Education

Introverts, Assemble! The Power of “Quiet” by Susan Cain

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Introduction
There are a lot of people around us that are unassuming, those who sit among a group of friends, but still keeping all to themselves.
They only share their opinions once in a while, and they might be people who read a lot, or won’t go out a lot. You might notice that they are not that vocal when you first get to know them. But once you are friends with them, they will share a lot with you, revealing their eccentricities and their general personalities to you.
These people might seem geeky, nerdy, quirky, or even eccentric, but they are just normal people, living with their own sensibilities. And they are essentially human, just like you and I.
They are introverts. They aren’t special, just as their counterparts — the extroverts — aren’t as well. But they are interesting as a type of personality, seeing as they are secretly influential, but often neglected in this loud world of ours.

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What is an introvert?
This poignant, and moving book, written by Susan Cain, provides a refreshing and clear account on a group of people called “introverts”. You may have already heard of this term.
In fact, the term “extroversion-introversion” was actually introduced a long time ago by Carl Gustav Jung, in his book “Psychological Types”. Nowadays, the personality traits extroversion or introversion is included in many personality tests, such as the “Myers-Briggs Type Indicator”, or the “Big Five (OCEAN) personality test”.
But what is an introvert? To use Carl Jung’s definition, it is an “attitude-type characterized by orientation in life through subjective psychic contents”. (Abstract right? This is typical psychoanalytic jargon.)
Put simply, introversion means: A person who predominantly focuses on one’s inner mental activity, as opposed to an extrovert, who focuses predominantly on the external world.

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Introverts vs. extroverts
But in reality (as illustrated in “Quiet”), the distinction between the two is blurry, as even the most introverted person may react and behave like an extrovert in certain situations, and vice versa.
People aren’t separated into clear cut boxes and categories, where we can say resolutely, “Hey, I’m an extrovert, I should go to a party!”, or “Hey, I’m an introvert, I should be home reading a book!”
This is what Susan Cain attempts to illustrate in this book (especially part four). People act differently around different groups, and we can even learn how to master this ability. This is not to say that people are skilled actors in which they portray different personas in order to adapt to the situation (“Free Trait Theory”). It just means that we are flexible, and we people are not as rigid as one is led to believe by many pop psychology books (“Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”).
The “Extrovert Ideal”
This brings me to another point. Because there is a societal tendency to alienate and isolate those who are quiet, who prefer to keep things to themselves. Those who prefer to stay at home, resting, as opposed to going out with friends in gatherings or parties, are often called “anti-social”, or other suchlike terms.
This is what Susan Cain called the “Extrovert Ideal”, outlining our modern preference to over-idealize those who are outgoing and charismatic. There is nothing wrong with being an outgoing or charismatic person, but to place these traits and temperaments on a pedestal? This becomes a wholesale disregard for the variety in human life.

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Introverts have much to offer to society, and yet, in the face of such a “passive” discrimination, introverts are forced to change their whole behaviors and personalities to adapt to society in order to survive. This is not to say that companies or institutions should specifically accommodate or cater to introverts. Rather, we should try and create an environment that can allow both halves to work with each other, and to understand each other.
Introverts in life
According to one study in America, about one-third to one-half of our population consists of introverts (Bayne, 1995). This means that in a group of two to three people you know, one will be an introvert.
There are a lot of famous introverts in our modern history: Lincoln, Gandhi, Einstein, Rosa Parks, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates. They shape our lives in profound ways, despite their unassuming characters, and in their quiet fashion.
I say this not to illustrate the fact that introverts are highly superior to extroverts. That is untrue; and there are a lot of successful extroverts out there who create a better life for us all.
Rather, the point is to illustrate that the world would be a much duller place if it is without introverts. And the same goes for extroverts as well: the world would be very different without them. A world with no diversity, is a boring world.
You are not special just because you are an introvert!
Lastly, regarding the over-popularization of the term “introversion”. There are many who claim themselves to be “introverts” just so they can show others how “unique” they are.
No. Being an introvert does not automatically make you cool. The fact is that this book aims to empower introverts, to inspire them. And this is a book to address the issue of our “extroversion idealized” society. This is not a manual on how to look cool, or to use introversion as a crutch in winning favors, or as a dinner party topic.
As one of my friend once said, “It is not cool to say that you are an introvert, it is just awesome to be one.”
For more book reviews, read our article on “The Conquest of Happiness” by Bertrand Russell.
References & Sources:

1. (Susan Cain’s TED Talk in 2012 on this subject and on her own book) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0KYU2j0TM4
2. Carl Gustav Jung. (1971). Psychological Types. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
3. Rowan Bayne. (1995). The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: A Critical Review and Practical Guide. London: Chapman and Hall.
4. (Extraversion & Introversion Wikipedia article) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraversion_and_introversion
5. (Susan Cain’s website) http://www.thepowerofintroverts.com/

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