Recently, I read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. This book had been on my reading list for a while. As mostly an introvert, I was excited about this book, because I have always thought that it is my introversion holds me back!
We live in a world that is built on extroversion.
You must be loud (I’m not).
You must have lots to say (only maybe when I go on a rant)
You must always be on!
We’re surrounded by people who can speak louder, faster, not necessarily smarter, and all of a sudden all eyes on them. Why? Because they spoke louder. Extroversion is considered the ideal in our world! We’re all expected to learn to be good public speakers, be great networkers, and engage in small talk in the workplace.
In this book, Susan Cain talks about the extroversion ideal we grow up with from a North American perspective. Extroversion is deemed to be the key to success, especially in the business world. You must be able to sell products, services, your own brand.
I loved her book; I had found my tribe! There were so many parts of the book, where I had ah-ha moments, where I felt seen! Many parts of my personality can be chalked up to my introversion tendencies.
- Why I feel more guilt than others
- Why I am not quick to decide and need all the options in front of me
- Why I get nervous in a crowd.
- Why I hate small talk and large groups, but I love engaging in deep topics and look forward to one on one conversations.
- Why after a long day, I just want to be alone with my thoughts (or maybe Netflix and takeout). I am an introvert through and through.
Yes, of course, I read this book knowing that it would validate my introversion. But it is also reassuring to find that there are lots of people like me! Most people who read this book probably are introverts themselves. But it was great to read a book to feel like there are others in the world who feel this way. Because we live in a society that values extroversion so much, it’s hard to feel that there are others who have introvert tendencies.
The book is split in several sections and talks to the impact of introversion in the workplace, in relationships, in various cultures and how introversion may be built into your own biology.
Susan Cain also provides lots of examples for introverted people; people who have succeeded in various capacities, and their introverted tendencies actually helped them get there, rather than hinder them!
This book is just as important for extroverts. Chances are, you’ve met lots of introverted people. This book will be helpful in understanding how to deal with introverted tendencies, and that we’re not just blowing you off!
Introversion and Small Talk
Small talk is a facet of life. Seriously. To forge any new relationship, it all starts with small talk. Since I’ve been a child, I find it hard to make good friends. I was more of a one-on-one hangout person, than a group hangout. As I got older, foraged into the corporate world, I found that the small talk didn’t go away. It got worse! I was constantly having conversations about the weather, surface level conversations about sports, TV shows, events that were happening in the city – nothing of real substance! S
For a long time, I’d felt that there was something wrong with me. But the reality is I was buying into the society ideal person of being an extrovert. For many people going out for drinks after a long day of work is a form of relaxation. For me, after a long day, it can
Accepting I am an introvert
For the most part, I saw myself in this book, but I knew I was an introvert even before that. I am one of those introverts who can pretend to be an extrovert. I can make small talk, articulate my ideas in a crowd, and I actually was okay with public speaking when needed. But at the end of the day, after I had given my energy to the world, I need to be away from the crowd. I want to sit in my bed, read, or listen to music. I value my alone time.
Introversion and Culture
One aspect of the book that I didn’t agree with was Cain’s analysis of culture and extraversion. Her question was whether extroversion was valued in every culture. She talked a lot specifically about the Asian/Indian culture and how extroversion is not necessarily valued as much as introversion in other cultures. I found that it was interesting that her conclusion was that in other cultures, specifically among Asians and Indians, introversion may be more valued than extroversion.
Coming from an Indian/Pakistani background, I find that there is definitely a value placed on extraversion outside of the professional realm. Most families / extended families get together on weekends. We value large weddings, and there are always many celebrations to attend. Attending these events, also means that you’re expected to socialize with lots of people constantly!
You’re telling me that those brown aunties who gossip 24/7 really value introversion?
I used to religiously go to the mosque every week, often on command of my parents. As I grew up, especially once I started working, my introversion really came out. It was more obvious after attending meetings all day, commuting in a crowd, going to the mosque and socializing was not for me. I disliked making small talk with people.
I’ve been surrounded by extroverts in my life, and I’ve always thought that extroversion is the ideal that I should strive for. I’ve slowly come to accept that being introverted has its own merits, and I shouldn’t have to strive to be the extrovert that is expected of me!
Over time, I’ve developed lots of ways to deal with being an introvert. Here are my tips to navigate the world, if you are also an introvert!
5 Tips to Surviving as an Introvert:
ONE: “Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to”
This quote is right out of the book. As an introvert, this piece of advice is key! You need your alone time, whether it’s in bed reading or alone with a cup of tea! You shouldn’t feel guilty for staying in on a Friday night, do what you need to do to recharge! Accept yourself for who you are!
In a world where we’re so connected, it’s easy to feel like you need to be out and about. Yes, I am referring to FOMO (fear of missing out). Although, there may just have to be a new wave of JOMO (joy of missing out), which does seem to be catching on.
TWO: Remember to Challenge Yourself
This may seem like a contradiction of the tip above, but if you are an introvert, it’s easy to chalk up your feelings of not wanting to go to certain events, just because of the crowd situation. It’s harder to get out of your comfort zone, and I am very guilty of using my introversion as an excuse. Sometimes, I turn down invitations, or don’t do certain activities, because I’m uncomfortable around so many people. Now that I am aware of this, I try to take my time and think about why I am turning down the invitation or opportunity. Is it because I’m intimidated by the crowd? Or do I really not want to go to the event? Having this self-awareness helps me not to miss out on opportunities and new experiences.
THREE: Visualize the Change
Being around new people is intimidating. Before you go to events or participate in activities that challenge your introverted side, try to prepare yourself before you go with a visualization exercise. Actively try to imagine the crowd, the venue, the food, anything you can about your new surroundings. Anticipating your “triggers” will help you enjoy yourself without being caught up in the new crowd.
FOUR: Find your Tribe
Find your people! Extroverted friends are important to keep you on your toes, and your introverted friends will be there to hang out with you and say nothing! Try to find the balance in your life of the introverted and extroverted people. It’s okay to so no to a loud party every now and then, I’m sure your extroverted friends will not mind.
FIVE: Drink coffee
Coffee is a great survival technique for me. I love caffeine; it helps me focus, it helps me relax. My happy place is any café; the smell of coffee being brewed, blank chatter, and coffee shop music. Some days, I want to be alone, but not too alone, and I’ll take my laptop and write in a coffee shop. It’s also a great place to meet up with friends, where you can hear your own thoughts! Barista and people who frequent coffee shops are some of my favorite type of people!
The Bottom Line
Being an introvert or an extrovert really falls on a spectrum. I am more introverted than extroverted, but even I have my extroverted moments. Sometimes, I want to be around people, and go to concerts or events.
There are many more introverts in the world than you realize. This book is important for both introverts, who can find themselves in the book, and extroverts, so they can better appreciate and introverts among them!
I’d love to hear your comments below!