This week’s (well last week’s) post is a few days late because I am very excited about the book I was reading and I wanted to tell you about it. The only problem was I needed a few more days to finish so my schedule is a little off.
I picked up Cain’s book after reading a review about the book in another blog (I apologize for not giving out my original source but many people have discovered and loved this book and I cannot remember the first review I read earlier this month). The passage that made me completely fall in love with this book was this:
“Introverts… may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleges, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation…. Nor are introverts necessarily shy. Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not over stimulating” (Cain 25)
I remember trying to explain the apparent paradox Cain describes once in an early job interview. I was interviewing for a staff position that my then supervisor had just left. I remember speaking with the head of my department about what my skills and weaknesses were as an employee and I tried to explain that while I did have good social skills in some scenarios but I could be shy in others. She highlighted this discrepancy and pointed out that I was contradicting myself – saying that I could be sociable and outgoing but still shy and it did not make sense. After reading Cain’s description of how introverts prefer to function I think I could better address this question and describe how this is not a contradiction. Well, that and now I’ve interviewed for a few more jobs so I have experience on my side!
Cain examines the lives of several well known introverts who have done great things, from Rosa Parks to Albert Einstein. But her real strength lies in the recreations of stories from successful people living out their day to day lives being closeted introverts. From the Harvard Business School graduate to the animated and engaging professor and the high powered attorney, each of these individuals is rendered in full detail with their own voice speaking with Cain’s in the narrative. I was not too concerned that I would not do well in my career but I have approached some of my natural tendencies as obstacles to climb over rather than seeing them as a set of tools with their own selling points and weaknesses. Cain’s description of the rise of the extroverted salesman ideal is easily recognized in our culture and while we may still have to play with the extrovert’s rules we can find a different path that will allow for our strengths to shine through.