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Watch Susan's TED presentation instead
on 19 March 2012
Susan Cain presented a wonderful speech to the TED conference regarding the difficulties faced by introverts in a world that prizes extroverts. Both have strengths and weaknesses, but education systems and working styles have become geared to the extrovert skill set, to the point where introversion is seen as an undesirable weakness, almost a mental illness, and must be overcome. It's acceptable to spend 4 hours in a meeting with 20 people achieving nothing, but not to sit on your own for half an hour and complete the work from start to finish.
Susan's 20 minute speech was fascinating and I eagerly awaited her book, but I have to admit I'm a little disappointed now it's here.
Part autobiography, part social commentary, the book adds very little to Susan's TED presentation. If anything, it detracts from it. The book is directly written for the American audience - American people talking about American research and life in America, so by the end of was craving something with a wider net of references.
The practical advice to introverts is interesting, but mainly because it acknowledges that constant exposure to extrovert behaviour can be damaging to someone more introverted (been there!), but could you really afford to turn down a job because the desk layout wasn't right for your introvert needs? Do you really have a paediatrician recommended `engagement skills' group that your nervous toddler can attend?
As someone who's more introvert than extrovert, the book made me feel a little hopeless, rather than a little empowered.
For anyone who's ever wondered whether their choice to get an early night, rather than go out and party, really does lead to a diagnosis of social phobia, low self-esteem and childhood confidence failure, Susan's work is liberation. But I'd recommend taking 20 minutes to watch her full TED presentation rather than buying the book.
(Small NB - the book cover is white and porous. After half a day in a bag the book's ruined.)