The crisp white cover of a booked called ‘Quiet’, by Susan Cain caught my attention last week in the library.
It’s understated simplicity brought out the introvert in me.
I walked past it on the ‘new books’ display three times before giving in to curiosity, and boy was I rewarded.
Being an unapologetic introvert, I love some of the findings in this book. Who knew group brainstorming sessions and open plan offices led to decreased productivity and creativity in the work place? It seems a lot of experts and all the introverts who have had to sit through excruciating team building exercises. Cain writes;
‘Studies have shown that performance gets worse as group size increases……the one exception to this is online brainstorming’.
The friend of the introvert, thankfully, is the internet.
‘Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts 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. The same person who finds it difficult to introduce himself to strangers might establish a presence online and then extend these relationships into the real world.’
This book knocks the stuffing out of the Western dominant values of extrovert good, introvert bad. Cain uses expert findings and case studies to demonstrate her argument that it’s o.k to be an introvert, we just to go around shouting about it because it’s not in our nature.
Cain investigates deeper into social fear and it’s threat to the organs of democracy. She uses studies by Asch and Bern looking into the influence of groups, also known as peer pressure, and the behavioural trait christened the ‘pain of independence’.
The issue of conformity, especially here in Ireland, is an especially pertinent question worthy of investigation. Especially when we look at the damage caused by institutional abuse, the constant re-election of certain self interested elements and the persecution of so-called ‘whistleblowers’ in the public and private sectors (I would personally prefer the term conscientious citizens, though dissenter has always had a rebellious tone to it).
‘Many of our most important civic institutions, from elections to jury trials to the very idea of majority rule, depend on dissenting voices. But when the group is literally capable of changing our perceptions, and when to stand alone is to activate primitive, powerful, and unconscious feelings of rejection, then the health of these institutions seems far more vulnerable than we think’.
If you’re reading this online you’re probably an introvert, wohoo! but if you’re not sure, the Myers-Briggs test might enlighten you.