If there are two words that would succinctly describe the effects of Susan Cain’s book Quiet for me, it would be life changing. Growing up shy and a lot less confident back then had me face to face with situations that would either make me cringe or laugh when they come knocking again at the door of my consciousness.
I grew up at a time when parents were at the state of my-child-is-freakin’-smarter-than-your-child mindsets. Having raised in a religious family, my nanay’s dream was for me to become a pastor and a preacher of our church and so she would always nag me to volunteer to sing in front of the congregation – always against my freakin’ will. I can sing with unshakeable confidence when I’m alone or when I’m at home (I just recently discovered that I sound like the vocalist of Killswitch Engage, just my opinion) but when I stand on stage and realize that all eyes are on me, my voice falters and is reduced to a whisper. I wish I can either disappear in an instant or run away from the stage and the people watching, never going back, and forgetting that such memory even existed at all. I would’ve traded being a castaway in an uninhabited island in the pacific rather than sing in the pulpit but you know moms. They have their way with their children. After ages of life-and-death struggle, I decided to give it a shot even as I am having this silent but violent protest within me.
I was all over. After my humiliating experience, I remember my aunt rubbing the wound with salt and hydrochloric acid as she laughed at me while mimicking my quivering voice and my humiliation. That was when I swore to myself that I’ll never gonna sing upfront in church again.
I have always been the quiet kid throughout my years in the academy and in the university. And being the introverted dude in the block, I was bullied in highschool, made fun of, passed by, and became less popular at a time when I was trying to prove myself and trying hard to be noticed by women. I tried to be bubbly, spontaneous and gregarious. And though there is a lot of comfort for me in being quiet, deep inside I felt I’m dying from loneliness and I thought that being in the limelight is all I need. I thought I need to have a bunch of people I can call my barkada, people I must always follow to avoid being alone. And so what I did is to present myself to every drinking session with them where we were anything but sober for days on end.
I somehow made a buzz. I loved the noise, cherished the attention, but still felt that something is wrong. People are telling me that being friends to everyone and being “bravo” is the way to be, from getting everyone’s attention, the stepping stone to being influential and my passport to a successful life. For a long time I followed the crowd. It has its ups and downs but it made me dead inside.
This persisted until a few years into my professional life. I hardly made any connection with officemates. I felt I am an extraterrestrial man sentenced to life in prison inside this earthly body. And while everyone’s scheduled for a drinking session during Fridays, I am bound for home to spend Friday night and the weekend with my family. I don’t regret having spent those times with them, those times are well spent. I just wish I made a connection with others as well.
Nothing’s wrong with me, everything’s wrong with the world, so I thought. That was until I read Susan Cain’s book Quiet, which is a book about introversion. I am an INFJ according to the Myers-Briggs test and in my effort to find out about what it is being an introvert, whether it’s wrong or it’s perfectly normal, I delved deeper into Susan’s book where I hung on her every word.
I understood my temperament, and in turn I was able to use it to my advantage. I began to celebrate my quiet self more often rather than abhorring my solitude.
And while it’s true that I’ve been empowered, I also came to a point where I figured I gave too much thought to being different that I’ve grown to resent the people on the other side of the spectrum. Being an introvert, I learned doesn’t make you right and the other wrong nor does it make you a saint and the other a sinner.
I understood what it’s like to be an introvert down to the atomic levels while appreciating the extroverts on the other side as well. It made me more confident in myself and in my own quiet ways while respecting the gregariousness of others.
I wish to share my favorite lines in the book and some of my insights that I scribbled in the sides. The book is a mind-opener, especially if you’re an introvert like me. From Susan’s own personal account to conducted researches worldwide which she uncovered while writing the book, I can say that she really did her homework. I suggest you’d read her book too and I hope you’d benefit from it as well…
1. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform. p. 4
It’s your advantage if you’re gregarious. It’s deemed the ultimate quality of an alpha that even in the dating scene, the smooth talkers get their lions share and the introverts are the wallflowers.
