Wow! Anyone out there who thinks that reading non-fiction is boring, you need to sit down and read a book like Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking! Brains are such amazing things, and the stuff I learned about my brain and the way it fits—or doesn’t fit—into modern American society is fascinating!
There was so much packed into this little book that I can only touch the tip of the iceberg. Every chapter was a wealth of information and insight about the things that make introverts like me tick and all the ways that the society we live in today praises extroversion, leaving introverts out in the cold.
But first, as the book makes clear at the beginning, an introvert is not someone who is shy, timid, and afraid of their own shadow. As a psychological term, “introversion” refers to the kind of person who thinks more deeply about things, who weighs consequences before acting, who prefers solitude or the company of a few to recharge their battery, and who work better on their own. I qualify for most of the traits of an introvert, even though I have an easy enough time talking to people and being out there in the world. A lot of it has to do with how your brain processes information.
One of the things that really stood out to me was the role of the amygdala in an introverted way of looking at things. The amygdala is a little almond-shaped part of your brain that sits on your brain stem. It controls the “fight or flight” response in your brain. It controls a heck of a lot of other things too! It tends to be more active in introverts than extroverts. I also kind of thought this was interesting because—as someone who has suffered from anxiety disorders in the past—I have been told that a lot of that is due to my amygdala overreacting at the wrong times. Interesting. I also believe I heard once that some part of the sexual process is controlled by the amygdala, and I wonder if that contributes to my love of reading and writing romance novels. Hmm….
Anyhow, another point that I found so interesting was the explanation of work styles for introverts and extroverts. As the book said, our Corporate American culture prizes things like open office plans and brainstorming sessions. We’re a very go-get-‘um culture where just about everything is compared to sales. But that’s not the best way for an introvert to work. We do much better working independently, where we can chew on ideas, try things out, and come up with a better process. It doesn’t surprise me at all that so many writers are introverts. It also doesn’t surprise me that, as the book explains, many of the greatest advances of our society were thought of by introverts working alone.
But I think the most touching and poignant chapter of the book was the one that talked about how to raise an introverted child. I know from experience that all too often introverted children are thought of by their teachers and peers to have problems. They’re the odd kids who just need to be taught to socialize more and “come out of their shell” to be “normal”. Not so! As Quiet so wisely points out, some kids are just introverted and are more comfortable playing and learning on their own. The problem is that our society sees that as bad, and rather than fostering kids who are more inward, it tries to “cure” them. This does a lot of damage to an otherwise bubbling mind. It’s kind of sad, actually.
Along those lines, one of the most fascinating thing to me was the discussion about the fact that our culture hasn’t always been extrovert-centric. The whole outgoing, loud, boisterous, salesman-like persona of our modern world actually began around the 1920s. In the 19th century we were more of a culture that praised introverted values: thoughtfulness, consideration, and not speaking until we were ready to say the right thing. No wonder I’m such a big fan of the 19th century then! I would love to read more about it, but I suspect that the values of 150 years ago are much more in keeping with my way of looking at the world. This is probably why I find writing historical romance easy, but the idea of writing a contemporary romance boggles my mind.
Anyhow, this was a truly fascinating book that I recommend to anyone who has a love of psychology and human nature. Next up, another non-fiction book, but this one about history. I’m about a third of the way through right now and it’s amazing!