Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Introvert Advantage

A friend of mine recently recommended The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World. It has been making the rounds among my predominately introverted social circle, and for good reason. Many introverts grow up feeling like a fish out of water, thinking something is wrong with them. Our world is geared to put value on extroverted personalities.
pg. 54

Introverted children usually get the message loud and clear that something is wrong with them. In a study that was replicated three times with the same findings, introverts and extroverts were asked if they would prefer their ideal self to be extroverted or introverted. They were also asked if they would prefer their ideal leader to be introverted or extroverted. Reflecting the prejudices in our culture, both introverts and extroverts choose extroverts their ideal self and their ideal leader.

I'm certainly no exception to the rule.

It turns out, however, that the strongest distinguishing characteristic of extroversion/introversion is simply a matter of energy.

pg. 19

Introverts draw energy from their internal world of ideas, emotions, and impressions. They are energy conservers.

...[Extroverts] are energized by the external world--by activities, people, places, and things. They are energy spenders.

In the chapter describing some of the scientific research that has been done regarding the way our brains are wired, the author compares the 'Throttle-Down (to halt and examine)' dominate system of introverts to the 'Full-Throttle (to bound out and do something)' dominate system of extroverts. I literally had to laugh out loud when assigning the throttle-down system to myself and the full-throttle system to Russ. That describes us to a T.

Many of the author's descriptions were spot on in my world:

pg. 83

Introverts walk around with lots of thoughts and feelings in their heads. They are mulling--comparing old and new experiences. They often have an ongoing dialogue with themselves. Since this is such a familiar experience, they may not realize that other minds work in different ways. Some introverts aren't even aware that they think so much, or that they need time for ideas or solutions to 'pop' into their heads...This requires reflection time without pressure. They also need to give themselves physical space to let their feelings and impressions bubble up.

Other descriptions were too broad, such as right brained people being emotional and left brained people being logical. (I'm an emotional left-brainer, my sister a less-emotional right brainer.) Or that introverts tend to be detail oriented, and extroverts see the big picture. I think these traits are better explained by the Myers-Briggs personality styles (breaking down into 16 groups rather than just 2) which allow for detail oriented extroverts and big-picture introverts. The author does acknowledge the Myers-Briggs Type Indicators but then seems to paint a black/white sort of picture, although I suppose that was somewhat necessary for the purpose of her book.

The author does give a good deal of insight and advice on relationships, parenting, socializing and working. She offers many great tips for interaction with other people, particularly extroverts. The last section of the book is reserved for creating the life we want and need.

I was particularly exhausted (being an energy conserver) by the chapter on parenting. It was slightly disheartening to be shown that a huge amount of my (pitiful) energy reserves are spent just being around my three highly extroverted boys. It was a real light-bulb moment to realize that might be why I am so exhausted when I fall into bed at night and something of a permission slip to let go of the guilt when I'm beating myself up over the lack of checks on my to-do list. It wouldn't matter if I accomplished nothing 'more' than being in the same house as my children. I'm going to go to bed tired at night.

Obviously this stage in my life is going to be the toughest in that regard, with three little boys who need constant care, attention, and physical interaction. Hopefully this will encourage me in my attempts at teaching them independence and helpfulness!

This is a helpful book if you are an introvert and want to understand how you tick, what situations you function best in, tips for being your best self out in the extroverted world, or how to improve your relationships. I would additionally recommend this book to any extrovert with an introverted spouse or children. It would also be beneficial to extroverts responsible for mediating relationships in the work place or elsewhere.

The Introvert Advantage is peppered with quotes throughout its chapters. I'll leave you with this particular thought:

Life begets energy--energy creates energy. It is only by spending oneself wisely that one becomes rich in life. ~Eleanor Roosevelt


Anonymous said...

Oh, this so sounds like the book for me! I can especially relate to what you said about using up your energy just taking care of your children. One of my very best friends is an extreme extrovert and I am constantly amazed at what she can accomplish in a day compared to myself. If I have a day where I have too much personal contact with people outside my family/friend circle it completely drains me. My friend, on the other hand, is energized and replenished from these same situations. We balance each other out very well.

~Amy J.~

Troops 1909 and 5434 said...

I need to get ahold of this book as it sounds like it would be helpful.

Check your URL. It is going to the wrong book.

Mandy said...

I definitely need to read this book. I can relate to walking around with many ideas and thoughts in my head. I could never understand when my husband and I had a project to work on, he wouldn't think about it until it was time to do something. I, however, had thought about every angle ever since the idea of the project came up.

This book sounds like it could really help our relationships with others, regardless of being extroverted or introverted.


Heidi said...

Sarah~ Sorry about that! The link is fixed now. :)

Mercy's Maid said...

This one is on my TBR. Great review. Now I'm even more excited about reading it.

DebD said...

Popping in from Semicolon's blog.

This sounds like a great book to read with my extroverted husband. I think he just doesn't understand how exhausting he can be. Thanks so much for the review!

Staci Eastin said...

Thanks for this review. My husband and I are both introverts, but two of our children are extreme extroverts. It is exhausting.

But I am an introverted, right-brained, big-picture person.

Barb said...

I Need to read this book. I especially appreciate the quote from p. 83 --- that's me. Thanks for the review.

Elise said...

How interesting to note that the different energy sources for introverts and extroverts is the main characteristic that sets them apart. It makes sense and is familiar when I think about my dealings with introverts and extroverts.

I also laughed when reading the "throttle down" and "full throttle" analogy.

Heidi, you certainly do come across some very interesting boooks. I appreciate that you share your finds and so prefectly review them.


Dreams of a Country Girl said...

okay, so i totally cannot relate...i am envious of the introvert...they always seem like they are thinking...they seem wise....and when they do speak people listen...however i am an extrvert to the max...i always speak what is on my mind....i love people and any kind of attention i can get..there are people in africa starving for can i let it go to waste?

Anonymous said...

This book was definitely useful to me. If only to enable me not to feel guilty about being myself (i.e. an introvert). However, since reading this book I have discovered that I have Asperger's Syndrome which further complicated my upbringing and shaped the adult I have become.

I did find some of the advice a bit impractical. Dr. Laney tries to cover all introverts with her advice. In the end I think her message is to not be ashamed of being what you are and accept your limitations. However, you need to force yourself to "extrovert" from time to time to accomplish goals in life.