QUIET, THE POWER OF INTROVERTS
Every once in a while, I go through a phase where I read a lot of nonfiction. This summer has been one of those phases. Last month, on the recommendation of a friend, I read Quiet the Power of Introverts by Susan Cain. For the most part, I really enjoyed this book. (There were times, toward the last quarter, that I thought Ms Cain confused her own definitions and overreached on examples to make her point, but the first three-fourths were excellent.)
I’ve always wavered on whether or not I was an introvert. I thought I was, but then, in the right circumstances, I can be downright chatty. Entertaining even. Reading Cain’s book, I discovered several things. First, introversion and extroversion aren’t binary concepts. You aren’t one or the other. Rather, introversion should be seen as a spectrum. On one end is extroversion, and on the other is true introversion. Most of us fall somewhere along the line between.
Second, I learned I was guilty of another common misconception and that was confusing introversion with shyness. Introversion isn’t only about how we deal with people. It’s about how we process information, how we handle decision making and a whole host of things. Of course, it is also about social interaction. Unlike extroverts, who derive energy from being around people, introverts lose energy through interaction. This is not shyness. True, many introverts are shy. But you can also be an extremely dynamic person yet still feel drained after a social interaction.
Finally, I found myself taken aback by how much emphasis our society has grown to place on extroversion. One hundred years ago, a person was judged on his/her actions and qualities. Now a person is judged by how well he/she sells herself to the public. Moreover, we select our leaders and our mentors based this way as well. It was a little disturbing, to say the least.
Introverts, I learned are far more interested in process than outcome. Or so studies seem to indicate. This probably explains why so many writers are paralyzed by their internal critics. We’re constantly scanning the process for errors. Meanwhile, extroverts focus their energy on getting the novel finished. It’s not that they won’t look at process or go back and fix errors – it’s just that they’d rather look at the reward at the end of the tunnel. I couldn’t help thinking, when I read this, of all the workshops I’ve attended that suggest using the carrot and stick method of writing. If you write ten pages, you get to eat chocolate. It dawned on me that for an introvert, that method isn’t going to work. Someone like me – who would love to reward herself – is too hung up on the mistakes she’s making along the way. Which means, I – along with other introverts – need to find another method to push ourselves ahead. (And oh, by the way, introverts are more likely to have perfection issues as well. Just saying.)
Unfortunately, as great as this book was, Cain didn’t have any suggestions to help me there.