Sunday, 24 March 2013

135/111 - Quiet by Susan Cain

I bought this book on my way to France last My from the airport, and I've been pretty excited about reading it ever since, however have only just gotten round to it.

It's a book about introversion as a personality trait, and how it's a trait which tends to be undervalued or seen as inferior to extroversion, even though it doesn't always pay to be an extrovert.

I really enjoyed this because I identify myself as an introvert and I wanted to see what Susan had to say on the matter. Before I started this, my understanding of an introvert is someone who likes to spend more time alone than with other people, someone who finds being around other people quite draining and looks forward to rest and recuperation from social situations. Someone who is more comfortable in small intimate groups of people, and doesn't necessarily enjoy interacting with large groups of people they don't know. At least, these are traits I identify in myself.

I was really interested to read about all this, and more. I also found that I really related to the parts about being able to mimic extrovert traits, such as making connections to people and public speaking. I can do both of these things well, however I don't particularly like either of them. It can be you because I work in sales, so I'm expected to talk to people pretty much all day long, however I find it incredibly draining. The organisation I work for also has a deep-rooted culture of extroversion (partly because its an American company I guess) and so to a certain extent, people who are self-promoters and loud progress further than I will, because it's not really my style to do so.

I find when I get home from work, the very last thing I want to do is more socialising, and I hate house parties and meeting new people in big groups (totally fine in small groups of 2-3). My idea of a nice holiday is going away somewhere and not having to see anyone or do anything at all, which I have done in the past for myself, and found it immensely refreshing. As a result, I find myself exhausted by my job during the week as I don't really want to have to do any more talking or being with people unless I have to. With my loved ones and friends, I'm happy to spend the time and the energy with them, and I get a great deal out of our relationships, however I think they'd be surprised by just how much contentment I get from spending time on my own.

A theme which Susan touches on quite often is how introversion as an integral part of your character can make you feel inferior. There are definitely times when being introverted makes me feel weak, like when I'm meeting new people and don't talk much, it's not because I don't have anything to say, it's more that I'm evaluating things more, or being more sensitive to the situation, or nerves are getting the better of me. It can also feel lonely at times, because while I have plenty of high quality friendships, I don't have a huge group of friends, and I don't make friends easily because it takes me a long time to get to know someone. I guess it's probably not all that cool for someone of my age to admit that I can't really be bothered with most people, or that I fear they would probably say the same of me. I'm not saying that to put myself down, it's just an observation.

Overall, I'd say I'm fairly happy with being an introvert, because I have enough skill to pretend otherwise when it matters, however what this book did really highlight for me was that this is something that I may have to keep an eye on so that I don't burn out, and that possibly a career that involves me talking to people every day might not be the best one for me.

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