Thursday, 9 February 2017

Quiet Power

Although this is in part a review of Susan Cain’s book Quiet Power, I’m not titling or structuring it as I would with a usual book review, since I am taking a much more reflective and personal approach (hitting another of my 2017 goals one month into the year – go me).

I’ve considered myself to be quiet for as long as I can remember, and I think I identified as an introvert before even realising exactly what that meant. Every Parents’ Evening and school report was filled with comments about how I needed to contribute more, I was kicked out of multiple ‘friendship’ groups because quiet was synonymous for boring, and I had to retake my A Level language oral exams multiple times because I struggled to speak well in that kind of situation.

A lot of my quietness does, of course, stem from shyness or social anxieties, and I can be very loud and outspoken in certain company, but introversion is also a big part of it, and even when with my closest friends or flatmates I need time to myself and time to just revel in silence. In fact, I have moments of completely comfortable silence with most of my close friends, and honestly, I feel stronger bonds because of it.

When you grow up constantly being told you need to be louder, speak more or develop better ‘adult’ social skills otherwise you won’t get anywhere in life, and that needing quiet and alone time is rude and antisocial, it’s hard not to see quietness and introversion as a weakness. Growing up I always found this difficult to understand, and over more recent years I’ve recognised more and more strengths that come from introversion.

As you can imagine, when Penguin Books got in contact and asked if I wanted to review Susan Cain’s Quiet Power, no consideration was needed. Quiet Power is Cain’s second book. Her first, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, is a self-help book of sorts for introverted adults. Her second book, subtitled Growing Up as an Introvert in a World That Can’t Stop Talking is drawn from the same wave of thinking and her ‘Quiet Revolution’, but is reimagined for children, teens and young adults. On reflection, the adult version of the book would probably be more suitable for me now that I am at the working-full-time-and-living-on-my-own stage of life, but it was similarly helpful and interesting to be able to relate things back to my school years and to try to unpick certain behaviours, and stigmas, that I lived and breathed at the time.

The book is split into four sections – school, socialising, hobbies and home – and each section comprises of an explanation, followed by anecdotes and small case studies, before finishing with learnings and tips. In this sense, it does feel a little text book, but it’s very much a logical, structured read.

Although the anecdotes and case studies were interesting, it does get a little repetitive, and it was the introduction that I found the most enlightening. Cain begins by stating that she’s always been asked why she’s being so quiet, and reaffirms my own finding that to be called outgoing was the highest compliment a person could receive at school.

The fundamental difference between an introvert and extrovert is that extroverts get their energy from being around other people, whereas introverts get their energy from recharging during alone time. Throughout the book, Susan Cain reiterates all the things I already considered to be ‘quiet powers’, such as being observant, perceptive, having an astute awareness of surroundings (despite quietness often being confused by others as ‘not being with it’), being a good judge of character and often having a good understanding of how to respond to different individuals. However, what has stuck with me more than anything else, is Cain’s explanation of introversion of having a ‘deep inner life’ and considering that inner life to be important. This is something that I’ve always felt, but have never quite been able to put into words or acknowledge as a normal way of thinking.

It was amazing to read about how schools that had read Cain’s first book had consequently implemented new or changed methods of teaching to complement and empower introverts. Of course, none of this is to say that if you’re an introvert you should just accept your quietness as an absolute state and use it as an excuse as to why you can’t or will never be able to achieve certain things or thrive in certain situations.

I see it as any extreme character trait; it’s always beneficial to learn things from others’ skill-sets and blend elements of these into your own strengths. So by all means, if you’re a fellow introvert, forever work on developing confidence and strength of voice, but never let anyone treat your quietness as a weakness and always been an advocate for you own Quiet Power.

*I was sent this book in exchange for a review, but all words and opinions are my own.
Affiliate links were used in this post.

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