Susan Cain in her book titled “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” (2012), writes on behalf of the shy, the timid, the quiet and how they see themselves and why introverts are the way they are. To my understanding, the author addressed the key differences between introverts and extrovert, how society misunderstands and undervalue the capabilities of introverted people.
She also addressed how much of these personality traits are nature or nurture with relevant arguments supported by well-researched facts and anecdotal evidence. The author’s overall objective is to give a voice to the deep-thinking and reflective introverted people in the society, change the way individuals see introversion, bring to limelight the relevance and power of the introvert. The audience of the writer are parents and educators, as well as those who are introverts, extroverts or ambivalent so everyone can learn how to appreciate the strengths of various personality traits.
The main ideas that I will be discussing in the summary section are (i) The challenges of introverts operating in a culture of extrovert ideal (ii) biological and environmental influences on temperament, behavior and personality (iii) introversion in education and child development (iv) ways to tailor environments and interactions to achieve optimal social and sensory stimulation for introverts.
First main idea discussed by the writer was on culture of extrovert ideal, this explains how the American culture began to shift towards the culture of personality, which focused in the way in which one is perceived by others. Susman noted that in the 19th century, there was cultivation of traits such as citizenship, duty, honor, manners, and integrity but the 20th century celebrated qualities such as magnetism, fascination, attractiveness, dominance, force, and energy. Susan Cain explains this, with the story of Dale Carnegie, who dreads of not been able to speak when it matters most like not knowing what to say to his future wife on their wedding day, one day he was captivated and mesmerized by a charismatic speaker.
Dale decided to go college and he noticed that students who were outspoken become leaders, and he resolved to become one of them. He began to practice on how to become a public speaker and managed to become a speaking champion. Cain explains that, the ideal self was serious, disciplined, and honorable. What counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved in private (p.20).
According to Cain, in a culture that is biased against them, introverts are pressured to act like extroverts instead of embracing their serious, often quiet and reflective style. “Carnegie’s metamorphosis to public-speaking icon is also the story of the rise of the Extrovert Ideal. Carnegie’s journey reflected a cultural evolution that reached a tipping point around the turn of the twentieth century, changing forever who we are” (Cain, 2012, p.20).
Second idea on biological and environmental influences on temperament, behavior and personality discussed by Susan Cain was that heredity influences people’s personality characteristics and development. People classified as active, moderately active or quiet are the differences attributable to hereditary endowments, although training and learning may produce noticeable modifications.
Personality development emphasized that early mother-child relationship influences not only a child’s immediate behaviour but also his/her subsequent and long- term adjustment. Susan Cain narrated a story of how she felt restless when she was about to deliver a public speech in a big media company. She had to take some sips of alcohol to boost her confidence and help her overcome anxiety.
She reflected on how she might have inherited her parent’s personality traits as she remembers how her mother hates speaking to large group of people. “Are they the result of “nurture” the way I was raised? Both of my parents are soft-spoken, reflective types; my mother hates public speaking too. Or are they my “nature” something deep in my genetic makeup” (Cain, 2012, p.49). She mentions that the point of view of personality development, the most significant aspect of an individual’s world is his social environment.
All human beings live in an environment, an interacting group of people with distinctive culture, way of thinking, feel¬ing, attitudes, goals, ideals and value system that influences their temperament, behavior and personality. The environment trains its members to behave in the ways that are acceptable to the group’s own concepts, needs and specific techniques of child rearing as well as a set of expectations regarding patterns of approved behaviour. Susan explains how different environment affects people’s behavior and personality traits overtime “The trait has been found to be less prevalent in Asia and Africa than in Europe and America, whose populations descend largely from the migrants of the world, world travelers were more extroverted than those who stayed home”(Cain, 2012, p.23).
Third idea discussed was introversion in education and child development. Cain describes how introversion in children is not a defect but part of their genetic makeup. “Our inborn temperaments influence us, regardless of the lives we lead. A sizable part of who we are is ordained by our genes, by our brains, by our nervous systems” (Cain, 2012, p.55). Most times parents are worried about their introverted children, but they should learn to view their introverted children\’s social style with understanding rather than fear.
She narrated a story from Dr. Jerry Miller, a child psychologist about a parent who brought their son named Ethan to him for treatment because he was an introvert, his parents want to instill “fighting spirit” in him but the doctor kept telling the parents that their son is fine. Ethan’s parent was not satisfied with the doctor’s response, they later took him to a different psychologist who agreed to treat him. Dr. Miller stated that “I firmly believe that it’s impossible to change that kid. I worry that they’re taking a perfectly healthy boy and damaging his sense of self.” (Cain, 2012, p.102).
The last main idea is on ways to tailor environments and interactions to achieve optimal social and sensory stimulation for introverts. What parents and teachers can do for introverted kids is to accept and love them for whom they are by encouraging their passions, giving them the space they need, letting them master new skills at their own pace and not calling them names like “shy”. Cain (2012) argued that “the amygdala serves as the brain’s emotional switchboard, receiving information from the senses and then signaling the rest of the brain and nervous system how to respond” (p.50).
Introverts can become overstimulated by the action-packed pace activities of a day; they need time and space to restore their nervous system. Parents can help their introverted children stretch outside their comfort zones and take comfortable risks and help to tie needful actions to their passions and interests. “The key is to expose your child gradually to new situations and people taking care to respect his limits, even when they seem extreme. This produces more-confident kids than either overprotection or pushing too hard” (p.104).
My conclusions about this book is that it will help introverted individuals to understand that they are not alone in their struggles and give them a sense of value. Susan Cain did a good job expressing several strategies and ideas on how introverts can excel in a world where extroverts are mostly celebrated and appreciated.
Her ability to discuss the challenges and advantages of being an introvert, helping introverts understand why they see the world differently, giving valuable tips on how to behave in certain situations, and how to raise introverted children using results of several types of research on the subject is an answer to many questions by those concerned. Cain also pointed out the myths that accompany the introverted personality and offers insight for parents, educators, and those who feel silenced by the extrovert ideal.
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