The subtitle of this book is “the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.” This is certainly the book for me. I consider myself an introvert in the way that I get my energy from being alone. I do not think I am dangerously at the extreme of the scale, and I would not enjoy being alone all the time, but I do get very tired if I am around people for long periods of time. I have chosen this for discussion at the Las Vegas Non-Fiction Book Group. I predict that many of us will be towards the introvert end of the scale, but we do like to discuss books after the many hours of reading in solitude so I’d say we’re “functioning introverts.”
The book is in four sections. The first discusses the “extrovert ideal,” Cain argues that her country of the US has placed greater value on extrovert traits and she explains why this is to the detriment of us all. There is some very interesting stuff on which traits make good leaders and in what situations. Having spent the last five years of my career working with a LOT of extroverts (all in one horrendously open-plan office) I can say that the main different between “us” and “them” is that we introverts can appreciate and understand that some people are energised by lots of interactions and it is a wonderful thing that we are all different. And extroverts just think introverts are being weird and moody. This is why I think an introvert can make an excellent leader, we can actually stop and think for a second and empathise about what makes someone else tick.
Cain discusses schools quite frequently, and explains that many of them are geared towards the extrovert. I find this quite worrying. It is estimated that a third to half of us all are introverts so this is very mad for a large portion of the population. The scariest bit perhaps is that this part of the population contains Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and lot of other admirable and world-changing people. Will this education system harm the development of kids just like them?
The second section is about nature versus nurture; if you are one thing, can you “act” the other thing. I would say that many introverts are able to act extrovert for a period of time. How long depends on the person. Then how long they then have to spend in a darkened room to recover will also depend on them. Cain also throws in a few more arguments about why “we” are better than “them.” Personally, I knew this, but apparently some introverts actually think it might be better if they were more extroverted. She even tells a story in the Warren Buffet chapter (yes, introverts make the best traders, too) about how the part of the brain responsible for thinking, planning and introspection has developed later on than the rest. So, we are more highly evolved than extroverts, too. Oh, I knew that all along.
There is a brief section on Asian cultures, as an example of cultures that value introvert traits a little more. Part four is about when you may want to act more extroverted (only when you absolutely must), and what to do if you love someone (a spouse, a child) that is at the other end of this scale from you. Not a problem for me, I thought to myself, my husband is clearly more introverted even than I. Last night I asked him which one of us he thought was more introverted and very quickly he said that he thought I was. So, we are both under the impression that of the two of us, the other one is the recluse.