Ugh, it’s that dreaded time of the year again – was my thought every day I trudged into work last month. June marks my employer’s, and many other organizations’, employee review period. In addition to the stress of closing the fiscal year, we get the added bonus of battling with a archaic website to write up our self-appraisals, before struggling through a seemingly-endless series of interviews and other additional hoops to get our year-end ratings.
If you’re like me, a shy introvert with mild social anxiety, this process is the worst. I hate talking about myself and I warned my manager in advance that I may break into tears (to his consternation). Luckily I have a good enough relationship with him that my awkwardness didn’t totally wreck our meeting, but he and several other mentors suggested that I read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking in order to build self confidence and utilize my personality strengths to overcome my flaws.
Well, I can’t say that this book is helping me do that. Susan Cain, a self-confessed introvert herself, clearly has done a lot of research into the differences between introverts and extroverts, from speaking to scientists about their research to attending motivational conferences to sharing anecdotes from individuals all over the spectrum. Unfortunately her main conclusion seems to be that America today is a place where extroversion is valued and introverts just have to learn how to deal with it. Alternatively, the option is to seek those friend groups, companies, and/or countries where introversion is more valued.
While she does point to some positive traits that introverts can utilize, such as sensitivity/empathy and level-headedness/caution, her principal advice was to be pseudo-extroverted. She speaks to many introverts who pretend on some level to be extroverted in order to get ahead in their careers and relationships, and who are sad and frustrated that they have to fake it in order to make it. To some extent, many introverts do this already – I know several friends and colleagues who have said that they imagine me to be more extroverted than I think I am. Which is probably the plus side of this book – Cain accurately points out that a lot can be overcome if we ignore our self-perception. For example, in a public speaking class, you feel your legs quivering and your cheeks heating up as you get flustered in front of the audience, but most of the audience won’t even notice the tells that you’re nervous.
I would recommend this book to introverts because it is a fascinating read, but I honestly think it will have more power if extroverts, especially at the managerial level, read it so they know how to relate better to their introverted employees. Cain is absolutely correct that introverts have positive contributions to make to society but that we often get lost in the hubbub.
This text is only valuable as a self-help book for parents trying to guide introverted kids. As an adult without children, I couldn’t utilize many of the tips she gave, but I sure did wish my parents and teachers had read this earlier.
Note: It could have been 4 stars if my expectations of guidance and wisdom didn’t conflict with the actuality of the text. I came to it to learn, and failed to learn what I desired – not necessarily a fault of the author perhaps, but of the marketing and recommendations I’d received.