Quiet

quiet

Hands up, I’m an introvert, so is Mr. Lacer and Girl Lacer, not so sure about Boy Lacer, it can be hard to separate possible introversion from his autism, like a lot of autistic kids he can talk for England on a subject he’s interested in (Minecraft) and he has a bit of a reputation at school for his sense of humour but he has the usual issues with social interactions that can be found with ASD. Even with us three certified introverts, we’re all different, I’m an introvert who doesn’t mind giving presentations, in fact I actively enjoy them (although I once had a job where there was a high possibility I would have to regularly go into court to give evidence, it never actually happened but that did terrify me, despite training from my employers). And in more recent years I’ve organised fundraising teams, coffee mornings and parties and attended council meetings. Girl Lacer, who is labelled at school as ‘highly sensitive’ (so much so, after reading Quiet, which in one section uses the term ‘highly sensitive’ a lot, I suspect they’ve read the book to, they definitely should anyway, all teachers should, for reasons I’ll get to) and she herself will admit she doesn’t like talking in class ‘unless she has something to say’ but at the same time she’s been a consumate performer from a very young age, impressing me at the age of 4 how calmly and professionally she would approach dance shows (she still dances, bypassing the little girl dancing around pretending to be a fairy stage a long time ago, just watching her dance classes exhausts me now), she also relishes choir work and her drama class, where she recently had a key role. Mr. Lacer is more a ‘classic’ introvert, not going by stereotypes or anything 😉 but he is a computer programmer.

Anyway, so the book Quiet, by Susan Cain, subtitled ‘The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ was absolutely fascinating and felt incredibly relevant to us. The book, which is very American-centric (which to be fair is because the author’s American), looks at why extroversion has become the cultural ideal in the US (I think it’s become the cultural ideal in the UK to, although perhaps not to the extreme extent it seems to have done in the States) and looks at how extroversion has infiltrated business and religion. Cain uses Harvard Business school, which to this introvert sounds a complete nightmare to go to and Saddleback Church as examples. Cain talks about how extroverted business practices such as group collaboration and open plan offices have taken over and discusses how, for an introvert, they are are not ideal and how for everyone in general, those practices are not always good. Cain sites lots of research and I loved when she talked about an experiment where scientists looked at the effectiveness of brainstorming in groups, comparing the number of solutions created using group brainstorming and those generated by the same people working on their own, more ideas where generated by people working on their own. Cain talks about how extrovert bankers, who were by their nature less risk adverse where promoted because they kept bringing in money with their possibly risky practices during the boom years but yet, by their nature, could not see ‘the canary in the mine’ that the quieter introverts (who weren’t getting promoted) could see and when the introverts did raise potential problems, they’d be shouted down by the louder extroverts.

Cain looks at the biology behind introversion and extroversion and also spends some time talking about people who are ‘highly sensitive’ (this bit felt particularly relevant), apparently you can get highly sensitive extroverts to but it’s more commonly an introvert trait. And how this can be managed by trying to keep in your ‘sweet spot’ as much as possible, balancing high stimulation activities with low stimulation activities. She also looks at how introverts can sometimes act as extroverts when doing something they’re passionate about, with something called ‘free trait theory’, I really felt how this explained how comfortable Girl Lacer was performing and how I’m happy to give talks, because I’m lucky, most of the time I was talking about something I was interested in and how I was happy to do the fundraising / social secretary type work because it was for an organisation I felt passionate about. Cain then goes to to talk about ‘restorative niches’, rest ‘zones’ for introverts utilising their free traits.

Cain looks at the benefits of being an introvert (I love her section on Steve Wozniak and how his ‘deliberate practice’ since a child, because he wasn’t out partying, helped create the first Mac), the conflicts facing Asian Americans with the contrasting extrovert and introvert cultures, the downfalls of the education system with the over-emphasis on group work (which is why all teachers should read this) and how to parent an introvert child.

If you’re an introvert or a parent of an introvert child, read this book. If you’re a teacher or manage a team of people, because guaranteed there will be introverts in your classroom or workplace, read this book, it’s invaluable.

***** out of 5

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