Sunday, June 24, 2012

Introverted Learners Take Note!

Quiet by Susan Cain: A Book Review

Teachers and parents need to read this book before engaging in a program to "fix" a quiet, shy or sensitive child.  Adults who have been criticized from childhood for not being social enough or aggressive enough will finally find in Susan Cain somebody who understands and affirms their temperament.  Cain is both an introvert and a passionate advocate for the quiet souls in American schools and businesses.  She includes stories of real introverts, past and present, so readers can learn from their struggles and achievements.

Eleven well-researched chapters (50 pages of end notes) discuss the biology and psychology of temperament, offer practical advice for both introverts and extroverts about communicating with one another, and point out cultural differences (e.g. Asians value introverts while Americans marginalize them.) If this were not enough, Quiet also gives practical advice for structuring offices and classrooms so that introverted workers and students can think and create without being intimidated or overwhelmed. If you have been the victim of an open office floor plan or a "collaborative learning" classroom, Cain feels your pain!

I appreciate finally finding someone who does not consider introversion a disorder to be "cured" but an alternate, equally valid way of thinking and working.  Susan Cain understands how I could once pretend to love the loud, back-slapping atmosphere of a consulting environment while inwardly wishing I could just go work in my office with the door closed—forever!  She even includes a chapter about introverts and church.  I learned I'm not the only one who doesn't want to go to women's conferences where I have to play games, spill my guts to the whole class or engage in "team-building exercises."  Should I be considered less spiritual if I prefer just a few close friends or would rather work in the kitchen or library than teach a large group?

My one slight irritation was her use of Al Gore as one of her examples.  Yes, use him as an example of an introvert; however I don't think his inconvenient "truth" deserved two pages in this excellent book (especially since Susan Cain's positions are backed by more credible, non-politically-motivated research than Gore's.)  Otherwise her stories are winsome and cover a variety of cultures and lifestyles: immigrants, politicians, business leaders, lawyers and little children.  Her story at the end of the book about her grandfather was especially touching.  He was an introvert and a greatly loved rabbi.  I know I would have loved him, too!

Read an excerpt from Quiet to see if Susan Cain speaks to you. I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.