Saturday Auditorium Series Speaker: Susan Cain

Susan Cain (Photo credit: ALA – The American Library Association)

Susan Cain was a lawyer, but she left that to write a book about having an inner life.  She calls herself an introvert. You know – she prefers a little conversation to a party.

Her first book is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Our culture favors extroverts. The book argues that introverts don’t need to change to find their place.  And Susan Cain thinks there should be a “Quiet Revolution.”

I discovered the book browsing a bookstore. I thought from the QUIET on the cover, it might be a book about seeking out quiet places. Then I saw the introvert part. I’m not an introvert, but I know some. So, I started reading parts.

Maybe I am an introvert.

In an interview she was asked about the public speaking that comes with book promotion. That shouldn’t be desirable for an introverts.

Cain said, “It definitely gets easier with practice, even aside from the techniques. The process psychologists call desensitization: If there is something you’re afraid of or uncomfortable with, keep on exposing yourself to that thing in manageable doses, and the thing loses its power over you. In my case, that thing is public speaking, and now I’ve done it so many times that it doesn’t have the same effect as it used to. I’ve come to like it. A technique I like is letting yourself be yourself onstage and talking to someone you really care about. I don’t think of myself as a natural public speaker, performer, or entertainer. But I am authentic, and when I am speaking, it’s from a very heartfelt place. It’s been really liberating. When I started out, I thought one needed to be a natural showman, and I’ve come to understand that that is not right.”

, Oil on pasteboard,...

Vincent – Self-Portrait, Spring 1887

It is said that statistically at least one-third of the people you know are introverts. They prefer listening to speaking. They might prefer reading to partying. That’s me. But people don’t describe me as “quiet.”

Introverts do important things. Vincent van Gogh painted his quiet. Chopin wrote nocturnes. Gandhi used it to transform leadership. Those inventors of the personal computer were pretty introverted.

The book explores how we deal with introverts in places like schools, workplaces, and religious institutions. Those places are very extrovert friendly. That causes some introverted talent and energy to be wasted.

I like the book best when it doesn’t feel like an apology for introverts. We undervalue introverts. She shows us the effects of the rise of the Extrovert Ideal.

The book also tells you about the research in psychology and neuroscience being done now that reveals differences between extroverts and introverts.

I also watched a TED talk Cain gave called “The Power of Introverts.”

I guess introverts might like to read a book about themselves, but the book is really talking to extroverts. I wonder if they will hear what it is saying.