Sunday, July 13, 2014

"Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain

Two of my friends recommended I read this book.  I'm glad they did.  I'm almost finished with it, and I can tell you that it's definitely worth your time.  It should be required reading for educators and business people, but really, every parent---every person---should be at least familiar with the basic ideas presented in Cain's book.  It will make you think about yourself, those you love, and those you interact with.  It will make you question some of your own deeply-rooted perceptions.  It did for me.

Some of the people I love most in the world are "quiet" types.  They prefer to let others take the spotlight, they are more concerned with doing things right than getting credit or recognition, and they like to work, problem-solve, and create....alone.  They don't need collaboration to come up with their best ideas but of course, they can participate very successfully in these things.  It's just not where their best work happens, or where they feel most at peace. 

Some of the world's greatest thinkers and creators are this type of person---introverted.  Yet, our society seems to put those of a more extroverted nature on a pedestal, as if that personality were somehow superior---something we should all be working towards.  We are highly focused on collaboration and group work, which have their place, but as Cain's research shows, those are usually not the contexts in which great ideas actually come up.

Both types of people are needed and of course, there is a huge range in between.  Susan Cain gives a wonderful example of how both types are needed when she discusses Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.  Rosa was more introverted, yet her "quiet" action was world-changing.  I'll let you read the chapter on this, but she goes into quite a bit of depth on this subject, and it definitely made me think.

Cain tackles all kinds of issues related to personality, leadership, learning styles, cultural perceptions of success, creativity, and how we perceive (or have been trained to perceive) others based on how introverted or extroverted they are.

I don't know where I am on the spectrum.  I'm out-going, but I definitely get re-charged by quiet time, as well.  I am definitely a "fill the empty conversation space" person, though, and I've noticed that, again---some of the people I love most---are okay with silence. They feel no responsibility to "fill the air with words" like I sometimes do.  Is this an introvert/extrovert thing?

Oh, another epiphany for me is that being introverted is not the same as being shy, nor is it the same as not being confident.   Some of the quietest people are busy doing the best thinking and taking the most meaningful actions.

This just made me think, particularly as a parent and as a teacher.  Do we honor those who prefer to think on their own, who don't need to verbalize every thought they have?  Do we give that type of thinking the credit it deserves, or are we constantly trying to shape people into the out-spoken type?  I don't know the answer, but it makes me think.

Anyway, those are my random thoughts on this book.  It's much better than I can articulate here, so just read it.  Enjoy!

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