Introverted book reviews

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking  by Susan Cain

Networking for people who hate networking: A field guide for introverts, the overwhelmed, and the underconnected  by Devora Zack

Seeing as it seems common for creative people to identify as introverted, here are a couple of interesting books I’ve read recently that you might enjoy.

Introversion is the tendency in some people’s temperaments to be inward focused, to seek alone time, to be slow to process multiple sources of stimulation, and to tend to be sensitive to stimulus. It seems that the psychological literature from various frameworks agrees that introversion and extraversion are the extreme ends on a real spectrum, but disagrees on what exactly the two opposites look like. There also isn’t consensus on how mutable the types are or what causes them.

Vagueness of the exact truth aside, introversion and extraversion can useful models for gaining insight into social situations. (This kind of insight is mainly sought out by introverts, it seems - there aren’t matching self-help books for extraverts, I notice.) Both these books clarify and add nuance to the models, and are full of practical tips and stories that I found helpful.

For example, both books are careful to demonstrate that temperament isn’t destiny. A tendency to need lots of alone time to process is fundamentally unrelated to how skilled a person is socially.  

I relate to this. When I look at my calendar, I’m always stuffing in chunks of time when I know I can be by myself. As a child, almost all my friends were related to me (and my family is pretty small). But I’ve devoted so much work to observing others and trying out different people skills, I’m now comfortable in most social situations. 

Quiet is a big picture overview of introversion, including historical, sociocultural and political analyses. It looks at how the organisation of schools and workspaces have changed in ways that can challenge introverted people. It has a call-to-arms tone in parts; I like being invited to see the world through a new lens in this way.

Networking is a fun and handy how-to manual for introverts encountering new people. Though it especially focuses on networking in business contexts, I still found the ideas useful. Many of us could do with more techniques for strategically managing social interaction with strangers and acquaintances (especially round issues like privacy).

One of my favourite parts of both books is how strongly they assert that introversion comes with a huge number of strengths, and that playing to these strengths is the key to making things work for us. Introvert strengths that I relate to but hadn’t consciously identified before include: a love of detailed planning, connecting deeply with people, noticing other people’s feelings/needs, having a rich inner life, and having singular interests. Cool!

Because so many situations in Western cultures in our personality-obsessed age favour extraversion, it’s easy to want to squeeze ourselves into those shoes - especially if we’ve decided early on that there’s something ‘wrong’ with us. But even if we can fit, pretty soon we get blisters… 

If you identify as introverted, it’s vital to remember that the things you want to do can be done in ways that work with the strengths inherent to your temperament. And these books contain a lot of clues on how to do exactly that.