Tuesday, October 22, 2013

In Defense of the Same Old Thing (a Review of Susan Cain’s book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking” – Broadway Books, 2013)

In a book full of studies and personal anecdotes, the most heartbreaking are those of parents who don’t understand the personality and disposition of their child and force them into awkward, even damaging situations.

For instance, parents of an introverted child, new to a neighborhood asking their daughter on her birthday to take cupcakes to children she doesn’t know in the hope she will make new friends and learn a lesson about giving. Those misguided parents in this example aren’t in the book, I’m talking about my own family and my poor, introverted daughter.

I know this technique is a bit tired and hackneyed (“And that person….Was Me!”) but in my defense, Cain uses the same technique in the book. But I think everyone, extroverts and introverts will find themselves in these pages and better understand their family, school and work relationships.

One of the most interesting thing I found coming from studies of introverts is the idea that most introverts are not just shy about new people, they tend to dislike new things in general. They tend to prefer taking their time getting to know new places and situations and prefer to study a few things in depth rather than many things superficially.

I was very pleased that Cain deals with the importance of these concepts in the church. There are churches geared to extroverts (loud, big mega-churches where everyone is expected to sing loud and hug the neighbor they don’t know) and churches geared for introverts (small liturgical congregations where silence has a place along with a consistent order of worship.) But if we believe the church should a place that, according to the Apostle Paul in Galatians 3:28 has “neither Jew nor Greek, male or female, slave or free”, than we probably should find a way that it includes introverts and extroverts.

Among the many fascinating studies mentioned in the book, I was very interested in a study of phone conversations. It was found that when introverts and extroverts talked on the phone, extroverts were much better at determining if the person they were talking to was happy or sad. But if introverts and extroverts were listening to two parties in a taped conversation, introverts were a little better at reading the mood.

Of course, there are strengths and weaknesses to all personality attributes, but we need to realize we need each other, learning to adapt and learn from each other. This book is a good place to start if you haven’t given these issues a lot of thought (this probably means you, fellow extrovert.)

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