This is a merge of posts written in response to a review in the Belfast Telegraph of Susan Cain’s book Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.
My former mentor, a school teacher whom also performed the duties of career advisor, described something he called “the Northern Ireland problem” – it appeared young people from Northern Ireland (and to a lesser extent, Scotland, if I recall) performed worse in the UK job market because they didn’t sell themselves well and lacked confidence in interviews, comparatively to the more populous regions of the UK. In short, we are a small nation of introverts, certainly more-so than, say, SE England.
It’s easy to see why – given that most people here live in rural or suburban places, extrovert behaviour is not encouraged. From my own rural upbringing, I know that someone trying to draw attention to themselves would not have fared well, most likely drawing a terse rebuke from an elder. It always surprises me how noisy the children in Belfast, for example, are compared to my home county.
As a quite extreme introvert myself, I look forward to picking up this book (there’s a video lecture on Youtube by the author, worth a watch).
It should be noted that many introverts, like the author herself, develop strong communication and people skills later in life (I’m probably better on the former than the latter). However, introverts will continue to find such activity exhausting, and need some alone time to recharge our batteries – this is the key indicator of introversion. An extrovert would instead find those activities energising. Introverts generate their ‘energy’ internally, in moments of quiet, extroverts gain it from sensation, from crowds. That the extrovert view predominates is a natural product of extroversion; it makes itself known. Susan Cain is encouraging us, the quiet ones, to better represent ourselves.
One thing I no longer do is be apologetic for my reluctance to engage in extrovert activities. I will, as politely as I can, explain that I’d rather poke myself in the eye than, say, go to a noisy nightclub. Anyone who takes offence at this doesn’t know me very well.