What I’ve Learned from Being Quiet — A Look Into the Book “Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain (Part 1)

I finally got around to reading a book many, many people have recommended to me. Why I didn’t listen to these people and read the book earlier, I have no idea, but now that I’ve been expanding my reading genres it has made it a lot easier to pick up something nonfiction. I’m now on a nonfiction streak, which is a good change of pace.

The book I put off for so long is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I think one of the reasons I put off this book was because I secretly thought it would just be one huge Validation Party for introverts. And even though I am an introvert, I didn’t feel extremely comfortable with forcing validation upon myself for being the way I am. Boy, was I wrong. While Quiet does give introverts much validation for being the way they are, it is not in the way I thought it would be. Instead, Susan Cain carefully, deliberately, and modestly presents her founded opinions and scientifically-backed information about both introverts and extroverts — and why both types of people desperately need each other in this increasingly extroverted world.

Below are some highlights of the book that I found especially helpful for me. I firmly recommend that both introverts and extroverts consider reading the book for themselves.

THE CORE OF WHO WE ARE

“Introversion — along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness — is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between disappointment and a pathology. 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. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.”

The wonderful thing I’ve realized is that as an introvert I do not have to change the core of who I am. In fact, it is impossible to change the core of who I am. But, just as extroverts should be a little more understanding of introverts, introverts should also be more tolerant of extroverts. At the moment, in the world I’m living in anyway, this simply isn’t happening, and as Susan Cain says, many of us are living under the Extrovert Ideal and feeling as if there is something terribly wrong with us. Some of us turn to medication. Some of us even turn to suicide. Some of us simply learn how to pretend we’re extroverts. It’s sad, really.

THE EXTROVERT IDEAL IS FAIRLY NEW

“The word personality didn’t exist in English until the eighteenth century, and the idea of ‘having a good personality’ was not widespread until the twentieth.'”

This is seriously fascinating to me because I can’t even imagine living in a world where I didn’t feel pressured to develop a charming personality in order to be truly successful and liked. But it’s everywhere we turn — from the workplace to schools to religion. If you are quiet, shy, or extremely sensitive, there is something wrong with you and you’d better snap out of it or you’re not going to get anywhere.

“Well-meaning parents of the midcentury agreed that quiet was unacceptable and gregariousness ideal for both girls and boys. Some discouraged their children from solitary and serious hobbies, like classical music, that could make them unpopular. They sent their kids to school at increasingly young ages, where the main assignment was learning to socialize. Introverted children were often singled out as problem cases (a situation familiar to anyone with an introverted child today). 

NOBODY IS 100% INTROVERTED OR EXTROVERTED

“Extroversion is in our DNA — literally, according to some psychologists. The trait has been found to be less prevalent in Asia and Africa than in Europe and America, whose populations descend largely from the migrants of the world. It makes sense, say these researchers, that world travelers were more extroverted than those who stayed home — and that they passed on their traits to their children and their children’s children.”

I know I have some extrovert traits, absolutely. I think everyone does to some degree. You can’t put people in boxes and just say HE’S AN INTROVERT or SHE’S AN EXTROVERT and then make judgments based on that. The most important thing is to get to know people and understand that if they lean more toward one trait than the other, it’s okay. Studies show that people in general do lean more toward being introverted or extroverted. It’s just natural, but we are all our own personalities too. So don’t put people in boxes — especially yourself.

INTROVERTS VALUE SOLITARY TIME, BUT EXTROVERTS SHOULD TOO

“What’s so magical about solitude? In many fields, Ericsson told me, it’s only when you’re alone that you can engage in Deliberate Practice, which he has identified as the key to exceptional achievement. When you practice deliberately, you identify the tasks or knowledge that are just out of your reach. … Only when you’re alone … can you ‘go directly to the part that’s challenging to you. If you want to improve what you’re doing you have to be the one who generates the move. Imagine a group class — you’re the one generating the move only a small percentage of the time.”

