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Saturday, September 30, 2017

This Dissonant Extrovert

Of the books I've read over six and one half years since the inception of my blog, only a dozen or so have been the subject of more than one post. There is so much to recommend "Quiet," I suspect this will not be my only post about Susan Cain's 2012 book, an exploration of "the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking".

Cain is not unkind to extroverts, but her mission to empower introverts forms the centerpiece of her persuasive book. As any skilled author must, she solidly builds her case throughout. After doing exactly that in  chapter two - entitled "The Myth Of Charismatic Leadership: The Culture Of Personality A Hundred Years Later" -  she concludes with this shot across the bow: "Just as Tony Robbins's aggressive upselling is OK with his fans because spreading helpful ideas is part of being a good person, and just as Harvard Business Review expects its students to be talkers because this is seen as a prerequisite to leadership, so have many evangelicals come to associate godliness with sociability."

Cain introduces each counter-intuitive premise with scrupulous research then convincingly presents her ideas. The prose is sturdy, the epigraphs used to open chapters are flawless (e.g. "Some people are more certain of everything than I am of anything" - Robert Rubin - kicks off chapter four, entitled "Is Temperament Destiny?"), and the forays into neuroscience are delivered in manageable-sized pieces.

Finally, on a personal level, Cain's book was affirming. This extrovert has worked purposefully over his entire adult life on dialing it down and mirroring the behavior of the quieter folks I encounter. The author acknowledges the value of that kind of flexing, citing research on what Harvard professor Brian Little calls the "free trait theory" of personality. Then she says "... many of us have dissonant aspects to our personalities." Dissonant, huh? I like that.  

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