An Open Letter To Susan Cain, Author of Quiet

Dear Susan,

Please forgive the informality of calling you by your given name without our ever having been introduced.  You see, after having recently devoured your book, I feel as though you know me (and vice versa) so much better than the fact that we are complete strangers might otherwise suggest.

I don’t know quite what I was expecting when I picked up your book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.  I’ve long known that I am an introvert – heck, you can’t consistently test as an INTJ on the Myers-Briggs for the last fifteen years without becoming pretty aware of your introverted nature.  But, I didn’t know why I was an introvert.  And although I had adapted pretty well to our extroverted society, and became pretty accepting of the fact that I didn’t fit American society’s norms in that regard, I certainly didn’t advertise my introversion.

Your research and writing has provided me with insight into some of the biological reasons that likely contribute to my introverted tendencies – and many of your examples of physical manifestations of introversion seemed as though they could have been ripped out of my childhood journals.

  • On Being Literally Thin Skinned: I, too, failed a polygraph test due to my body’s response to a question about drug use.  Years after the fact, I can still remember the interrogator’s accusatory manner in asking, “Have you ever done drugs?!?” and the guilty feeling I had because I knew people who had done drugs, despite the fact that I could truthfully answer that I, personally, had never touched the stuff.
  • On Being Hyper-Reactive: My reactions have always been disproportionately large to the events at hand.  I prefer listening to cds to going to loud concerts, jump a mile at the sound of a balloon *pop*, and inevitably spoil others’ enjoyment of watching suspenseful movies.  Even in the most predictable thriller, when we all know the “bad guy” is about to jump out, I can’t help but dig my nails into my neighbor’s (often my husbands!) arm when it happens.

Even though I can’t hide these physical manifestations of my personality, I have, nonetheless, developed my own ways of faking extroversion when others seem to expect that type of reaction.  I’ve sought out sanctuaries to which I can retreat to calm my overwhelmed senses and just “be”.  These coping mechanisms helped.  It took a while (doesn’t everything seem that way during adolescence?), but I stopped resenting the fact that my introversion made me different.

Until I read your book, however, I was never proud of my introversion.  Now though, I kindof am proud.  Okay, I’m still not shouting “I AM AN INTROVERT!!!” from rooftops – shockingly, I’m not much of a shouter.  But it’s more than that.  Your examples of some of the great benefits that introverts bring to our society have helped me to see that I don’t have to be embarrassed because my voice is a bit softer or that shouting out chants with thousands of others at a conference is my own private version of hell.

I am posting this on our website rather than sending it to you directly because I want to help spread the word.  I hope that the “Quiet Revolution” that you have instigated continues and grows in strength as we realize as a society that it’s well worth listening to the 30-40% of us whose natural volume know doesn’t “go up to eleven”.

Thank you so much for your treat of a book.  I will recommend it to everyone who is or knows an introvert – and surely will not forget it for years to come.

 

Best,

Mrs. PoP

www.plantingourpennies.com

 

29 comments to An Open Letter To Susan Cain, Author of Quiet

  • Funny, you don’t come across to me as an introvert at all!

  • My boyfriend and I both read this book this spring, and I found it VERY interesting. I have some very introverted tendencies that I always wanted or was told to “hide”. Glad the book spoke to you as well!

    • Yeah, I remember very consciously having to adapt my behavior for my audience growing up. I knew what I would do if left to my own devices, but that other people would be unhappy if I just wanted to sit in a corner and read instead of playing with other kids….

      Do you find yourself wanting to give this book to tons of people after reading it? That’s how I felt

  • Ivy

    Myers-Briggs introverts are not necessarily quiet – the meaning is rather that they are inwards directed, need more privacy and down time, and recharge better/get more energy from being alone rather than among other people, prefer deeper rather than broader interactions and relationships. This is not a criticism of the book, which I haven’t read yet, more an observation on your comment:-)
    I grew up in Europe and when I came to the USA 10 years ago, I felt I had fallen down the rabbit hole into a very strong extrovert culture. Instead of a few deep friends, you are pushed to create a broad network, you always have to speak up and interact and brainstorm and work in teams, now you have to be on social media, etc, etc. I work with a very international group of people, and still see the same differences between Americans and Europeans and even more Asians. Well, I’ve learned over time how to work with extroverts, I am sure I have even shifted my type a bit, but I don’t think extroversion is the better type.
    I may actually read the book, you’ve piqued my interest a bit, but I think it will be more relevant for American-born, nobody needs to reassure me that introversion is OK:-)

    • You’re right that Myers Briggs I’s aren’t necessarily quiet – that’s part of my bias since that’s how a lot of my inward direction seems to come across to others. Sorry =)

      Mind if I ask where in Europe you grew up? I’ve spent some time in England, and perhaps I had a skewed sample (university students), but found the English to be quite extroverted. There were times that I felt even more pressure to be extroverted there than in the US.

