Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
Jul 19, 2018 | By: Melissa Hudson, LMFT
Fairly often I talk with clients in therapy sessions about the differences between introverts and extroverts. Some people have a sense of it, how it impacts them, how it impacts their relationships, work, preferences, some haven't given it much thought. Many people pare it down to outgoing versus shy, affable versus antisocial, something like that, which is not the definition at all. Why does this even come up in sessions? It is not uncommon that this discussion happens with an introvert, someone who has felt out of place for his/her whole life or even criticized for certain feelings and behaviors (disliking small talk, enjoying solitude, preferring depth to the superficial, working best alone). Then I begin the work of normalizing feelings and behaviors, because, of course, being an introvert is quite normal and healthy. As an introvert myself, I know all too well about being told by strangers, "You should smile more," when I'm in the middle of thinking. Or being asked, "What are you going to do with your overactive brain?" Or being compared to other young women back in the college days, "She's a good girl," meaning gregarious, boisterous, an extrovert. I get it. I straddle the line as someone with very extroverted jobs; nonetheless, I am textbook introvert and quite comfortable with it. But as Susan Cain explores in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking American culture has cultivated an extrovert ideal. Look no further than our bigger, better culture of personality. As she also points out, introvert is just another word for thinker. Many introverts have felt that the way they think, behave, and feel is abnormal when it's not.
Many introverts have felt that the way they think, behave, and feel is abnormal when it's not
Quiet is an interesting book. Cain begins with a brief history of the cultural shift from a agrarian society that focused on such attributes as: citizenship, duty, work, golden deeds, honor, reputation, morals, manners, integrity to a new workforce who had to leave the farm in hopes of developing an identity around such attributes as magnetism, attractiveness, persuasiveness, energy in order to obtain jobs in bustling cities. Cain defines introvert and extrovert, providing a quick quiz to take as well. She moves on to how the extrovert ideal impacts corporate America, with its cubicle/open-air work environments (that pendulum swing is backfiring, by the way), and our education system with its emphasis on cooperative learning. She points out that creativity happens when people are given time to reflect and think, alone. It's an interesting read for certain, and not only would it benefit any introvert, it would be useful for leaders and teachers who manage all types of people.
How does this apply to therapy? Well, it's just the message of "be you" whoever that is. You're good enough just being your quiet, thinking self or your outgoing, gregarious, fun-loving self, we are better with the yin and yang of both personalities or the in-the-middle, the ambivert. So knowing your personality type and how you recharge is great information for you individually, as an employee, a family member, a partner...It's just good stuff.
About the author: Melissa Hudson, PhD(c) is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Plano, Texas specializing in couples counseling, anxiety disorders, and depression. She also works with adults and families on a variety of concerns. Have questions? Reach out! firstname.lastname@example.org | 214-235-8175 | www.counselingsolutionstexas.com