Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How Did I Never Know I Was So QUIET?

This is a book recommendation, technically, but it’s more of a oh-my-gosh-how-did-I-not-realize-what-kind-of-person-I-am post. So you’ll have to indulge me if I wander a little:)

I’d classify Susan Cain’s QUIET as popular nonfiction along the lines of Malcolm Gladwell’s OUTLIERS or Ben Sherwood’s THE SURVIVORS CLUB. It takes an interesting and often misunderstood subject matter--introversion--and looks at it forward, backward, and upside-down. And somewhere along the way, it completely changed the way I saw myself.

See, I’ve always thought of myself as an extrovert. In high school, I would have used words like outgoing, talkative, and confident to describe my personality. I liked speaking in public. I was one of those kids who commented often in class--well, in the classes I cared about--and never had a problem being the center of attention. (Case in point: I once entertained a hallway full of kids I didn’t know with an outrageous British accent they must have known was fake.)

On the other hand, I’ve always been a homebody. In high school, most Friday and Saturdays nights found me at home in the basement, writing. I liked going out occasionally, but these forays into the outside world always left me feeling drained (though I usually enjoyed myself). I knew how to work a room and often did in social settings, but I probably would have preferred to hang out on the sidelines and talk about cool stuff with Honey Bear or another close friend (though I didn’t have many). Now just the thought of working a room thoroughly exhausts me.

As it turns out, I was--and still am--a high self-monitoring introvert. Not all introverts are self-monitors, and some self-monitors are extroverts, but all self-monitors pay attention to social cues and adapt accordingly. (This paying-attention-to-social-cues leads me to believe a lot of writers are self-monitors, since we’re students of human nature.) So self-monitoring introverts know how to look like extroverts, and they do so when they think the situation calls for it. Like when I was stuck in that hallway with a bunch of other kids and needed to come up with a way to pass the time.

On almost every page, I found another character trait to latch on to, another quality I could identify with. But QUIET isn’t just for introverts. It’s also for the spouses, parents, teachers, and casual acquaintances of introverts, which means it’s pretty much for everyone:) (How’s THAT for one of those overarching marketing statements we’re never supposed to use?)

Check out Susan Cain’s QUIET. It’s well worth a read.


Kayeleen Hamblin said...

Are you me? Seriously. Down to the fake British accent, you could have been talking about me. I'll have to pick up this book.

Jenilyn Collings said...

I keep hearing amazing things about this book. I'll really have to check it out.

JeffO said...

Thanks for the tip, I'll have to look out for this one.

Julie Hedlund said...

Wow, this totally sounds like ME too. I have put it at the top of my wishlist.

I've never been able to understand why I can be so good at "working a crowd" as you say, long to be the center of attention and at the same time be so sensitive, internal, and even shy. Maybe this book will give some clues.

Thanks for sharing!

Suzi said...

I don't read much non-fiction, but this sounds interesting. I had discussion with a friend about this stuff. I would've called her an extrovert, but after she explained more, she's actually an introvert. Similar to you.

I'm not sure where I fit in. It'd be interesting to find out. Definitely under introvert though.

Kimberly Gabriel said...

What an interesting concept! I agree I think this applies to so many writers - especially the self monitoring part. Great post Krista! Thanks for the rec!

Adam Heine said...

Read it. Loved it. Recommended it the same way you did :-)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Kayeleen! Good to hear from you! I always knew we'd make good friends:) How's your little lady doing?

You should check it out, Jeni. I think it's a great read for anyone, but especially for writers. We have to know what makes all kinds of different people tick.

If you read it, JeffO, you'll have to let us know what you think!

Julie, QUIET makes the point that everyone is at least a little bit of both. But I think a lot of introverts in our culture develop some extroverted character traits and even pretend to be extroverts sometimes because that's the ideal personality type in our society (although that's not the case in most Eastern cultures).

Suzi, the chapter on self-monitoring was really eye-opening. It described this uber-popular college professor whose sections were always full and whose lectures were always big, bold, and gregarious. But it turns out that his over-the-top personality was more of a stage persona than his true character. As I mentioned above, I think that happens because extroversion is our cultural ideal.

You're welcome, Kimberly! If you read it, you'll have to come back and let us know what you thought.

Of COURSE we recommended it the same way, Adam. We are long-lost twins, you know:)

Kathy Sloan said...

Hey! I do a fake British accent too! Especially in a crowd...strange. Thanks for this post. I will definitely read this book. Especially seeing as it was written about me...wink wink. I guess writing is in my "code" after all and I am not crazy!

Lexa Cain said...

Me, too, so maybe your idea about it being a writers' trait is correct. I did everything in high school, from drama to orchestra to gymnastics to being a flag in the marching band. I had few-but-very-close friends, but now you have to use a tire iron to pry me from my house. Perhaps I'm an overachiever but am not really very social. Anyhow, thanks for the heads up on the book! Really cool! :-)

jamieayres.com said...

Sounds like my 12-yr-old. Not me though . . . I love being the center of attention, hahaha:-)It's why I became a teachers--those kids HAVE to listen to me *poor, poor students*

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Kathy, I hope you connect with this book as much as I did! It certainly sounds like you will:)

Sounds like we're two peas in a pod, Lexa:) Hope you enjoy it!

Jamie, Ms. Cain devoted a whole chapter to how to most effectively parent children who have a different personality type (especially how to parent introverts when you're an extrovert). I found it really interesting (and eye-opening).

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

Wow, no wonder we get along, Krista. I think we're EXACTLY alike in this sense. I can project like an extrovert and most people think I am because I'm very, very friendly, but I'm definitely a homebody. I can spend LONG stretches (days and days and days) at home without seeing anyone except my hubby and kids and be absolutely content (which is not probably very good, but it is what it is). So interesting!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Ha! There are some weeks when I go from Sunday to Sunday without leaving the house (except to drop I-gots off at school, of course). We should hang out sometime and be homebodies together:)

Ben Spendlove said...

I don't think I've ever been mistaken for anything but an introvert. I'm always a little behind on the social cues, and I have a longstanding habit of analyzing conversations and encounters after the fact. I also imagine entire conversations that might possibly happen in the future. (They rarely do. I always imagine worst-case scenarios.)

So I'm a low self-monitoring introverted writer, and I'm honestly not sure what that means for my writing. (Except that low self-monitoring doesn't mean low self-awareness. It merely means we have a hard time adapting or acting in a way that doesn't come naturally.)

And you might be interested to hear that the next book I write will be about a middle grade boy trying to become an extrovert. (With the help of aliens.)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Good point, Ben--it's not that low self-monitors aren't paying attention to social cues, just that they don't change their behavior because of them. So I guess we high self-monitors are actors in a way. (That's the nice way of putting it:) )

Honey Bear does the same thing, imagines long exchanges he might have with people someday (usually of the argumentative variety). I think he has a natural flair for dialogue and conflict and should try writing a novel, and he does have ideas. He's just one of those 95% of Americans with book ideas who never get around to writing them:)

I remember you telling me about this manuscript, and I'm anxious to read more! *twiddles thumbs impatiently*