And that quote goes for both introverts and extroverts. This is why I have an issue with how the education system is set up these days. I walk into public schools and they are centered around groups. The desks are in groups. The schedules are organized around group learning and thinking. The social structures and practices are group centered. Probably the only thing that truly happens in a solitary way is homework (maybe, since many times group study is encouraged) and test taking. I am sure there are exceptions. I hope there are, especially since I have a child in the public school system, even though she happens to be an extrovert. And don’t get me started on church organizations. The good thing about the religion to which I belong is that solitary worship is encouraged, to a degree, but there is also a horrifying amount of “group thinking” going on, as well. To an introvert like me, it’s discouraging and intimidating. Even if I do hold deep beliefs in my religion, the societal end can almost be too much if I’m not careful about how I approach it.

WHY INTROVERTS COME ALIVE ONLINE

“…[W]e’re so impressed by the power of online collaboration that we’ve come to overvalue all group work at the expense of solo thought. We fail to realize that participating in an online working group is a form of solitude all its own. Instead we assume that the success of online collaborations will be replicated in the face-to-face world.”

Wow, does that ring true. I honestly think it’s why more and more people are writing novels now — it’s so much more accessible to write and feel connected to other writers at the same time. I also think it’s why FB took off. I also think it’s why there are so many more problems with being online than we realize. Being online allows you to be solitary, yet participatory. But it’s a false sense of participation, at times, and I think that can lead to issues, especially with extroverts who may realize over time that being online is not nearly as satisfying to them as actually being with people. An introvert may blossom and open up through online interaction, so don’t be surprised if you meet someone face-to-face whom you previously got to know online and they are suddenly a lot more quiet and closed-off than you though they’d be. 

And like the quote says — online collaboration is NOT the same as group face-to-face interaction. Not. Even. Close. They are both so very, very different. Oftentimes you’ll find introverts are much more likely to participate and get busy with a project if meetings and collaboration are handled through online interaction rather than actual group meetings, of which I totally loathe *shudder*.

WHY INTROVERTS ARE SO BORED BY SMALL TALK … AT THE BEGINNING

“It’s not that there’s no small talk. … It’s that it comes not at the beginning of conversations but at the end. In most settings, people use small talk as a way of relaxing into a new relationship, and only once they’re comfortable do they connect more seriously. Sensitive people seem to do the reverse.”

Oy, is that true! Seriously, if you try to “small talk” me to get to know me, you’re in trouble. I will close off like a clam. I want a deep, meaningful conversation and then I’ll small talk with you. I never, ever understood why this was until I read the Quiet book. Now I understand it beautifully. However, it is quite a complicated process to get to the root of why this is, and for the sake of time I’ll boil it down to the roots.

There are two types of people (for the most part): high-reactive and low-reactive. High-reactive people are not extroverts. They are high reactive because they are, by nature, more sensitive to, well, everything. Not just people. Everything. Sound, smell, emotion, all of it. And some people are even more sensitive than that. They are the HSPs, or Highly Sensitive People, like me, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish. Low-reactives usually turn out to be the extroverts. It’s also good to note that these two types are evident from birth and stay with a person the rest of their life. Of course, there are no boxes here. This is all generalization, but still great to know. Example: My daughter happens to be high-reactive — even more on the end of HSP, like me, BUT she is an extrovert. She is one big ball of sensitive energy. It’s pretty overwhelming to her introverted, sensitive mother. She definitely does not fit into a box!

So the high-reactive people? Usually introverts, yes. This means they process everything differently than an extrovert. High-reactive people, or introverts, or sensitive people — whatever you wish to call them — tend to think in great complexity, probably because they are so observant of their surroundings because they are so sensitive to those surroundings.

“Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments — both physical and emotional — unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss — another person’s shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly. … [This] may also explain why [sensitive people] are so bored by small talk. ‘If you’re thinking in more complicated ways … then talking about the weather or where you went for the holidays is not quite as interesting as talking about values or morality.'”

I think this is a good place for me to stop today. I have so much more to explore, but this is already getting so long. I do hope the information I have provided has helped you see into the world of introverts and extroverts a little more. I’ll be back later with even more. If you’re hooked, go check out the book Quiet itself. Trust me, there is WAY much more in that book than I’ve touched on here.

