I have run into a couple of reviews of a new book that intrigues me. The book is Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain. The basic argument of the book is that we undervalue introverts and how much we lose in doing so. I’m going to put this on top of my list of books to read. It’s getting a lot of publicity and I expect it to be a best seller. Most of the buyers will, of course, be introverts because we have to look for validation anywhere we can find it. Also because we are the ones who read books. Those extroverts are so busy talking and being the life of the party and making a spectacle of themselves they don’t have time to read. It wouldn’t make any sense to them anyway.
Okay, settle down. Settle down. Step away from the keyboard. Extroverts are people too. They have their place in the universe.
Oh and by the way, I think you’ve had enough coffee for today.
All right I’m better now. Just joking about the extroverts.
One review was from a Barnes and Noble site. It was done in a cartoon style and it was generally favorable. Part of that could be that they want to sell books but I did get a different sense of the book than the other review which was in Scientific American. That review was not unfavorable but the comments somehow brought a different viewpoint into play. The comments brought to mind a fundamental problem with the topic of personality traits. There is a wide spectrum to cover from painfully pathologically shy to manic over the top life of the party. Both extremes may be considered a weakness to overcome while introvert and extrovert are equally acceptable personality traits. I used to be the painfully shy one, terrified of parties, mixers, receptions. Still not my favorite thing to do but I can get through them and function reasonably well.
The problem is (as the comments brought to light) how do you define shy, introvert, extrovert, etc.? To an extrovert I may look like a stick in the mud or as socially inept. To me an extrovert may look like somebody who’s stuck on himself. We judge others by our own point of view. The problem with introverts goes deeper because we sit around and think so much we begin to judge ourselves. We compare ourselves to the extrovert and can begin to view ourselves negatively because the world values extroverts over introverts. There is the fundamental premise of the book.
If you’re on radio or TV you are judged by ratings. Are you blogging? Hits and comments. Has your U-Tube gone viral? How many friends on Facebook? How many followers do you have? The thing is all of those are easy to get. Just make a lot of noise. The world is attracted to noise more than to content.
If we start chasing hits and comments and friends and followers I fear we have fallen into the trap of caring what the world thinks of us. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a wider audience. If we believe we have something to say we want as many people to hear it as possible. But as we seek more readers we need be comfortable with who we are, introvert or extrovert.
After all it’s not what the world thinks of us that matters, it’s what God thinks of us.