Reading Lives: Quiet

Our featured book this week is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (BF698.35.I59.C35.2012). Susan Cain shows how the education and business worlds often discriminate against the introverts among us. But these quiet folks have contributions that make society run as well. 

Cain gives some advice for teachers who have quiet students in their classes, but it probably works well for all relationships:

  • Don’t think of introversion as something to be cured.
  • Studies show that 1/3-1/2 of the population considers themselves introverted. Therefore, you are probably working with more introverts than you realize and should take that into consideration when planning.
  • Introverts often have 1 or 2 deep interests that are not shared by their peers, and are often belittled for them. Encourage those interests.
  • Some collaborative work is good for introverts, but keep groups small and well-structured.
  • According to research, it’s impossible to gain mastery without working on your own. (Areas that insist on teams should keep that in mind!)
  • Let quiet folks have quiet spaces to work and concentrate. Encourage interaction but don’t force it.
  • Don’t judge introverts by forced group settings.  (255-56)

As you can imagine, library workers have a reputation for being introverted. So our question this week was whether we had ever suffered from being introverted (or in one specific case, extroverted).

Colette: I can’t remember feeling inferior, for any reason, since leaving middle school.  I’m either too cocky and there are people reading this thinking, “Well you should,” or I just don’t let feelings of insecurity morph into feelings of inferiority.  I’m also having difficulty pinpointing a specific time when being an introvert or extrovert worked to my advantage.  I know that humor works to my advantage all the time, and perhaps having a sense of humor is the end result of being introverted while growing up.  After 25 years of teaching, I have to have some extroverted tendencies too.  Is it possible to be both introverted and extroverted?  Being a little of both seems healthy to me

Emily: Note to Jolly Librarian: As a true introvert, I find this topic overly personal. I offer you generalizations about introverts as a group:

According to the Myers-Brigg type indicator, I’m 100% introverted, so I’m keenly aware of the advantages and disadvantages of this predisposition (or affliction, depending on who you ask). The most glaring disadvantage of being an introvert is rather obvious — we may come across as unfriendly, even disinterested. This disadvantage is amplified for introverted women, as women tend to be expected to be more naturally gregarious than men. More often than not, introversion is seen as something that needs to be overcome.

As for advantages, I guess we’re better at being alone and, typically, not terribly needy (oh, and lots of geniuses are introverts). For those of you who fear you may have an introverted friend/family member/co-worker, I urge you not to panic and offer you this article on “Caring for your Introvert”

Pam: Oh, the blessing and the curse of having never known a stranger, as they say! Often, being an extrovert, I have been picked on, it’s so true, but there are certainly two sides to this ole coin. On the upswing, being extroverted has often come in handy; on stage for instance, how fun it is to be able to interact so easily with a crowd full of strangers – with the hope, of course, that they are all put to ease and we are all having a good time. And, too, there have been those times when I have been called on by my dear panicked friend, Nancy, to please join her and her dad and stepmother for some dreaded dinner, insisting, that I can ALWAYS think of something to talk about! It’s true, I have often felt I was born to be, as Florence Littauer lovingly refers to her own sanguine self as being, “the gap filler of life” in her book Personality Plus.  The downside, though, is not so happy-go-lucky great. You are not taken seriously in the long run. Period. That hurts. I have discovered that putting yourself out there, exposing your heart in honesty with others, because you feel comfortable enough, or confident enough, or whatever it is that makes one be able to carry their heart vulnerably on their sleeve, comes back to slap you in the face, invariably. And so I’m finding at this age of my life that I’m beginning to back off, close up a bit, not trust as much, and to discover, in utter horror that, as Littauer again reminds us, oh my gosh, my big lack of verbal contribution isn’t even missed, after all!

Sally: I have always been more of an introvert than an extrovert.  I like quiet.  I think most librarians do like quiet.  Maybe that is why TEL is one of Tennessee’s best kept secrets.  I’m trying to help change that.  Www.tntel.info and the AccessMyLibrary app.

I think being an introvert may have helped me become involved with MERLOT and the TBR mobilization initiative, since I was quietly reviewing a lot of materials and adding things to MERLOT when Dr. Robbie Melton met me at the conference in Minneapolis.  I guess she liked my attitude about emerging technologies.

Jolly Librarian: I think one story tells it all. I went with a friend to a church singles event in Birmingham, Alabama. Afterwards, I told my friend that I thought it was one of the most awful experiences of my life. She laughed and said, “Oh, I wouldn’t have noticed. You sat there and stared at your food the entire time. Anyone who wanted to talk to you would have been scared off by your obsession with your plate!”

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