FIND PART 2 HERE

**all quotes belong to Susan Cain or people she has quoted within her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.**

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle

15 comments

I can’t remember if I’ve read this one or not. Isn’t that sad? I feel like I read the first half…

It’s so true about being let down by online interactions, expecting them to have more depth than they do. I kind of got whacked by that the other day when trying to meet someone I’d met online. However, sometimes wonderful things come of it. (Not that shallow relationships are horrible. If you know what they are, they can be beneficial to all parties.)

Michelle D. Argyle

Jaimie, part of why I’m writing these posts about the book is so that I can remember I actually read it. Isn’t that sad? I forget so much stuff I read! But if I actually write about it I’m much more likely to retain some of the information, at least. Your posts on the book you’re reading now helped me realize I should share some knowledge about this book. So thanks!

And yes, “shallow” relationships are not bad, by any means. I find them quite satisfying, at times! There’s room for all kinds of relationships.

Linda Cassidy Lewis

Thanks for sharing, Michelle. I checked this book out of the library yesterday.

I really related to your section: Why Introverts Come Alive Online.

And I laughed when I read the part about small talk. I quake and quiver at the thought of making small talk with a stranger, but I’m deeply fascinated and open up if the conversation turns serious.

Looks like I really need to read this book.

Michelle D. Argyle

Linda, I already guessed you’re an introvert, but that shouldn’t be a surprise! I think you’d find great pleasure in this book. You’ll find it as fascinating and helpful as I have! I suggest buying it, though. Trust me, you’re going to want to highlight TONS of stuff!

J. B. Chicoine

Michelle, thank you so much for sharing that! I’ve been so cloistered all winter that I wouldn’t have known the book or author exists! I think of you often and hope you are well, overall.

Michelle D. Argyle

You’re welcome, Bridget! I hope you can get a little more un-cloistered now that spring is here! I’ve thought about you too. 🙂

Jenn Hubbard

I’m also introverted but really enjoy blogging and email correspondence. I think the internet is a blessing for introverts, since it provides ways for us to interact within our comfort zone. (Twitter, on the other hand, with its 140-character limit and bigger crowds, seems a little more extrovert-tilted to me.)

Michelle D. Argyle

Jenn, I enjoy blogging and email, as well. I love that I can keep up relationships in such ways. Such a relief! I think you already know that Twitter drives me crazy. 🙂

Katy Glemser

I’m loving your thoughts on this! I downloaded it to my Kindle and will start reading it soon.

Michelle D. Argyle

Katy, I do hope you get to it soon! I’d LOVE to talk to you about it.

Janet Johnson

This sounds really interesting. I am finding I’m like your daughter. I actually struggle with online communication, but I’m definitely an HSP. I can small talk with the best of them, and avoid the deep stuff with people I don’t know–I’ll have to remember you’re the reverse if I ever meet you in person again. 🙂 Still, overall I think I lean introverted. I’d so much rather be on my own and just not have to talk to people sometimes. 🙂 Of course, there are times when the reverse is true. But perhaps I’ll have to look into this book. Thanks for sharing all your thoughts!

Michelle D. Argyle

Janet, I’d love to talk to you again even if it’s small talk! I have a feeling you’re pretty extroverted, but I certainly can’t say for sure! I’d love to hear your thoughts if you read the book. 🙂

Rena Willemin

I’d like read this book. Sounds interesting.

I particularly like what you said that no one is 100% introverted or extroverted. I think it depends on the situation and on comfort level. People are often surprised that I consider myself introverted because I can be talkative in some social situations, but in others, I’m as quiet as a church mouse.

Michelle D. Argyle

Rena, I think you’d really like this one! It makes it clear that while nobody is 100% extroverted or introverted, most people do lean more toward one or the other in general. I definitely lean more introverted!

I always welcome the idea that different personality types stay around because they complement one another to make the group function better as a whole. I guess I’ve always wanted to be part of a colony. 🙂