By Kellie Burke
America is a country of the extrovert ideal. We respect leaders who make convincing speeches or command a room. We want to be the person who is the life of the party and are fascinated with celebrities who take center stage. We do not tend to be awe-inspired by the people who sit on the sidelines, listening and thinking to what is going on around them.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain examines the role of introverts and dispels a few myths about them along the way. Introverts are not necessarily shy, nor do they hate people. Being shy means a person has anxiety being around other people, which may affect their ability to work or socialize. Introverts simply need more time to recharge on their own before their next social encounter. They can converse at parties or lead large meetings but will need time on their own as a mental break. In comparison, extroverts feed off of other people and get their energy from being in large groups. They get easily bored or antsy if they are left on their own for too long.
The most fascinating part of Cain’s book is her examination of the groupthink mentality. American businesses have started to stress the idea of working in teams and collaborating versus huddling down in an office and working on your own. From group meetings to open concept office buildings the attitude is that a large group of people will have better results than if they worked on their own. This way of working has translated into our schools, where group work and learning to work well with others is a top priority. Cain’s research shows that working in groups is not always the best method for forming new ideas and that more balance needs to be brought into both the workplace and in education. She points out how innovated thinkers like Steve Wozniak came up with their ideas working by themselves and that people feel freer to be creative when they do not have the pressure of an audience.
Cain is not trying to argue that introverts are better. Rather she is explaining how an introvert thinks, what qualities introverts have that make them good leaders or workers, and why American society should stop trying to change people’s introverted natures. This book is great for extroverts to sit down and understand their counterparts, and to recognize that there is a lot more going on in their favorite introvert’s head then they realize! And for us introverts? Finally we have a book that explains us and why we’re okay just the way we are.