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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts. By Susan Cain, with Gregory Mone and Erica Moroz. Puffin, Penguin. 2016. $23.99 all ages

"Not everyone will understand your nature, though, even if you try to explain it. When Robby, a teenager from New Hampshire, first learned about introversion, he felt a great sense of relief. He had a tendency to turn quiet in large groups, and although he’d always felt comfortable talking and joking with his closest friends, he had a limit."

Listening to Robby explain how he felt can be heartbreaking, but also very empowering for those kids who are introverts:

“After a couple of hours I’m like, ‘Whoa, I can’t do this.’ It’s draining. There’s a wall that goes up and I don’t want to talk to anyone. It’s not physical exhaustion. It’s mental exhaustion.”

As the mom of an introvert, I was interested in having my adult son read this book and provide some insights. The most notable thing for him was that he would have liked to know he wasn't alone in feeling the way he did when he was younger. Isn't that the case for most of us? It is good to know that others are feeling some of the same things we are ... it allows for acceptance of ourselves.

Based on the tremendous success of Quiet (reprinted 2013), the author has followed it up with a 'guide for KIDS and TEENS'. It focuses on their lives in families, at school, with friends, and at their activities beyond. The stories belong to many young people who live in a world where talk and gregariousness are much valued. In their own quiet ways, they are able to find success for themselves. She also talks about further personal experiences as she explores the world of introversion.

Ms. Cain has real purpose for this guide:

 “Through the stories and experiences of other young people like you, I’ll address questions that introverts often wonder about: How do you carve out a place for yourself as a quiet person? How can you make sure that you’re not ignored? And how do you make new friends when it feels hard to muster the confidence to be chatty?”

It is not her intention to make them over; she wants young people to know they have amazing worth in the world. It is not wrong to be the quiet, thoughtful one. It is just who they are. There are certain traits exhibited by most introverts, and she points them out for her audience: they like being with fewer rather than many people, they often express themselves through the written rather than the spoken word, they prefer to be alone and to avoid any conflict, they work best when they are alone, they feel 'done in' after spending considerable time with others, they are rarely bored when focused on something they find interesting, and they would much rather be the asker of questions than the answerer.

She also makes some pretty telling and empowering observations: There’s a word for “people who are in their heads too much, thinkers.”, most great ideas spring from solitude, two or three close friends mean more than 100 acquaintances, and it's perfectly fine to cross the hallway to avoid unimportant conversation. My son, an athlete, would have appreciated her game plan I'm sure: practise alone, study your game, visualize success, shrink your world, exercise solo.

Every one of us, not just kids and teens, can benefit from the insights shared and the advice given. Imagine the power that would come from parents, teachers, friends, coaches and others being empathetic to those kids who, like Bret, faced being considered insolent rather than simply quiet. It is a very important book to read!

Back matter includes an afterword for teachers, a guide for parents, source notes and an index.

I wish we had known more when our son was his 'younger' self.

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