A few weeks ago I posted in “Introversion is not the opposite of extroversion,” an alternative model for what people call introversion and extroversion. As you know from that post, I don’t agree with the one-dimensional model so many people believe in.
It promotes complacency and I find it leads people to miss behaviors and beliefs of many people who don’t fall on that continuum who can behave like so-called introverts when they want and like so-called extroverts when they want to.
Many people suggested a book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, saying it spoke to them and helped them understand themselves. I started the book with interest for a new view so many people found so helpful. Sadly, I found it offered little new and gave up after a few chapters, skimming the rest.
Each page disappointed me as it confused that one-dimensional model reality. That is, rigidly adopting that model as the lens through which to see the world, it interpreted human behavior into that two categories, causing it to contort its view of the world and fill itself with contradiction. In my view it reinforced a counterproductive model, continuing to trap people into the same mental jail as the author. If I measure books by how much they improve people’s lives, I can’t help finding it one of the worst books I’ve ever read.
Page after page contradicted itself. For example, one paragraph would say Harvard Business School was the epicenter of extroversion. Then she finds an introvert, no problem. No wait, that introvert has introvert friends and classmates. Then she talks about an exercise the school assigns that shows problems with the behavior she said runs rampant there. Then she talks about a professor who teaches the value of non-extroverted behavior. Another time she talks about how the world filters out introverts from leadership positions, then she recounts how many business leaders are introverts. Well, which is it? She’s so busy forcing everything she sees into a model that she can’t see to question the model. She gets that the model is just made up, popularized by Carl Jung, but doesn’t get that you don’t have to adopt it. She doesn’t see that you can view the world differently, leading you to see different capabilities and potential for growth.
Everything I read is based on this limited model, never questioning it or considering what dropping it and adopting another could achieve. I would be open to someone telling me the book changed its perspective after the first few chapters and I missed out on something. I saw no sign of that happening and concluded I had better ways to waste my time than someone shoving the complexity of humanity into a model she confused with reality.
After describing her so-called Extrovert Ideal and how it callously puts down so-called introverts, she takes a pot shot at so-called extroverts: “Of course, there’s another word for such people [introverts]: thinkers.” How callous to imply these so-called extroverts don’t think. Her model forces her into such contortions and name-calling. After all, her book is based on calling people names and labeling them. She blinds herself to seeing people changing, learning, and growing, even herself. She gave a TED talk in front of hundreds to be seen by potentially millions. Instead of saying that she learned, grew, and changed and saying that others could too and thereby escape the mental jail of that made-up model, she says she’s still an introvert just faking it.
Maybe people aren’t just one or the other, but learn to behave appropriately to the circumstances, and those who haven’t yet learned one set of skills seem one-sided. That doesn’t mean everyone is one-sided. People whom she calls extroverts also think. Plenty of people behave in ways she’d call introverted when she doesn’t see it, whom she would call extroverts. People are incredibly complex. Her model would make her see people as flipping back and forth, which it doesn’t allow, so she calls people “closet introverts.” You know a model is messing you up when you have to keep creating more and more categories to describe things that it doesn’t accommodate.
I’m sure many people who call themselves introverts will react to this post saying I don’t understand what an introvert really is, annoyed that I’m repeating what everyone who doesn’t understand introversion says, that you can learn to be more social. Everyone who does that then describes the model’s definition of an introvert, not themselves. They may resemble that model, but they aren’t that model. As long as they keep themselves stuck in that jail, their minds won’t let them realize the change they could, to see that people who, say, couldn’t speak publicly but then learned to don’t have to be secret introverts faking something they aren’t. They can see them as people who once didn’t have a skill and mindset developing them. They’ll stop thinking that people skilled at social things don’t just have it easy. They also have challenges.
The world isn’t conspiring against so-called introverts. If anything, it’s conspiring against people with limited useful skills who don’t learn them. It doesn’t care why you don’t learn them. Personal development is hard and risks getting hurt. I spent the better part of a decade overcoming many of my limitations. But it’s rewarding — among the most rewarding challenges you can take on.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking reinforces limiting beliefs and behaviors. I recommend not reading it unless you prefer believing things that limit your abilities and potential for success. In that case, I recommend going full-on risk-free: The perfect comfortable life — how to live without injury or risk.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book