(For those of you wondering how our daughter is doing, here is the latest update. Now back to our regularly scheduled blog post.)
Title: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Con't Stop Talking
Author: Susan Cain
My Content Rating: G
If you are an introvert who grew up in America, you very likely felt like there was something wrong with you. Like you should speak up more in class, make more friends, be more popular, assert yourself to get what you want.
I know this is how I've always felt. What I love about this book is that it points out that introverts are not wrong -- with a ridiculous amount of psychological studies to back it up -- but we feel that way because American culture subscribes to the idea that extroverts are where it's at.
The thing is (according to the book, though I found very little in the book that I disagreed with) extroverts and introverts have different strengths, and different weaknesses. Studies show that, in general,* extroverts are better under pressure and better at motivating the unmotivated (for example), but they're not always good at sticking with problems or treating warning signs with caution.
Introverts, on the other hand, are pretty terrible under pressure, but excel when given the chance to observe and contemplate. They have a tendency to focus on things they're passionate about, stubbornly following it through to the end (sound familiar?).
This book did an amazing thing for me. On the one hand, it helped me realize that I'm not stuck being who I am. Introverts can be every bit as friendly, social, and even extroverted about subjects they're passionate about, especially when given the chance to observe and prepare (and provided they carve out spaces to recharge themselves).
At the same time, it helped me realize that, hey, this is who I am. There's nothing wrong with introversion. It's just a different style. And it comes with its own strengths (focus, preparedness, higher immunity to groupthink) to make up for our weaknesses (small talk, public speaking, overstimulation).
The numerous statistics and psychological studies might be too much for some (though I loved them). But I'd recommend this book to almost everybody: introverts for sure, but also the extroverts who love them, and especially the extroverts who think we need to be fixed.
Where do you fall on the spectrum? I'm a ridiculous introvert (if you haven't figured that out), though it didn't stop me from being a worship pastor for two years. I'm still trying to find that strength in me again.
* This "in general" is very important. Everybody's different, and introversion/extroversion is a spectrum, rather than two sides of a coin. Susan repeatedly points this out in the book.
It helps you identify weak points in your own writing. You know that whole plank/speck thing? All those things you can't see in your own writing are easier to see in someone else's. And the cool thing is, the more you do it, the more likely you are to catch them in your own work.
It helps you learn from people's strengths. Like, I'm terrible with the descriptions. So when I'm critiquing for someone whose good at them, I'm all, "Oo, how did she do that!" And because I'm in critiquing mode (instead of reading mode) I actually pay attention to the answer.
It helps you make friends. People like it when you do something for them, and they almost always offer to pay it back. It's an easy way to build solid relationships, which for an introvert like me is critical.
But the downside to critiquing is this: