I am a tried and true introvert. I enjoy one-on-one conversations. I need time to ponder things. I don’t react in anger. I value authenticity and want to create space for you to be you.
And I love people.
My favorite Saturday activity is to brew a pot of coffee, stay in my pajamas and write all day.
I get more out of my one-on-one Bible study than I do out of worship with 500.
In Quiet, Cain addresses the struggle to be an introvert in an overly extroverted world. Overall, we value less the skills that those who are more introspective bring to the table. We lift up people like our President, the Kardashians, and others, who beg for attention but have little to offer. We shun those who are not gregarious and loud, who don’t find value is idle chatter, who really want to know how you are.
Cain highlights some of the powerful introverts of the past: Eleanor Roosevelt, Steve Wozniak and Lincoln. We have changed Lincoln into this bigger than life orator, but in reality, he was an introvert. These are people who had an impact by being who they inherently were.
Introverts are made to feel like there is something wrong with them. I had never considered that until I read her book. But it is true. We rebuke kids who are shy, tell those who don’t fit in at cocktail parties to fix themselves. There are hundreds of books on how introverts can better fit into an extroverted world but nothing on how extroverts can learn to give time and consider others.
As a child I loved to read. I lived in my head. My favorite activity was to play by myself in the woods behind our house. I would go on exciting adventures – being a world explorer, solving mysteries and going back in time. Imagine Nancy Drew meets Laura Croft! I did not have friends in school. I felt no one understood me and I hated the game of fitting in.
Cain writes that we have gone from being a culture of character to one of personality. We devalue intelligence, contemplation, quiet, and servant leadership. Instead we let anyone have 15 minutes of fame without questioning their contribution to world.
Look at our churches. It is the charismatic personalities who lead the mega churches, and their messages tend to be sugary and false. Those who are quiet and have something really inspired to say get left behind and overlooked all because they come off quiet or not as polished. But look at the content of their sermons and everything changes.
In this 140-character, instant society, we could all benefit more from unplugging and just being. We grade students by how much they talk in class, not if what they are saying is relevant, intelligent, or necessary. We do not teach our kids to be thoughtful and educated, but to spout whatever idea comes into their head, regardless of how ignorant, offensive or stupid it might be.
We are seeing this shift in our election as we go from someone who can rile up a room, loves being the center of attention, and yet has little of substance to say, to someone who is quiet, introverted, and needs time to formulate a thought because he wants to speak with integrity.
Introverts have changed the world. We need both. You need the Orphas, but you also need the Emma Watsons (an introvert). Personality is not everything, but too often it is what wins out.
Cain looks back to the 2008 recession and notes several introverted, successful stock traders (yes, those do exist), who warned over and over about the coming bust. But they were ignored, passed over by those who were louder, who could rile up the room, and turn people to their thinking.
It is an interesting read. One I think most people would do well to take time to explore. She talks about why open offices and pod-schools do not work. She writes about why things like Wikipedia have been successful online but do not translate well into real life.
She also writes about letting kids be who they are. Let your child be quiet, introspective, and creative. Let them read and do not push them to be some broken ideal that strips away all the things that make your child who they are. So your daughter might not grow up to be Kim Kardashian. She might grow up to be Malala, Mother Theresa, Eleanor Roosevelt or Rosa Parks. And really, who would you rather have your daughter strive to be?
You can also watch Susan Cain’s TedTalk here:
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