2. A few things introverts are not: The word introvert is not a synonym for hermit or misanthrope. p. 11
3. The “Bus to Abilene” anecdote reveals our tendency to follow those who initiate action – any action.
The Bus to Abilene
It’s about a family sitting on a porch in Texas on a hot summer day, and somebody says, ‘I’m bored. Why don’t we go to Abilene?’ When they get to Abilene, somebody says, ‘You know, I didn’t really want to go.’ And the next person says, ‘I didn’t want to go – I thought you wanted to go,’ and so on. p. 52
4. Some were quick and impulsive, while others studied the situation and took forever to come to a decision. p. 53 in comparing a charismatic leader and those who doesn’t have it. I cant help but laugh at the “took forever” description.
5. Having benefited from the talents of their followers, they are then likely to motivate them to be even more productive. p. 57 in a conclusion from a research presenting team outputs under an introverted leader. I personally attest to this one. I appreciate my design managers when they listen to me and when they allow me to explore possible solutions. It’s then that I feel my thoughts are valued and thus I’m more often at my full potential.
6. Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read, to say that they can express the “real me” online, and to spend more time in certain kinds of online discussions. They welcome the chance to communicate digitally. The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice. p. 63 Nuff said bro. Those in favor say ‘aye’!
7. Work alone. You’re going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you’re working on your own. Not on a committee. Not on a team. pp 73-74. Quoted from Steve Wozniak. Most of the time I must work with a team but when I’m working on my creative side, it’s a must for me to be alone.
And to quote Susan’s words – “introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation.” p 74
8. I acquired a central ability that was to help me through my entire career: patience. I’m serious. Patience is usually so underrated. I mean, for all those projects, from third grade all the way to eighth grade, I just learned things gradually, figuring out how to put electronic devices together without so much as cracking a book… I learned to not worry so much about the outcome, but to concentrate on the step I was on and to try to do it as perfectly as I could when I was doing it. p 82
Steve Wozniak on being patient. Patience doesn’t guarantee you fame and fortune like how he became but what it guarantees is the satisfaction that comes on being patient while doing a job you care about and succeeding in the end.
9. According to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who between 1990 and 1995 studied the lives of ninety-one exceptionally creative people in the arts, sciences, business, and government, many of his subjects were on the social margins during adolescence, partly because “intense curiosity or focused interest seems odd to their peers.” p 82
Again I’m not saying that all introverts are bound to greatdom nor will extroverts go nowhere in life. It just means that you should not be overly concerned when people thinks you’re odd so long as you love what you’re doing and that you’re not hurting anybody. And that your insane focus on that something you love will get you somewhere down the line if only you have persistence and courage to pursue it.
10. There is no one more courageous that the person who speaks with the courage of his convictions. p 129
11. They “enjoy small talk only after they’ve gone deep,” says Strickland. “When sensitive people are in environments that nurture their authenticity, they laugh and chitchat just as much as anyone else. p 152
12. If you’re an introvert, find your flow by using your gifts. You have the power of persistence, the tendency to solve complex problems, and the clear sightedness to avoid pitfalls that trip others up.
So stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don’t force yourself to seek breadth. If you prefer single-tasking to multitasking, stick to your guns. Being relatively unmoved by rewards gives you the incalculable power to go on your own way. p 173
But then again this doesn’t mean that extroverts doesn’t have the mental fortitude, the wit and the patience to be at their best everytime. I know a bunch of great extroverts and some are good friends of mine.
If you are somewhat relieved from societies’ pressure to be more outgoing by these thoughts and if you enjoyed these gems of wisdom, I suggest you readthe book. I barely scratched the surface with the things I enumerated above.
It made me better than who I was before, and I wish to share that much needed insights that Susan put to written words. And to add to this, I exhort my fellow introverts and others who perceive themselves as freaks and impossible to understand, to share that different kind of love and value to the world. I think that kind of difference is a good kind of difference.
I’m currently subscribed to the Quiet Revolution. If you’re interested to join, you can click here and find out how: http://www.quietrev.com/