Let’s talk about ”Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”
Happy new year to you all!
I am starting this new year with a post about a book I recently read. I have heard numerous comments about this book as the holy grail for introverts. I have always consider myself an introvert, but I have never felt too bad about it. Having grown up in Spain, it really does not take much for you to feel like an introvert. Where I am from, you are always out, always with friends and family and if you don’t do anything social after work or in the weekends, people literally ask you:<< are you ok?>> ha ha, I am joking, well, a bit. I always understood that I needed some time by myself to recharge and to disconnect.
It is not new that in Spain we culturally gravitate towards extroversion. I was taught in school to raise my voice really loud when speaking to what I would even now consider yelling. But I quickly learned that it was that what was expected to be respected, at least, over there. To be noisy, to speak really loud, almost annoyingly loud, to move your hands a lot and to have a very busy social life was the way to go to adapt culturally and I quickly learned that, just like everybody else. But it is funny how we adapt to these cultural norms even when you are, indeed, an introvert.
At College I had to speak in public very often as I was studying to be a teacher. This meant that there was a lot of public speaking in the horizon. I had moments where my hands would be shacking during a presentation, my heart would be pounding very fast and my voice was barely audible. I went through a lot of these speaking sessions (or freak-outs) in front of other classmates until one day I just felt more comfortable, and more comfortable and today I even enjoy these moments when I teach or I have to speak in public for whatever reason. I remember I even got a job here in Ireland where I would teach online to 2000 people like a radio host and after the first one where I was nervous, the class rolled out really nicely and I ended up enjoying those moments of online interaction with this huge class.
For me, these were all lessons that taught me that we are not just one thing for life. We all have tendencies but our experiences and struggles shape us into something else, always learning, always changing.
In the book Dr Cain explains this evolution of our introvert traits through the research of Professor Brian Little and his ”Free Traits’ Theory”. According to this theory introverts can act like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love, or anything they value highly and they can get really good at it. We can get so good at it that I was considered a ”great entertainer” by my class of Spanish learners here in Dublin to the point that they would joke about my funny and extroverted way of teaching. Little they knew that I have been ‘performing’ for almost all my life. The funny thing about this is that I took the Myers and Briggs test the other day and I got a 60% of extroverted qualities. How is that possible? Because what I jokingly call ‘acting’ is just the action of sharpening life skills and one can get really good at them to the point of even enjoying it and becoming part of who you are.
Some of my favourite parts of this book:
The debate of the concept of Salesmanship as a Virtue.
Ireland is very similar to the States in some things.One of these things is the worship of ”the personality over everything else”. I remember the cultural shock I suffered when interviewing for jobs when I first arrived here. In Spain the interviewing style is more humble and respectful based on your experience and certificates (it’s gets kind of crazy over there in that way too). Your CV and focused answers to behavioural and work-related questions can set you apart from other candidates while in Ireland a bubbly and charismatic (cheerleader-like) personality usually does the trick. Here, it is all about what you believe you can do and how well you can portray it to your interviewer. It is the world of personality over skills. So, if you are an introvert, imagine the impact it can have in your career when interviewing for jobs.
– The author’s comment on Dale Carnegie’s book: How to win friends and influence people
I love the author’s comments on this as they resonated so much with my own opinions. ”The book is based on the assumption that we all want to sell ourselves as a fantastic product that we have to change in order to sell it. To me you are not a good salesman if you have to change such product and why would you sell something that you don’t believe in is something that is probably at the root of our society’s problems”. I have worked in sales myself and this , to me, simple concept used to exasperate many people in some companies I worked for where the majority of sales people used coercive, empty, often noisy and charlatan ways of selling products they did not believe in to people. In my experience this ‘quick’ sales, do not make the cut for royal and long term clients, obviously.
– The author comments on her experience at a seminar by Tony Robins
This was simply hilarious. I find the guy truly annoying so I might not be the most impartial reader but I can’t find any joy or logic to a person screaming at me what he reckons as ‘the truth’ just because he says it really loud. If you back it up with facts, some examples, some data or tell me your sources, OK, maybe then. But the ancient dogmatic discourse (typical of the preachers), so popular in the States (historically, there is a tradition of this kind of public discourse over there) does absolutely nothing to me. It was interesting to read the experience of Susan Cain at this seminar though.
