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A balanced view of both introverts and extroverts

Quiet_B3_GQ_17Apr12_pr_b_592x888_1What I like enormously about this book is that Cain, with warm heart and with cool intellect celebrates and acknowledges the clear differences between introverts and extroverts, without denigrating either, but celebrating both.

Society has structured itself for far too long now around extrovert rules, particularly in the workplace – for example, open-plan offices, compulsory team building exercises and incentives, which favours an act now, high stimulation, extrovert mode of being. Many people are rendered unhappy and uneasy around an assumption that extroversion is the norm. Indeed, introversion gets linked with terminal shyness, lack of social skills and a borderline personality disorder according to these rules which markedly shift the goalpost to extroversion as a norm.

In fact, as Cain shows, BOTH extroversion and introversion are a genetically based (as220px-SusanCainPortrait_250px_20120305 well as environmentally influenced) mode of being, and animal, as well as human, behaviour falls into both sides of the spectrum – AND BOTH have advantages and disadvantages for survival. What is difficult for those on the introverted side of the spectrum is the fact that American culture particularly has structured itself as if extroversion is the functional norm, and therefore introversion gets fixed as dysfunction. There are many more introverts than one might think, who in that (and this) society are then left struggling somewhat. However, as Cain shows, other cultures, for example, China, have as a norm more co-operative, quieter, reflective modes as the way to be in the workplace.

This is not to say that there may not be many more introverts in the USA, or many more extroverts in China, merely that a decision is made ‘these are our culture’s norms’ and those outside those norms, even though they may be huge in weight of numbers, can struggle. I am intrigued, looking at the huge numbers of reviews of this book on Amazon’s USA site. Most of the reviews are positive – and I also imagine that most of the people wanting to read this book will tend to be towards the introversion side of the scale. The fault lies in a dominant view by one side of the scale, perceiving itself to be the norm – and therefore, another way of being gets perceived as abnormal. When it is just different.

She firmly shows that introversion per se does not link with terminal shyness and lack of social skills – in fact, as introverts tend to listen more, ask questions more in conversations, and want to hear the answers, she suggests there is another way of perceiving this which regards introversion and the tendency to empathy as a more natural bedfellow than extroversion and empathy.

party crowd

She prefers to look at extroversion as a state which needs more stimulation – a tendency to hypoarousal,so needing louder, brighter, faster in terms of stimulation in order to stay alert and vibrant, whereas the more sensitive introvert needs less stimulation – a tendency to hyperarousal, so needing less stimulation in order to avoid sensory overload.

Rather than castigating introverts for being indecisive, (thinks before acting) or castigating extroverts as being superficial and less deep thinking, (acts before thinking) she argues for a meeting place and a recognition that both modes of being are necessary and that the mistake is only in assuming that either norm is how people ‘should’ be. There are functional (and dysfunctional) extroverts and introverts. Neither state is, of itself, functional or dysfunctional.

I have read books which praise the state of introversion in an egotistical, unthinking and narcissistic fashion Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto, and, as a comfortable introvert, felt outraged by the introvert is best sense of superiority it was pushing. Yet the assumption that extroversion is the norm, and THAT implied superiority also outraged me.

So….here we have Cain, validating the differences, and judiciously showing better communication is needed, and that society will function better, both personally and in the workplace, if both ways of being are seen as natural and are catered for

I received this as an ARC from the Amazon Vine programme UK
Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World Which Can’t Stop Talking Amazon UK
Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World Which Can’t Stop Talking Amazon USA