|My copy of quiet with dozens of bookmarks tucked in|
I started to add little pieces of paper as bookmarks to each page I found particularly relevant or interesting and before long the whole book was packed full of my little bookmarks. So then I made a load of notes on the book of things I wanted to remember myself and was going to type those up as my review but then I found it had so much from the book written up that it would give too much away and this is such an amazing book that you really do need to read it yourself.
So here is my attempt to summarise some of the lessons I learnt from the book. Cain starts by explaining the rise of the extrovert and how extrovert qualities have been seen as superior and desired qualities in our culture right through from school, university and into the workplace. Even churches aren't immune to the desire for charismatic extroverted leadership as Cain looks at Rick Warren's 22,000 strong Saddleback church as a case study.
The book carries warnings about how placing too much importance on listening to extroverts without giving due attention to introverts who are often deeper thinkers and more likely to consider the risks involved, can lead to disaster in the workplace. It also explains how greater levels of creativity and productivity can come from working alone. I wonder if the future will take heed of this warning and re-organise office spaces and schools away from 'open-plan-group-work-style' to formats more suitable for working individually.
Interestingly despite the evidence presented for individual working as a catalyst for innovation, Cain also looks at how online brainstorming could be an exception to this rule if it is carried out anonymously and free from the fear of social judgement.
The nature versus nurture debate is explored thoroughly with an explanation of high-sensitivity and low-sensitivity in relation to the introversion / extroversion debate. This also resonated strongly with me as I was a child who had always been described as 'conscientious' and so I found the connections between introversion, conscience, and sensitivity fascinating.
The chapter entitled 'Soft Power' looks at cultural differences and shows that 'in a gentle way, you can shake the world' (Mahatma Gandhi quoted by Cain, p.181).
A whole wealth of further aspects are discussed - one of which really helped me. Cain gives us permission to have the freedom to be ourselves without the guilt of saying no to attending that big party or busy coffee morning. It has helped me to accept myself more with less guilt and to recognise the downtime I need when I do spend a lot of time in highly social situations.
Towards the end of the book, Cain gives strategies for helping introverted children reach their full potential whilst valuing who they truly are. The words 'He's recoiling from novelty or overstimulation, not from human contact' (p.248) really resonated with me. This sentence could have been written for our son with Aspergers.
So often children on the autistic spectrum are described as not wanting social contact. What we've found is that J likes social contact as much as anyone else does - he loves to play with friends and he loves to be around other people. What he struggles with is the social cues of getting that contact right and the overstimulation and sensory overload that being around others can present.
When done at his pace at a level that's right for him, things work out brilliantly. He has even coped remarkably well with birthday parties but sadly due to people's assumptions about how he will be, party invites are few and far between.
That brings me to another observation I made when reading the book. Many of the traits described in the book as introversion are pretty close to traits described for those with ASD / Aspergers. I've also heard it described that because ASD is a spectrum condition that it can be hard to know where to draw the line between a diagnosis of Aspergers and simply being 'quirky' or 'eccentric'. I would add 'Introversion' to that too.
Whilst the book already covers vast amounts of research and fascinating insights, I would love to find out more about the relationship between Aspergers and introversion. As I mentioned, many of the traits already seem to overlap and I found myself wondering whether where I had assumed I had aspie traits myself, whether they are more likely to be introversion.
I suppose in some ways it doesn't matter because the important thing is to accept and embrace that we are all different whatever the reason behind that difference is. Crucially Cain recognises that there is a need for both introverts and extroverts in the world. It is simply that the extrovert ideal has become considered as the 'best' way for so long in our society and culture that it is time to redress that imbalance.
See the Britmums Book Club linky for Quiet to read everyone else's reviews.
Disclosure: I was sent a copy of the book for the purposes of review. All opinions are my own.