“Quiet” is not a diatribe against extroversion. To the contrary, Cain writes, “Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style.” But it’s a Facebook-put-yourself-out-there-friend-as-a-verb kind of world, and “we’ve turned extroversion into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.”
Actually, much of “Quiet” explains how introverts adapt in “a world that can’t stop talking.” The secret is to find a passion, and then, as one famous introvert, William Shakespeare, once said, “To thine own self be true.”
Cain herself is an introvert, but she was a successful Wall Street attorney because she learned how to “act” like an extrovert when she had to. Her love for her work allowed Cain to pull it off.
My students would be surprised to learn that I pull a fast one on them every day. I am more performance artist than traditional teacher. I’m loud. I’m bold. I take creative risks. Laughter erupts in my classroom. As one of my former students once told me, “You’re just like a kid.”
I teach the way I do because I love what I do. And when my day is done, I’m exhausted, perhaps because it takes enormous energy to play the role of someone, who, at my core, I am not.
I recommend “Quiet” to everyone, but especially to parents and teachers of introverted children who often struggle to negotiate the extroverted world. Words of wisdom from Susan Cain: “The next time you see a child with a composed face and a soft voice, remember that inside her mind she might be solving an equation, composing a sonnet, designing a hat. She might, that is, be deploying the powers of quiet.”
John Edmondson is a teacher in Hampstead.