The latest estimates put the number of people who identify as “introverts” at 50%. That’s an increase of nearly 30% from a few decades ago. Could it be that the instance of the introverted personality trait is increasing as time goes on? Perhaps more and more people are gaining an understanding of the introverted personality trait and are identifying those aspects in themselves. Whatever the reason, books about introverts, extroverts, and the struggles between them keep coming. Here are four books that take the reader inside the mysterious minds of those who identify as “introverts” and what it’s like to live in their worlds. You may find a little (or a lot) of yourself in these writings…
1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
Perhaps THE book that inspired the current love affair with all things introverted, Susan Cain brings us the vanguard writing on introverts and how they manage in a world where extroversion seems to lead the way while introversion is often viewed as something that needs to be fixed.
Cain begins with a short history lesson recounting the U.S.’s culture shift away from the building of character and toward the “cult of personality” when we started to see extroversion as the gateway to personal and professional success. From there she moves on to extol the virtues of the introverted mindset and ends with a call to action for society in general to rethink its views of introversion in all aspects of life from how we educate our children to how we lead our organizations. The success of the book has spawned an ever-growing online community of introverts who connect on Facebook and through Cain’s website Quiet Revolution.
2. The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together, by Jennifer B. Kahnweiller, PhD
Can introverts and extroverts work together successfully? According to Kahnweiler, the answer is a resounding yes, with exponential results. However the path to success can be fraught with opportunities for these tenuous relationships between opposites to break down. Kahnweiller discusses well-known opposite duos that have made it work, as well as some who failed, and she provides a 5-step process she believes will set these pairs up for success.
3. The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World, by Sophia Dembling
With chapter titles like “Quiet Riot” and “Hell is a Cocktail Party,” The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World could be taken as the heavy metal version of Cain’s Quiet…. Irreverent and un-apologetic, this book further illustrates the misconceptions and deep-seated biases introverts and extroverts have toward each other; and offers a “safe space” for the introverted among us to flip society the *quiet* bird for trying to change who we are.
4. The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, by Elaine N. Aron, PhD
Let’s get it out of the way right off the bat… all introverts are not highly sensitive and all highly sensitive people are not introverts. The terms are not interchangeable. However, evidence suggests that people who fall into the introverted category also have a higher incidence of what Elaine Aron terms “high sensitivity.” According to Aron a “highly sensitive person” is someone who may be easily overwhelmed by external stimuli like the light and sound one may encounter at a large gathering. The “high sensitive” may need to remove him- or herself from these types of situations in order to re-group and recharge. High sensitives may display more empathy, feel more deeply, and in general be more reflective than the less sensitive among us – traits also commonly attributed to introverts. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Aron characterizes Carl Jung as a high sensitive (1996).
Backlash against the “new” love affair with introversion
Maybe it’s that introverts are getting all the attention or that they no longer feel they need to apologize for being themselves. Or maybe it’s because this country loves an underdog…Whatever it is, these days it seems introverts get all the love while extroverts are cast as loud-mouthed jerks be-boppin’ and scattin’ their way through life with all the self-awareness of a freight train. Either way if you are an introvert, work with introverts or otherwise share your life with introverts, these books provide insights into their worlds that may help you understand them (and yourself) a little better.