Did you know there aren’t a lot of books that start with Q?
Well, there aren’t. I went looking for one when I started this series, and when I found Quiet by Susan Cain, I thought to myself in true introvert fashion, “Self, we should read that book anyway.”
So I picked it up.
That was somewhere around Day E, and as it’s a “denser” nonfiction book, I’m only about halfway through it. The A-Z challenge won’t wait for me to finish, however, and I’ve already learned quite a bit, so we will power on.
Cain starts by setting up how our society works against the natural inclinations of introverts.
It makes sense that so many introverts hide even from themselves. We live with a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal–the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight. The archetypal extrovert prefers action to contemplation, risk-taking to heed-taking, certainty to doubt. He favors quick decisions, even at the risk of being wrong.
The whole following section explores the Extrovert Ideal (I read the chapter about Tony Robbins literally a day before he was trending on Twitter, and considering I hadn’t heard of him before, I figured that was a sign from the universe or something). In the section called The Myth of Charismatic Leadership, Cain visits Harvard Business School, where it seems there are no students on the “quieter side,” and examines the correlation between “talkers” and “leaders.”
If we assume that quiet and loud people have roughly the same number of good (and bad) ideas, then we should worry if the louder and more forceful people always carry the day. This would mean that an awful lot of bad ideas prevail while good ones get squashed. Yet studies in group dynamics suggest that this is exactly what happens. We perceive talkers as smarter than quiet types–even though grade-point averages and SAT and intelligence test scores reveal this perception to be inaccurate.
Seeing as I’m not running a company, I found the next section, When Collaboration Kills Creativity, to be more applicable to my life. In discussing an apparent creative advantage held by introverts, Cain asserts that the simple drive to work in a solitary environment encourages innovation. However, current business and education practices are often centered around collaboration, which Cain calls New Groupthink.
The New Groupthink elevates teamwork above all else. It insists that creativity and intellectual achievement come from a gregarious place.
Following this is a discussion of nature vs. nurture: are we born introverted or made that way? Why are some paralyzed by taking the stage and speaking in front of people (a fear greater than that of death for many)?
One theory…holds that when our ancestors lived on the savannah, being watched intently meant only one thing: a wild animal was stalking us. And when we think we’re about to be eaten, do we stand tall and hold forth confidently? No. We run.
It’s also why exhortations to imagine the audience in the nude don’t help nervous speakers; naked lions are just as dangerous as elegantly dressed ones.
What I have yet to read is a section about introversion in different cultures that I think will be very interesting. After that comes a section on how to function best as an introvert–this last part may warrant its own post later.
What Q titles are in your Bookbag? (This question hasn’t been widely answered for the other letters so I’m not expecting much for Q. Ha.)