Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Book Log: The Introvert Advantage

This book, by Marti Olsen Laney came very strongly recommend by a friend. It's main point is that introversion is a personality type (one with many advantages), not a character defect.

It's All About Energy

An introvert is someone who gains energy by being alone or with one close friend in a quiet setting. An extrovert is someone who gains energy by being with other people. These definitions are very important. Many people things being an introvert and being shy are the same thing, but introversion is not shyness. Shyness is the feeling of anxiety caused by being in the presence of other people. Both introvert and extroverts can be shy.

Olsen Laney makes the point that she is a social introvert. She likes being with other people. She has always had jobs (librarian and therapist) that bring her into contact with many different people. But such contact, even though enjoyable, is draining. As an introvert she needs time alone to recharge.

Actually, It's All About Me

I found the first part of the book to be especially useful. She spends a good deal of time talking about characteristics of introverts, including common strengths and weaknesses. A couple of her points really struck home.

Introverts often have a hard time starting tasks, because they feel they have to have very in-depth knowledge of a subject or problem before they can really tackle it. This resonated with me very deeply. I read this at a time when I was starting a new project at work and was having a very difficult time just getting going. Realizing that this is a tendency common with my temperament freed me to put my hesitancy aside and do some initial work before I felt really comfortable doing so. It was very freeing.

The concept of a "social introvert" really helped to explain some of my more puzzling reactions to situations. I have come to understand that feeling drained and worn out after a social event does not mean the event was a failure or that something was wrong with me. It is simply part of my introverted personality.

Has It Changed My Life Forever?

No. The book is very good, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who is an introvert or lives with one. But it was not as life-changing (at least for me) as some of the reviews seem to imply.

The first part of the book (which explains the main concepts, talks about the physiological brain mechanisms underlying the temperament, and provides insight into common characteristics, problems and strengths of introverts) was very useful. However, the last part of the book is an extended discussion of coping mechanisms that introverts can use to deal with the extroverted culture in which we live. I don't know if I'm just not that introverted or if I'm old enough to have figured out how to deal with most of these situations on my own. The last section was not very helpful, and I found myself skimming the last third of the book rather than reading it thoroughly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mark - I followed a link to your blog from your e-mail, and I'm wasting time so I don't have to start writing my Christmas letter!
I think its very interesting to bifurcate the shy/not shy and introvert/extrovert elements of a personality. I think I am a shy extrovert! I gain energy from being with people, but only if we are together for a PURPOSE. Small talk and "schmoozing" are so abhorent to me, and thus my "shyness". Right?

A blessed Christmas to you and all the Meuers!

Joe K.