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With Quiet, introverts get their day in the sun

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March 20th, 2012

Stop by any neighborhood barbeque or office Christmas party and you ll find two kinds of people: the bold, gregarious talkers, the folks the father of analytic psychiatry Carl Jung famously christened extroverts; and perhaps a few steps away, the quiet, thoughtful souls Jung called introverts. Each type has its own strengths, and Jung believed introverts were educators and promoters of culture. At the same time, he recognized that their reserve and apparently groundless embarrassment naturally arouse all the current prejudices against this type. Over the past hundred years, that prejudice grew. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can t Stop Talking (Crown), the new bestseller from Susan Cain, takes a microscope to what Cain calls the rise of the extrovert ideal. Mid-way through the 20th century, the nation did its best to stem introversion. Parents were told to socialize shy children so they would be popular and successful. In the 1950s, doctors generously prescribed the drug Meprobamate or Miltown, one of the first happy pills which quickly became the fastest selling pharmaceutical in American history. A decade later there was Serentil, For the anxiety that comes from not fitting in. Despite the nation s best efforts to cure introversion, Cain points out that without introverts there would be no Apple computer, no theory of relativity or Sunflowers by Van Gogh, and certainly no The Cat in the Hat. Beloved founding father John Adams is thought to have been one of the few introverts to reach the Presidency.

Fitting in

The stellar achievements of exceptional introverts notwithstanding, life can be difficult for introverts, especially when it comes to getting ahead professionally. Employers tend to seek out positive, vibrant personalities over thoughtful ones. Cain herself knows how stigmatizing being an introvert can be. After graduating from Princeton and Harvard Law, she became a corporate lawyer with high-octane clients like Merrill Lynch, and later an accomplished public speaker. Despite the aggressive nature of her career and her training, Cain counts herself among the roughly one-third of American introverts. I prefer listening to talking, reading to socializing, and cozy chats to group settings. I like to think before I speak (softly), she says, adding, I ve never given a speech without being terrified first, though I ve given many. Cain explores this paradox in the book and offers helpful advice on how introverts can succeed in a world that is clearly wowed by razzle-dazzle. Cain goes further to highlight some of the advantages of being an introvert, among them, reflective thinking and creativity. Whether you yourself are an introvert, or someone you love is an introvert, Quiet offers a fascinating look at one of the world s most misunderstood personalities. For more information and to take a short quiz to see if you are an introvert, visit thepowerofintroverts.com. ...

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