For The Someday Book

Posts Tagged ‘extrovert

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, Crown, 2012, EPUB file (368 pages in paperback).

quietI did much better in my second choice for an e-book. I had been curious to read Quiet since it was published and I had heard multiple good reports about it from friends and from NPR. As an introvert myself, I was intrigued by the popularity of this book. I have read plenty of things about the differences between being an introvert and an extrovert, so I wasn’t that interested in discovering more about what it’s like to be me.

What is unique about Cain’s book are the new studies from neuroscientists about the brain patterns of introverts, and her analysis of the privileging of extroverted behavior in our culture. Cain begins with identifying what she calls the “Extrovert Ideal,” which she traces to the beginning of the 20th century. The Culture of Character (which valued seriousness, hard work, discipline and honor) became replaced by a Culture of Personality.

When they embraced the Culture of Personality, Americans started to focus on how others perceived them. They became captivated by people who are bold and entertaining. “The social role demanded of all in the new Culture of Personality was that of a performer,” (Warren) Susman famously wrote. “Every American was to become a performing self.” (21)

Leadership and social capital now comes from likability and gregariousness. Cain uses the self-help culture influenced by Dale Carnegie and the culture at Harvard Business School as primary examples of how we privilege extroversion and extroverted behavior. She then proceeds to make the case for the values introverts bring to the table–especially a capacity for new and innovative ideas.

New research shows that groups working together are not nearly as creative as individuals left to work alone. Open workplaces, group brainstorming and team retreats are not effective at producing innovative ideas, because a person (introvert or extrovert) needs space to think alone before thinking with the group. She also examines the way Asian culture still values more introverted traits, and what the experience of Asians in America is around those concerns. Introverts process dopamine differently than extroverts, which means they feel less “buzz” in response to stimuli. That means they tend to be “cool” and guided by inner rewards rather than external ones. This means they can bring perspective, patience and measured reactions to an organization.

The style of Quiet reminded me a lot of Malcolm Gladwell’s work, with its quick and compelling prose and vast approach to the subject, ranging from neuroscience to popular culture to business to personal interviews. It was an enjoyable and entertaining read, with some ideas I may be able to take with me.

It’s been a month since I’ve done any significant writing. It’s not because I haven’t had anything to say–I have a “drafts” folder full of ideas and starters for blog posts. It’s not even because I’ve been working too hard. Although it’s been a full time at church, that has not stopped me from taking time to write in the past. It’s because I’ve been on vacation. The wrong kind of vacation has left me bereft of energy for writing.

I spent a week at a very full conference with other young clergy in the UCC 2030 Clergy Network, then a week back home, then nearly two weeks in my hometown surrounded by family. All of these were good trips, filled with engaging conversations and plenty of material for reflection and good times with extended family. But I returned from this time of vacation feeling incredibly scatterbrained, stressed, depleted and overwhelmed, and I think I have finally figured out why: I am an extreme introvert who has taken extroverted vacations.

None of these trips have been stressful—there was no family drama, no major travel nightmares (although one came close), no frantic need for sight-seeing. Neither has the workload upon my return been overwhelming—just the normal catch-up work on visitations and preparing worship for vacation weeks. The stress, I realized, is coming from within, or, rather, from the inability to spend time within.

Because all these travels have involved a short amount of time and a long list of people to see, the days were packed with one visit after another. Many of them were intense, filled with passionate conversations and deep-hearted sharing among old friends. As an introvert, these conversations themselves—while often enjoyable and exciting—are also draining. For me to make sense of them, I need time apart to process things, think them over and be alone with my thoughts. During vacation, I just piled one conversation on top of another, until they all became a big blur.

Over the last 10 days since I got home, I have had plenty of time in the evenings to sit and write, but my mind has been too jumbled. All I could manage to do was watch television, clean house and go to bed early. It has taken me a week to recover my inner voice and mental space for writing, beyond the normal writing of sermons and prayers and newsletter articles.

My writing is not the only thing to suffer, however. My patient and pleasant personality is probably the far greater victim. I have noticed for years that I get testy and irritable when I go to visit family on vacation. I try to be nice, but I find myself snippy and snarky despite my best efforts.  I think it all goes back to trying to be something I’m not: an extrovert. When I don’t take time to process, think, be silent and alone, I become a very unpleasant person.

I don’t know how to do it, but in the future I need to be more self-conscious about the impact these extroverted vacations have on me as a person and as a writer.

Now that this first piece of processing is written, let’s hope I can get back into gear and spend some time on that backlog of ideas in my drafts folder.


About Me

I am a full-time pastor in the United Church of Christ, mother of a young child (B.), married to an aspiring academic and curmudgeon (J.). I live by faith, intuition and intellect. I follow politics, football and the Boston Red Sox. I like to talk about progressive issues, theological concerns, church life, the impact of technology and media, pop culture and books.

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