ways in which we can support rather than undermine them now and with our next generation.

Having read the blurb on the back I thought it was going to be a rather one-sided book and yes, as an introvert, you do read it thinking ‘blimey, we’re awesome, hooray for us!’ but nevertheless, the author makes a case for the necessity for both introverts and extroverts in society. Extroverts bring us boldness, risk-taking, the ability to bring people together, to socialise on a large scale, to inspire, to enthuse and excite. They love being surrounded by others and thrive on the energy of groups. Who hasn’t been drawn to an extrovert’s warmth, charisma and social ease?! I know I have!

But introverts, ah, introverts, they bring so much to the table – quiet courage, fortitude, resolve, creativity, reflective intelligence and an ability to form deep bonds with others, to inspire and guide through connection and understanding. Introverts populate the arts and have been responsible for amazing scientific break-throughs. Who hasn’t been drawn to an introvert’s passion, dedication, or desire to forge a meaningful relationship? I really, really have!

Cain is American and it sounds like the ‘extrovert ideal’ is even stronger there than it is here in the UK, with extroversion as the desirable expectation, introverted qualities often frowned upon and with schools and businesses set up in ways which benefit the former at the expense of the latter. But still, a lot rang true for this country too. Open plan offices? No good for introverts who need time on their own to think, reflect and plan. Lots of group work in schools and an expectation of speaking out in front of the class? Exhausting and overwhelming for introverted kids who function much better on their own or with one or two others, and for many of whom, speaking out is terrifying.

The book looks at ways to bring out the best in introverted children and how to understand ourselves as introverted adults. It shows how understanding yourself can help you deal with all sorts of situations. It explores solutions for possible stumbling blocks in introvert/extrovert relationships and also makes clear that there are various different aspects to personality and that shyness and introversion, though they often go together, do not have to. Oh, and the myth that introverts are ‘antisocial’ is kicked to the curb. Yes, introverts don’t require lots of social interaction the way extroverts do but human connection is another thing entirely. Introverts love to talk meaningfully and really get to know people.

I didn’t identify with all the points Cain makes about introversion (to the extent that I’m honestly wondering if I’m actually an ambivert – yes, really, it’s a thing). I think I’m rather emotionally upfront and feisty and not enough of a ‘delicate orchid’ (yes, that term is really used.. hmmm) to truly fit the bill. I also think I have more need for social contact than the classic introvert Cain describes – one of my groups of friends refers to me as their ‘social secretary’ because I’m so keen to get us all together (I love them, so who can blame me?!) and I’m forever texting and emailing friends, arranging to see people and making time for my besties. There was also a bit in the book about conflict within romantic relationships which was all about introverts avoiding arguments and not really saying what they felt and I was like, ‘difficulty expressing emotion?! Er, haha, no that’s not me at all!’ Let’s just say I burn hot!

But then again, as Cain states, you’re highly unlikely have all the traits of a specific category. We all differ and there’s no need place ourselves in a category and let it define all our actions and expectations forevermore. I think like many things in life, it’s a spectrum and you can have some attributes and not others. Also, we all have to be free to feel and react differently in different situations. Cain discusses the possibility of adopting an ‘extroverted persona’ to get through certain tasks and I can well imagine this persona becoming a familiar part of yourself if well used enough. For me at least, the book is less about ultimate classification and more about gaining a better understanding of ourselves and our fellow human beings.

There’s so much in this book, I’m just skimming the surface here and all I can really do is recommend you read it for yourself. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert there’s lots to learn. If you’ve never understood certain aspects of your personality or your relationships with others it could be massively eye-opening – life changing, even – and it’s very interesting to read as a parent too.

I’ll finish with a quote from the book:

“The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk.”

Quiet might just help you find your light… and let yourself shine.

rabbit in the headlights – introvert alert!

lamp
*Sneaks on to blog*

*Looks around furtively*

*Whispers* “Who’s here? Is it just us?.. good… ok… huddle up and we can have a chat.”

See, last week was a bit of a crazy week on this blog. If you’ve read my last post: on being a revolutionary (hahaha to that, I’m mean, I’m just not.) You’ll know that I wrote a post about education called No, Mr Cameron, No. that made, by my (admittedly teeny) standards, a huge splash. It got shared on social media far beyond the realms of anything I’ve ever written before, I was inundated with positive comments and reactions and was contacted by so many people (parents and teachers across the country) to say ‘thank you’ and ‘yes, I feel the same’ and ‘what now?’. I spent hours and hours (across days and days) on social media chatting about the content of the post, what it meant and what could happen next.

And in the space of seven days my blog went from its usual number of weekly views (in the low/mid hundreds) to being viewed ten thousand times. TEN THOUSAND. I mean, how amazing! Ten thousand people reading my words! Ok, they may not have all read the whole article or whatever but still – how exciting! How thrilling! How… how…

… terrifying!

I’m just not used to it, you see. Not remotely. I’m used to this blog generally just being read by a few people. Just my little ‘tribe’ – my collection of like-minded people who have gravitated towards each other the past few years. When I write, I’m really thinking of them. I mean, I know this blog is public so anyone can read it and and I’m glad of that – I like new readers! But the experience last week was kind of like… ok, I’m going to ask you to imagine it:

You’re sitting, relaxed, legs curled up under you, favourite comfy jumper on, chatting to friends. Everyone is on squashy sofas and armchairs, surrounded by cushions and fleecy throws… the room is lit by a few table lamps… there’s a wood burning stove in the corner radiating a gentle warmth. Candles flicker from the side tables sending shadows dancing across your friends faces as you all giggle at a joke or gasp at a revelation. There’s cup of hot tea in your hand and plate of freshly baked biscuits on the coffee table in front of you which you’re all dipping into as you chat. Just a few of you. Dim light. Cosy room.

And then…

WHAM. Someone turns on the overhead light and, oh! Your little selection of armchairs and sofas turns out to be in the middle of an arena. There are microphones above you recording every word you say and transmitting it to thousands of people. And look up, yes, UP – see that enormous screen above you? Wave! Yes that’s you! Ok, let’s have some questions and comments from the audience! Do your best to answer them all!

arena

I mean, don’t get me wrong, last week was AMAZING! I was THRILLED at all the likes and shares and comments and support (I think my husband may have got a bit sick of me showing him my blog stats and saying ‘Guess how many views now?!”– I wasn’t remotely cool about it!). I was genuinely moved by people’s responses (I may even have cried a bit at some of the ones from teachers) and it felt AWESOME to have connected with people like that. It really showed me the power of words and gave me a massive confidence boost.

But each night when I clambered into bed (far later than I intended because I’d got caught up in a chat on Twitter or FB or whatever) my head would be spinning. I felt like I’d been at a busy party in full-on social mode. And honestly, busy parties when I’m required to go into full-on social mode exhaust the crap out of me. (I have been known to go to the loo just to get some peace and quiet in such situations!).

But it’s ok. Because my blog hits have gone back down now. Not back to where they started (yet) but the arena-feeling has gone. And I know, before you say it, ten thousand views isn’t that many anyway, not if you write for a big publication or if your blog has considerably more views than mine. But it’s all relative. When your posts routinely reach maybe a hundred people and overnight, they suddenly reach thousands and thousands, that feels huge. When you write something and share it only once on Facebook and it still ends up in the ‘other people shared this’ scrolling bit, that feels huge. Last week just felt huge.

And I’m one for the quiet life. So lets have little chat. Just us.

Pass the biscuits, would you?

Writing Bubble
And then the fun began...