A "feel good" book for anyone who chooses to call him or herself an introvert.
My first difficulty in taking the book seriously is the fact that the auA "feel good" book for anyone who chooses to call him or herself an introvert.
My first difficulty in taking the book seriously is the fact that the author redefines the terms, so that they fit her thesis. Based on what I have read, as a general rule, an introvert is someone who is more drained by being around people - while they can certainly socialize as necessary, afterwards they're ready to be alone and need alone time to "recharge." One of the most common definitions I found of "introvert" was "Basically, an introvert is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people."
An extrovert, on the other hand, is someone who is more energized by being around other people - after a good social time, you're ready for more. But it doesn't have anything to do with Cain's vastly overused description "humble and unassuming." You don't have to be a loud braggart to enjoy being with other people and to feel jazzed by that.
When you read the section after the end of the book, in which she discusses the terms she used, you find that she tossed in a whole bunch of various characteristics and behaviors and called her conglomeration introversion or extroversion, regardless of any of the usual meanings of these words. She said she used the terms introvert and extrovert because people are familiar with them - but if people are not "familiar" with them in the way she redefines them, that's pretty much irrelevant. Why not just use Fords and Toyotas, or toasters and microwaves? People are familiar with those words, too. But, she's certainly not the first - "'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'"
Anyone who thinks about things, likes to read, plans, analyzes, prepares, is creative, is conscientious, cares about other people and their well being - they're introverts, by her rather expansive definition.
Extroverts, on the other hand are loudmouth blowhards, who don't plan, don't think, don't read, just leap into action. They don't prepare for lectures or presentations - they just wing it! They yell, pound the table, and run roughshod over everyone else.
She adds to the problem by mixing and mingling - in the chapter on relationships, she uses the more usual references to introverts and extroverts, in talking about socializing. But, in most of the book, she's saying "introvert" when she really means anyone who thinks before they act.
Well, yeah....how can you be wrong if you say that the world would be better off if it paid more attention to introverts, if you define an introvert as anyone who ever thinks a situation through?
It also allows her to redefine anyone she wants to glorify as an introvert, whether they meet any of the usual criteria for introversion. If they're not loudmouthed blowhards, they're introverts! For instance, Eleanor Roosevelt, apparently because she had a strong conscience and cared about people. Well, fine, but I've read a couple biographies, and didn't see anything to indicate that she was an "introvert" in any usual sense of the word. She spent much of her time travelling around, talking to people and asking them lots of questions about their lives, and, from everything I've read, she loved that. I also never read anything suggesting that she wanted to be alone a lot to "recharge" - she had a wide circle of friends, with whom she enjoyed socializing in her private time.
For Ms. Cain, anyone who is thoughtful, caring,conscientous or analytical is, under her special definition, an introvert. That's the only explanation I can come up with for why her constant refrain is that person after person is "humble, quiet and unassuming," and is therefore an introvert. So, if you don't yell and pound the table, and you listen to other people and take their feelings/needs into account, you're automatically an introvert.
I also found it interesting that she says in a GR Q/A that she came up with her theories first, then went looking for research to support them. Hmmm....that's the true thinking, preparing, researching introvert at work - come up with a bunch of generalizations, change the usage and customary meaning of words to fit your theories, and then look around for some studies to back you up.
A second problem was her reliance on "many studies" that apparently preferred to remain anonymous. I found some of her assertions dubious, and would have liked a little more substantiation than just her word that "many studies" show this or that. In the end notes, she would sometimes say "many studies, e.g...." and cite one. Well, no, that doesn't REALLY convince me that there are "many studies" - there's one study. Another note that struck me was one citing to a "small informal study" - that's all the info given about this "study" she relies on. So, she asked 4 or 5 people at the coffee shop where she was writing her book?
And, since she's using her own special definition of the words, it's hard to determine the applicability of any of these studies to her theories. If you don't know how the studies are using the terms, it's hard to tell whether the studies actually support in any way her generalized theories based on her redefined terms.
And, some of the things she cited didn't prove a thing about any differences between introverts and extroverts.
For instance, her discussion of open office plans and how people were found to work more effectively when they had some privacy, lack of noise, lack of interruptions. Notice the key word - "people." I saw nothing in the discussion that said that introverts did better with privacy, etc., but that extroverts thrived with noise and interruptions. I don't believe there's anyone who works better in the midst of chaos and interruptions, when they're doing a job that requires thinking.
But, I forget - anyone who does a job requiring concentration, thought, and analysis must be an introvert! Because that's her way of using the term.
But wait again! Remember how she wrote this book? She couldn't work in the quiet privacy of her office - she had to take her laptop to a coffee shop every day to work, where she would be surrounded by people. I can't think of a more "open plan" working environment!
So, maybe Ms. Cain isn't an "introvert" at all! Her mother told her that she wasn't a "high reactive" baby, she prefers to work surrounded by people, she relies on generalizations and after-the-fact cherry picking "studies" to bolster her preconceived notions. Maybe she's a blustering extrovert, who was just clever enough to realize that books are most likely to be bought by people who like to think of themselves as introverts and who will get really excited over a book that glorifies them as all that is wise and wonderful. ...more