Personality: a look at Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a world that Can’t stop Talking”

The book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a world that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain is filled with a variety of research about introversion vs. extroversion, different applications of these in the real world, and implications for societal situations based on this information of what is known about the personality types. Cain’s writing comes around the idea that there is an ideal way for a person to be in our society that is primarily extroverted more than introverted. She argues that there is, indeed, a valuable place for introverts within society; and does so very well I would say! There are a few themes I noted as I was reading the book that jumped out at me:

  • Shyness vs. introversion: The two are different ideas, but can easily be misconstrued as one in the same. It is possible for both to exist at once, but shyness involves more of a fear whereas introversion is simply becoming overwhelmed by stimulation thus seeming shy in social situations. This distinction helps me understand myself better and how I am in social situations.  The perceived pressure to be more extroverted in public can cause me to feel more shy because I get the idea that others might want me to be something that I naturally am not; an extrovert.  In a talk that is recorded in a video on TED.com’s website she gives an interesting example from her own life that demonstrates her own introversion. I wouldn’t be surprised if it could be misunderstood as shyness though

    Also in this video, she discusses how it is growing more common for classrooms to be designed such that they are in groups or “pods” whereas they used to be more often in rows. My experience is a combination of these things, based on teachers’ decisions. Often in elementary school there would be changes in the organization of the classroom once in awhile. Sometimes there would be grouped desks, other times there would be rows. In high school, I remember more rows with the occasional “pod” setup occurred as well. The group design ended up being a bit too much for some of the quiet or “shy” individuals at times, as there was sometimes more of an overstimulation of these individuals who value time by themselves or with one or two close friends. Maybe this happened by coincidence, or maybe the teachers that allowed for both types of interaction had some understanding of personalities and the types of situations appropriate for the differing personalities of individuals.
  • Introvert-Extrovert relationships: They say opposites attract, but can they work together in the long run when it comes to the introversion and extroversion personality types?  You can read more about this subject in the book, but the way it was written drew my attention and caused me to think of relationships I see and how the two parts of these relationships interact along with the issues they face.  It might seem straightforward once you start to consider it, but you don’t necessarily consider it unless someone brings it to your attention.
  • Nature vs. Nurture:  The idea of whether the personality traits are related to nature or nurture is an interesting topic. Some might argue that personality traits are inborn whereas others might argue that the environment that surrounds a child affects that child’s personality development. I wonder if my own personality would differ if I had circumstances different from those which I have grown up with regularly. Perhaps if I had different differences from others I would be a completely unique individual from the unique individual I am today.
  • Persona/Identity/masks:  Public personas, masks, and identities are all things which interest me and are more or less connected. I had this realization a few years ago that life really isn’t (or does not have to be) as serious as it seems to be at times. Upon strolling through the halls at a postsecondary school I was attending at the time, I observed people and their behavior. Somehow through this observation, I had this realization that it isn’t necessary or realistic to take life completely and utterly serious a lot of the time. There are times that it is serious, and you at least have to respect that certain moments are serious for others if you don’t feel they are serious for yourself.But to get back on point here, I saw this posted on twitter the other day which really rang true to me, while also connecting with my thoughts about Quiet.

    We can become as someone who seems to be extroverted, regardless of how introverted we are, if a situation calls for it or vice versa. To take things at face value, and judge the surface, does not do it any justice because you don’t really know more than the mask or covering if you’re just coming into a first contact or even if you’ve encountered it multiple times but from afar. The average citizen cannot claim to truly know any celebrity who they really have not even spoken to at all. You can take what leaks or is consciously placed out into the public by said person and interpret it as you will, but you cannot say you truly know that individual as a result of your interpretation. You have to be willing to admit that there is a possibility that you may be eventually proven to be wrong.Just because you know things about a stereotype that seems to fit who a person is by looking at them from the outside does not mean you truly know and understand who they are inside and out. People don’t necessarily conform to any particular stereotype. A stereotype is a common group of characteristics that can be associated with people who fit somewhat under a certain label (like introverts are shy and/or quiet, extroverts are more outgoing and sociable everyone would probably agree). On the topic of conformity, I found the following tweet by Deepak Chopra intriguing:

    When you can predict a person fully by looking at them on the surface, the individual is less interesting or intriguing because you already feel you know them. It’s more mediocre because it’s expected and understood. When one does not conform, there’s more that is left a mystery to be discovered. There’s more to that individual for others to try and figure out, or simply marvel at over time. It keeps life more interesting and perhaps even entertaining.Susan Cain has demonstrated that personality is one thing, but it is entirely possible to consciously improve upon weak parts of your personality to be able to accomplish things that otherwise might have been unthinkable. She speaks, in the video I posted earlier, about her “year of speaking dangerously” whereby she knew what would be coming with regard to having her book out in the open. She knew that the task of publicizing and promoting the book was going to involve a lot more stimulation in the social arena. This meant she purposely went about practicing public speaking and such to improve her abilities and comfort levels in this area. It goes to show that if you put your mind to something, you can make it happen. Susan Cain’s book is a New York Times Best Seller still, after months of being out for the public to read.

