My fourth pick for the KC Public Library’s While the City Sleeps reading program was Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I wanted to read this one for a few reasons, but mostly because for a long time I’ve felt like I’m in the middle—sometimes I feel like I’m super extroverted, and other times I’m much more of an introvert. And it’s not about being around different people or in different situations… like, how people say “showing different sides of yourself” or whatever. I always feel like I’m being myself and not “performing” or putting out a false personality in any situation. I always knew I wasn’t shy, but as a kid there were plenty of times I would be just fine alone in my room, having some quiet downtime after a busy, fun school day (and I did always like school and had fun there). I just couldn’t figure out how I could be both; is that a real thing?
Quiet answered that for me, and explained a lot more. I wouldn’t quite say this is a definitive, super scientific textbook tome or anything, but it is an enjoyable, fairly quick read to get you thinking about the subject of introversion and its perception in American society. Susan Cain divides Quiet into three parts—first, it discusses the “extrovert ideal” in the business world, and how introverts (and their talents and strong points) can easily be overlooked in this current societal model. I never knew there was a connection between business workplace environments and the modern classroom setup! The second part examines biological and scientific studies in determining personality traits/behaviors in introverts and extroverts—testing babies’ reactions to objects, chemical processes in the brains, etc. The third part asks if other cultures have the same extrovert ideal as the US, and the final part talks about introversion in work, family, and romantic relationships. Most other reviews of the book I read online were positive, but a few said that it has an “us-versus-them” attitude, but I didn’t get that at all. In fact, Quiet has several mentions of how the world needs both introverts and extroverts, and says how they can effectively and productively work, play, and live together! As an extrovert reading Quiet I didn’t feel like the author was saying introversion is better than extroversion, or vice versa.
I recognized many of the introverted traits in myself, but mostly I discovered a phrase that could describe my personality better than my conflicted description above: I think I might be a “sensitive” or “introverted” extrovert. I feel comfortable in large crowds (from a big loud family) and I’m not intimidated about performing or speaking on stage in front of people (I’m a musician), I like parties, I like going out, I like a large circle of friends. But on the other hand, I’m happy partaking in solitary activities too like reading (duh!), writing, working on my music, I enjoy my own company for long stretches of time, etc. I’m also fine with going out by myself—as a performing arts critic occasionally I prefer it to attending a concert I’m reviewing with a plus-one.
After reading Quiet, I took a variation on the Myers-Briggs personality type quiz online and got ENFJ: Extravert, iNtuition, Feeling, Judging. Seems pretty accurate! My husband is definitely an introvert, as are a number of close and extended family members. Now I get why I have felt so personally hurt when my husband shuts his office door, even though we’re not spending time together at that moment! I think that Quiet more than anything else upholds introversion as totally normal, reinforces that quietness is NOT a personality flaw, and celebrates it for all its positive qualities.
Quiet was my fourth read of five books total for the 2013 KC Library Adult Winter Reading Program: While the City Sleeps, hosted by the Kansas City Public Library.
Read from February 16 to 25, 2013.