susan cain

Book News: In Defense of Introverts

February 13, 2012 at 4:41 pm , by

A few weeks ago, I came across this cartoon and laughed out loud. See that second box? The one with the person excited about an evening at home, anything but barhopping or book club? That person is so me. And, like many introverts, I’ve felt bad about it more than once in my life. Like I was weird for retreating to the bathroom at parties when I just needed a break from all that merriment or too low-profile to be class president or newspaper editor because I wasn’t a “leader.” Author Susan Cain often felt like that, too, but she always suspected that it was the rest of the world—not her—that was getting it wrong. Now, her New York Times bestseller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking shines a light on introverts (whether we like it or not) and makes the case that we, too, have an important role in a world that reveres extroverts.

Recently, I chatted with Cain about the untapped power she champions in Quiet.

You think of yourself as an introvert. What has that meant in your life?

When I started practicing law, I thought my nature was going to be a disadvantage for me. But eventually, I realized I have a whole constellation of other qualities serving me well—like listening skills and preparing carefully. I wasn’t one to take over a meeting, but I was good at creating one-on-one alliances with people behind the scenes. And these skills can be very powerful. Also, at first I assumed that my personality was a function of gender—that the things I did were things a woman would do. But, then I started to look around and saw that plenty of women had different styles from me, just as plenty of men were more like me.

Are women often assumed to be introverted?

In some ways, yes, traditionally women have been expected to be quieter and more passive. So for these reasons, historically it’s been easier for a woman to be an introvert than a man. I think that’s changing now. I consider myself a strong feminist, but I do think that feminism can make things harder for female introverts, because of this model that says that you should be very bold and take the world by the horns. An introverted form of power has a very different style to it.

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