Second Class Personality?

I recently read Susan Cain’s book titled Quiet after hearing reviews saying that all introverts should read it. After reading it, I did find it very enlightening in some aspects of my personality (I already knew I was an introvert). Cain defines an introverted person as someone who is drawn to inner worlds, who focuses on meanings of events, who work slowly, who listen more than they talk. She makes distinctions between introverts and extroverts, and why certain social customs bother introverts. I, personally, hate small talk. I don’t know how to do it, nor do I see the point in it. If we are going to talk, I want to really know about you, not your opinion of the weather and gossip from work. Cain says that this is because introverts tend to think in more complicated ways, and therefore small talk isn’t interesting.

Cain also calls out that our society has labeled introverts as a second class personality trait, something unwanted and that will limit your success. She describes the program at the Harvard Business School, and how, since early on, students are forced to socialize, to interact, to be extroverts, just like in the business world. For those who are extroverts, this isn’t too hard, but those who aren’t find themselves in unwanted situations. Although Cain makes an excellent case for the advantages of having introverts in the business world (slower and more rationalized thinking, for example), I am of the opinion that certain fields need certain personalities.

Like I said, I am an introvert who hates small talks and speaking in public. However, I love teaching, and consider myself to be a good teacher. I had to work with my introvert personality to be able to work with my students. If I didn’t work with my introvert personality, I would end up a very knowledgeable (hopefully) teacher with no tools to share with my students, much like the stereotype of a brilliant college professor that gives the most boring lectures to the board and not to the students. As an introvert teacher, I was able to enjoy the extroverted personality of my students, and understand the introverted personality of others. I gave introverted students their space and time, and supported them as they came out of their shell. I pushed myself to develop a workable introverted personality, where I can be outspoken in certain situations and sit back and listen in others.

The personality descriptions and situations in which both personality types have to interact put a lot of things into perspective. One such section was being an introverted parent to an extroverted child. Both my boyfriend and I are introverts, however, this is no guarantee that our children will be. I have also noticed that a lot of my friendships are with extroverted people. Personally, I enjoy their personalities and I enjoy hearing their stories. I also enjoy, after some time with them, to retreat to a quieter place and breathe.

The latter part of the book became much more of a “self-help book” which I must admit I was disappointed with. I am not a fan of self-help books; I was looking for a mere analysis of introverts so that I can do my own self-help. I know this is a very personal opinion, and many people will find the book as a whole very helpful. Overall Quiet is a great read about introverted personalities, and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the topic.

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2 thoughts on “Second Class Personality?

  1. I enjoyed this post. It took me years to realize that I’m actually an introvert as I spent most of my twenties trying to portray the idealized extroverted personality.
    As an introverted teacher I can relate to a lot of what you say here. 🙂

    • I went through that too, but was never too successful. Now, I limit my “socialness” and if I feel like I need quiet and solitude, I do my own thing. It makes me feel more me and allows me to enjoy the moments I do have to be extroverted.

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