Reading Quiet The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain has been the strangest experience.
Around page 200 I started to suspect I might be an extrovert after all. At page 300 I was nearly convinced I might have been one all my life. After finishing it I felt so frustrated I actually wanted to become an extrovert no matter what.
I reckon this wasn’t the intended effect of the book. But I’ve never been good with intended effects, socially speaking. Sometimes I watch ads and I don’t even understand what I’m supposed to buy. Sometimes I have to ask Logan.
Garnant – What is it that I’m supposed to buy?
Logan – A car.
Garnant – Oh. And now?
Logan – Another car.
Garnant – Oh.
Anyway, after a few days considering my reaction (it seems I may still be an introvert), I have come to the conclusion that this book is a huge mess where introversion and shyness are mixed up. I am an introvert but I’m certainly not shy and never have been. Unluckily, this is an option that is not covered in Quiet. I also object to the point of the book: introverts are sensitive souls victimized by insensitive extroverts who rule society. This is plainly ridiculous. First of all it is never a good sign when people proclaim themselves “very sensitive”, they may be sensitive but they’re surely not modest. Secondly, extroverts are not insensitive, the idea of them having a “thicker skin” is nonsense and it’s even a bit offensive. Extroverts may seem insensitive but they just deal with problems in a different way, and while they do, they get hurt like everyone else. Thirdly, they do not rule society. And in fact the author herself proceeds to prove that many introverts are actually in charge, maybe making less of a noise, but in charge allthesame.
Experience, even anecdotal experience in a limited environment (such as the one of the author: elite American professionals) tells us that being an introvert or an extrovert makes absolutely no difference in terms of success in life (if you care about such a thing). Admittedly introverts tend to be openly shy while extroverts tend to be secretly anxious, and these can be problems indeed, but I wouldn’t say than being openly shy is worse than being secretly anxious, except maybe in some specific business contexts.
So, given that introversion and extroversion are mere traits of the personality, both of them legitimate and enjoyable, what’s the point in praising the shy/introvert for hundreds and hundreds of pages? Is it a self-help book? Well, I think it is. Nothing wrong with that, until scientific studies are cheerfully mentioned at some point to prove that introversion and extroversion are somewhat innate, but forced social isolation during childhood is bad especially for the introverted as proved in maternal separation experiments on rhesus monkeys.
Now. My dear self-proclaimed very sensitive introvert.
If you really really need to mention maternal separation experiments on rhesus monkeys to me, because you really really think it is absolutely necessary to make your important, life-saving point, then you are to leave out the cheerfulness at all times.
Maternal separation experiments on rhesus monekys were (and are, as they are still conducted today to some extent) one of deepest horrors of human history, and are only useful to question the ethical abilities of humans, far more than the social needs of monkeys.
You casually, cheerfully mention them, reducing their outcome to “low level of serotonine” to prove your self-evident (and frankly boring, past page 100) point? Either you don’t know what you’re talking about, and if this is the case congratulations, you’ve managed to live in a happy parallel reality where Britches never existed, or you’re not the super-sensitive, super-thoughtful little person you proud yourself to be.
All that said, my opinion could be influenced by the fact that I wasn’t brought up in the US so I never had to endure a homecoming or a prom. But I was brought up in Italy. We talk with our hands you know. Imagine being an INTJ and having to talk with your hands.