      • Ivy

        Eastern Europe actually. I just shared this thought about Americans vs. Europeans with my husband who is from another part of Eastern Europe himself, and he agreed in general, but reminded me that for Italians, Greeks, etc extroversion is almost their national stereotype:-) So no sweeping statements. Strange about England, I haven’t spent almost any time there but I would have thought them introverts (the “stiff upper lip”, you know :-)

  • Sounds like an interesting read. I would definitely consider myself an introvert, I’ve tested numerous times as an INTJ as well. My wife is completely opposite, which can make life intesting.

    • I wonder what your wife would think of reading the book! I think I convinced one of my coworkers who has a very introverted son to give it a read.

  • Anne Dwyer

    I just finished reading this book. I can’t believe you just finished it too and posted on it.

    Interestingly, in the book she specifically talks about how introverts share lots on information on the web. That sounds just like you!

    I enjoy your blog.

    • Glad you enjoy the blog! I hadn’t even connected the sharing info on the web back to me as we’re still pretty new at the blogging game, but good catch! Since we’ve got similar taste in books – any recommendations?

  • I am an introvert who has learned to function as an extrovert. I hate going into a room of people I don’t know. I hate public speaking. I love quiet and don’t mind time by myself (haven’t had any in years, but I used to enjoy it). I have learned to network and make connections to run my office, but it took a long time. I do OK with one on one, but large groups are not my thing at all. I will have to check out this book. I’ve always thought my shyness was a negative trait. Maybe not?

    • I think we were taught that it was a negative trait that we had to get past – but this book works to dispel that myth and celebrates the important contributions that introverts bring to society. Give it a read, seriously!

  • I am also a introvert who can sometimes function as an extrovert. I’ve taken courses on public speaking which has helped and slowly learned to network but it’s not easy. I’m still one of those people who love to sit at home and be alone. This can cause issues as other people think I’m lonely and it’s the not the case at all. I’m going to have to see if my library has this book-it looks great. Thanks for the recomendation!

    • I took public speaking courses as well! So I’m usually fine with a speaking responsibility so long as I have enough time to plan for it. I hope you like the book!

  • I’m an INTJ and while I don’t fake extroversion, I have learned enough extraverted skills to often being mistaken as one. People often asked, “Why are you so shy?” when I was growing up. So being introverted wasn’t a label then. I learned late in life, I was about 38 years old when as a newly promoted manager I took the MBTI, and maybe that is why I I never felt like I was not as good as anyone else. Who really knows. But the truth is, when we have the truth it helps us beyond measure.

    • Yes, I think being taken for “shy” is so common. I was called “shy”, too, growing up – but although sometimes I was shy (which I think of more as fear-based), most of the time I just didn’t want to be around too many other people. I wasn’t afraid of them, just overwhelmed by them.
      Even though I took the Myers Briggs when I was still pretty young (I think 14 years old?), I don’t think I ever had anyone that was able to explain to me that it wasn’t a negative quality or a deficiency until recently.

  • Introvertedness is a great thing, and sometimes I wish I could turn off my extrovert and just go somewhere quiet. noise is an epidemic in our society today, and I think a little peace and quiet would do wonders for the world.

    I feel like I’m definitely an introvert about some things, but I don’t know if I fit any of the description above. I think introverts should be proud of it and enjoy their style.

    • Jacob – I’d be curious what you would draw from the book as the father of an infant. Some of the research that she talks about involves being able to identify intro/extroverted tendencies as early as 4 months old!

  • I can’t relate to a lot of this, but it’s a funny and heart-felt letter. I think you actually should send it to her too (and tell her you put it on yoru blog). Everyone likes to hear from fans! :-)

  • Anne Dwyer

    We have a group of friends that we hang out with in our neighborhood,but I always leave early. My friends always say, “Anne has to feed the bird.” We don’t have a bird and I’m not sure how it started, but that’s what they say. Of course, my husband is an extrovert and stays until the wee hours of the morning.

    I did love Susan Cain’s book. However, she talks a lot about how to parent introverted kids. She doesn’t address, at all, how an introvert manages an extroverted kid! I’ll have to ask that question on the website.

    As for recommendations:
    Jacob Lund’s book Early Retirement Extrememe. He’s a systems thinker and really changed the way I approach things.

    Anything by Nassim Nicholas Taleb…I love books about statistics and analyzing data.

    • I like that you “feed the bird”. We use my running as an excuse since I’m up at 4 or 5 many mornings to get in a run before it heats up in the summertime. But realistically, even if I weren’t running we wouldn’t want to stay out socializing until the wee hours anyhow.

      Mr. PoP and I are so similar in many regards that I’ve wondered how we would react if we had a kid that was the opposite. It’s one of my not-so-secret fears when it comes to kids.

      Thanks for the recommendations! Mr. PoP has read the ERE book and loves it. I keep meaning to get it onto my Kindle app, but have so many “dead-tree editions” from the library that I want to get through first. I’ll have to look up Nassim Nicholas Taleb, though! I, too, am a bit of a data junkie. Thanks!

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  • Susan’s book has brought such insight to the introvert personality. Introverts are starting to come out of the closet and be authentically proud of their personality. We are so misunderstood, particularly by extroverts. The clarity brought by her book is a beautiful thing. Introverts unite! Great letter.
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