  • Reward Sensitivity:  We all have some instinct toward looking at possible rewards for certain things, such as the lottery.  As of this writing, the Lottomax in Canada’s jackpot is up to $50 million, with 14 possible maxmillion prizes also available for the Friday, August 24, 2012 draw, which means there’s a lot of possible winnings.  Someone who has a high level of reward sensitivity might jump at the chance of possibly earning all of that money, and go for it without thinking of the likelihood of having the cost of the lottery tickets amount to nothing afterward.  Someone with a lower reward sensitivity might stop and consider their financial situation and whether that cost for the tickets could be better spent elsewhere with the risk that is involved in the small chances of big earnings.  It’s true that you cannot win if you don’t buy a ticket, but you can buy $50 million dollars worth of tickets over the years, and still not win even close to $50 million as well.  I’m generally the type that would decide to do without that ticket in favor of saving a few dollars here and there which eventually adds up, than to hope for the big jack pot.  The jackpot does have a certain sense of allure to it though.

One thing that I did not encounter in this book, which seems to be a topic that would fit quite well is personality traits and people with differences (or disabilities, to use a word more commonly used).  Depending on your variation of “differences” you might require some level of assistance which in turn means a certain level of social interaction is necessary to direct and receive said level of assistance.  I would wonder if this dependence on assistance might kind of force people with differences to develop more extroverted skills in order to achieve what they need.  Certainly, Susan would say that people do sometimes wish, or have to, develop skills in areas that their personality does not tend to naturally want to operate.  Her “year of speaking dangerously” speaks for itself, going outside of your comfort zone has its perks because you grow as a person.  You might be able to accomplish things you never thought possible by doing so.  She definitely provides plenty of food for thought, to further the “Quiet Revolution.”

Perhaps Susan sheds some light on the reason I have felt the desire to start a blog. Writing a blog allows me to be within my own head. It allows me to put ideas out there, and to let other people choose to either react to them or not as they please. I can also interact with readers through email or through comments they post on the blog which allows me to interact at my own speed with the text on the screen rather than the more direct human-to-human contact.

I find sometimes when I consider the prospect of actually finding employment and searching out jobs that seem like something I could do or would want to do, I am drawn to look at what the job posting says for hours and for the income the job provides. To focus on the income is contrary to my inner feelings that money should not matter that much. So it can become somewhat of an internal battle. But as I discussed in my last post, there is a certain key to succeeding that involves continuing to pursue something, to never stop all together. I like the attitude evoked in Michael Jackson’s song “Unbreakable” when it comes to this concept of going for what you want—not let anything or anyone get in the way.

By creating a blog, not only am I fostering my introverted needs, but I am also achieving somewhat of the goal I have: freedom. I can post what I choose and when I choose. My plan is to post weekly, because having a plan and goals helps as a framework to making life most successful.

It’s funny; my siblings were the ones who—both in their own way—told me I should work on writing. I never tended to think they would know me all that well because I’m more of a quiet and reserved individual, but life never ceases to surprise me. Maybe some things, like my siblings who are both younger than me actually knowing me pretty well, should not surprise me that much because of the fact that there’s good evidence to support it. They’ve both grown up around me for around two decades, so they’ve had the chance to observe who I am and what I’m all about—and they’ve taken the opportunity to do so. It was my sister who showed me the video of Susan Cain on TED, and I realized I had bought the book she referred to and hadn’t yet started reading it. Seeing as my sister suggested I start a blog, and thought this video would interest me, it seemed fitting that I actually write a blog post surrounding this topic.

About magnuswendler

The author is a recent university graduate, who enjoys reading and writing as well as pondering life and its issues.

Posted on August 18, 2012, in Book related and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Loved that book and love Susan Cain. It seems all of us introverts tend to be drawn to writing for the reasons you lay out.

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