Sunday, July 22, 2012

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

An Introvert's Bag of Books
An Introvert's Bag of Books (Photo credit: jurvetson)

If you follow this blog then you know that one of my areas of interest and expertise is personality styles.  In particular, I am trained as a DISC behavior consultant and one way that I love to share this information is through parenting classes that encourage parents to recognize and celebrate the strengths of their children's personality language. When I teach this information, I always emphasize is that there is no single personality style that is better than another.  This statement often resonates in a powerful way with many participants since our culture does promote the extroverted personality style over the introverted as the way to be successful, popular and well-adjusted.

I've just finished the best book I've ever read on introverted personality styles and I can't wait to share it with you.  The book is called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain.  While this book is primarily written for adults who are introverts, there is much information in this book about children and parenting. 

Cain begins the book by tracing the history of the popularity of the extroverted personality style. It is fascinating stuff as she discusses how the United States valued character more than personality style prior to the rise of the Dale Carnegie Institute.  As his brand of the “mighty likeable fellow” became a prototype for the successful American, extroversion became the cultural ideal.  This cultural norm would be encouraged through articles in newspapers and magazines as well as through the advertising medium.  At the same time that the extroverted personality style was being held up as the standard to strive toward, the introverted personality style was being downplayed as the style of social misfits.  Rather than celebrating differences and recognizing their many strengths, introverts were told they had an “inferiority complex” and encouraged to work at changing themselves into the more socially adept and successful extroverts.  Dale Carnegie’s book, How To Win Friends and Influence People is a prime example of this mentality.

Cain’s book is full of research validating the differences in personality that even infants and young children display. However her main focus is the often-overlooked value and strengths of the introvert.  She concludes her book with a section on “How to Cultivate Quiet Kids in a World That Can’t Hear Them”.  Her advice to parents can be summarized as follows:

·      Take the time to understand the personality style of your introverted child
·      Don’t try to change them into someone more extroverted by pushing them into sports, activities, play dates or anything that they are not interested in doing
·      Recognize that the areas where they have strengths are sometimes solitary pursuits.  Encourage and celebrate these talents.
·      Learn about and share with them the lives of some of the famous introverts.  Rosa Parks, Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt are a few. 
·      Recognize and teach children that introverts can be leaders, performers, really anything that they have a passion for, they just go at it from a different direction.
·      Celebrate with your child the characteristics they have that make them uniquely special.

What about you?  Are you an introvert or an extrovert?  What struggles have you had with celebrating your unique personality style? 

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  1. This hits so close to home for me. My children are grown, but I instinctively made the choice to let them be whoever they wanted to be, and do whatever they wanted to do as children, and they are all happy, well adjusted adults. I find I do a lot more observing with my grandchildren, who are all unique and marvelous. I enjoyed this post and found myself nodding my head as I read it. I'll have to add Susan Cain's book to my reading list.

  2. Thanks Cath for your comment. As an introvert myself, I have struggled with accepting and finally celebrating this personality style. This book provides so much research and understanding of the history of the introvert as well as the strengths that I couldn't possibly get it all in one post. The difficulty for me with my children is that their personality styles are more extroverted and I think I had trouble understanding the difference. This book is a treasure in both respects.

  3. Yet another informative, helpful post, Lynne! Although I never had issues being a social person, I've always lived in the land of imagination and dreams, loving quiet and solitude. Maybe, I'm a split personality? :)
    I will tell my daughter about this book; I think it would be helpful to her as a parent.
    Blessings to you!