Well, Quiet was quite an illuminating read. I read most of this thinking this is me. We introverts have long been thought of as being something less than our extroverted peers, living under what this book explains as the Extrovert Ideal. In work and social life, we are expected to outgoing, team players. That awkwardness you feel when you’re asked what you’re doing at the weekend and you have a lovely two days of peace and quiet but you think your colleagues won’t understand? That’s the Extrovert Ideal at work. Life expects us to be extroverts.
However this lovely book shows the positive side of introverts; all that we can achieve if we are just left to be who we are, and how we cope in a world not set up for us. It highlights that it is a spectrum of personalities rather than black or white, shows how both nature and nurture shape who we become. It’s crazy to think that introverts can be identified when they are babies (they are, ironicaly, the noisier ones) although that does not mean they will be shy children.
In fact, introverts have a huge capacity for empathy and will likely be the kind of friends that people treasure. And there’s always the introverts that learn to fake it, so many people just find it easier to have a work or social persona when required, and then in their personal lives, they get to have that all important down time.
One of the key differences between the two personalities is how we feel after a day full of interacting with people. Extroverts will feel energised by this, wanting to carry on the feeling, whilst introverts will feel drained and just want some quiet time alone. Introverts are just more sensitive to stimuli and this is just how our brains work. I found the brain bits fascinating and it all makes perfect sense.
If personal space is vital to creativity, so is freedom from peer pressure.
There’s a little bit of self-help in places too, that won’t just help introvert readers but also people managers and parents could learn a lot from this book. There’s a fair amount that revolves around business, as work is such a huge part of adult life, but it explains so well why some jobs just don’t feel right. Then there’s the part that looks at why some people take bigger risks…and how that’s linked to extroverted behaviour. Most importantly, the book emphasises how a mix of both types makes the world, and businesses, work smoother.
There are a few examples of successful extroverts throughout the book, from Wozniak to Einstein as well as some of the author’s acquaintances (and the author herself). Interestingly, Josh had recently read How to Win Friends and Influence People, and Dale Carnegie is cited as a possible catalyst for the Extrovert Ideal in America, despite him being a natural introvert. He changed his personality and created a generation of charming, out-going salespeople with his training and writing.
Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are.
It’s all from a very American perspective, but we are very heavily influenced in business matters, as well as cultural, by the US over here. Even though Europeans are repeatedly called extroverts, it doesn’t take into account the cultural differences between different countries. I would say Britain probably falls somewhere between Asia and America on the spectrum. Just look at the Very British Problems Twitter account, so much of that is introverted behaviour, and we all nod at it.
I did finish the book feeling I understood the American psyche a little better, but also I now know so much more about extroverts, the people who have always seemed a little alien to me. Perhaps I will be better able to manage my behaviour around them as well as talking them round to the introverted way of doing things now and then. I am also super grateful that I have ended up in a workplace that values introverts.
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