The myth of Charismatic leadership (Harvard and other Ivy League universities)
I truly loved the author’s comments on this as I live in the city of American companies like Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, etc… I honestly believe that these companies are just an extension of the Modus Operandi in this universities. I remember a friend of mind explaining that while working at one of these companies she was once called to a meeting with her manager for low engagement in social activities with the company. I remember listening with true horror to these stories where the company is like a needy group of friends that punishes you if you don’t go too often with them. I find the concept of meddling with one’s social and personal life truly horrifying. But hey, that must be me, cause I am an introvert, right?
Susan Cain, explains that in the classrooms is perceived as better to say something, anything rather than to be silent. So people like me and many who would prefer to say nothing rather than something stupid would not be so respected because of that. Some of the people in the examples seem to have experience negative outcomes because of this. She explained that in one survival situation where students needed to work together as a role-play, people would have a tendency to follow directions from those who made the most noise and talk louder rather than from those with the most elaborate and sometimes better suggestions, just because the former ones seemed more confident in their answers. I have to admit I have seen this a million of times when I was in College and I needed to work in groups. And it is probably the reason why some people (like me!) hate to work in groups in College. At work, there are some similarities but there is a level of individual accountability that plays at work, usually, that makes people behave and collaborate better.
The author talks about the new trend these days to add group work in schools. As a teacher I find this practice truly lazy. It is great for teachers as you only need to grade 1 paper for every 5 students. But for the learning of the student this is catastrophic. It often happens that the workload is not equally divided between team members. But they all get the same grade. Work should be individually assigned and the teacher should know who does what and evaluate accordingly.
Open spaces at work
I liked that she spoke about this topic in the book as I noticed that I do not like to work in places where there is an open plan. I always thought it was my personal preference, and it is, but it was interesting to discover why. It seems that introverts need solitude to work at our best, and to properly focus. The typical distractions of an open floor plan are not conductive to this kind of environment so we get more stressed and become less productive. I couldn’t agree more with this theory. I noticed that I am at my best when I have alone times to organise my workload and to focus on my tasks instead of being constantly in the centre of action talking and making noise. I believe it is a problem many companies have and that could get sorted just with the possibility of that quiet time for the employee to properly focus.
Kagan’s studies on high-reactive children towards low-reactive children.
This is a study that explains that we all come with tendencies from birth. <<The high-reactive infants, the 20 percent who’d hollered at the mobiles bobbing above their heads, were more likely to have developed serious, careful personalities. The low-reactive infants—the quiet ones—were more likely to have become relaxed and confident types. High and low reactivity tended to correspond, in other words, to introversion and extroversion.>>
How culture matters
It seems that the ideal of extroversion or introversion changes depending on where you live. For example, the book says that in Asian cultures the ideal gravitates more towards introversion while America does so towards extroversion.
For me, Ireland and Spain are very similar in relation to their ideals towards extroversion, although Ireland is more accepting of introversion I would say. It was only when I lived in Belgium that I noticed that it was ‘cool’ to be introverted, as well, not to speak all the time.To be quiet was accepted and embraced. Needless to say, I love Belgian people.
So, in sum, this was a very interesting read where I learned some things that I didn’t know about introversion and how it does affect the way you feel and the way you relate to others. There was some things I didn’t like about the book like the book assumes that all introverts suffer from low self-esteem which I completely disagree. I would have also preferred less selling quotes as it disrupted the flow of the book and the general tone that all extroverts are somehow simple minded is not something I enjoyed either. I don’t like to think that one is better than the other ans even though the author states her intention not to come across as superior, she does convey that very often. And finally, I guess my opinion with many books of these genre is: More ideas and less pages! I am under the impression that the author was on a mission to reach a number of pages and as a consequence it gets a bit boring to the end.
Other than that, I have enjoyed the book and recommend it to you all!
Please share this post if you liked it and feel free to comment below! What do you think about this topic or the book itself? 🙂