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More Bookish Thoughts...
on April 4, 2012
The introverts of Susan Cain's new book, 'Quiet,' don't experience their inwardness positively; rather, they see it as "somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology." Many even fake extroversion through ebullience, dominance, risk-taking and thoughtlessness with disastrous results. Thus, in a book that combines reporting and social science research, Cain argues that we must now establish a "greater balance of power" between those who rush to speak and do and those who sit back and think.
A long and ploddingly earnest book, "Quiet" is at its best on the subject of children. Cain's accounts of introverted kids misunderstood and mishandled by their parents sheds light on the perceived negative trait of shyness. Cain's insights into the stresses of nonstop socializing for some children are welcome; her advice that parents should choose to view their introverted offspring's social style with understanding rather than fear is well worth hearing.
Cain convinces less when she writes about adults. Her definition of introversion widens constantly and ultimately expands to include anyone who is 'reflective, cerebral, bookish, unassuming, sensitive, thoughtful, serious, contemplative, subtle, introspective, inner-directed, gentle, calm, modest, solitude-seeking, shy, risk-averse, thin-skinned.' The category thus becomes meaningless. Another problem with Cain's argument is her assumption that most introverts are actually suffering in their self-esteem. This may be true among business school attendees but a world of introverts does exist in which citizens are quite contented.
Bottom line for the extroverts out there: 'Remember, someone you know, respect and interact with every day is an introvert, and you are probably driving this person nuts.'