I don’t normally post reviews here, but this book is about introversy – a topic I have long been planning to post about – and it has been of help to me, so I want to recommend it.
Marti Olsen Laney’s The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World is an approachable source of knowledge about different types of human temperament. To introverts and non-introverts alike, it can also prove an understanding friend that helps overcome various problems.
The main problem it takes up is the lack of understanding that many introverted people meet with in society, where extroverts are always the natural majority. That main problem gives rise to many more: prejudice, shaming, forced extrovert behaviours. The author recounts stories of these based on her experience with therapy patients, and examines the widespread misconceptions about introversy that often lead to introverts’ alienation and low self-esteem. “Introverts don’t like people,” “they speak so little becasue they don’t have anything to say,” “they lack creativity and initiative” are just a few examples.
To convince the readers that there’s a point to the antithetical title, Laney makes us consider the advantages shared by most introverts: analytical skills, the tendency to hoard knowledge in a chosen field of study, or the ability to concentrate on demanding but tedious tasks. Although these are worth noting, the “advantage” in the title still sounds cheap to me, like bait for people to buy the book. What sort of advantage is it to have some sort of temperament and a few good qualities? Everyone has those. It’s cheap but it worked: if I had first spotted that title in a bookshop rather than on my brother’s bookshelf, I would have bought it.
The part of the book that I found the most useful and enjoyable contains several scientific explanations of differences in human temperament. For some people, this may seem altogether unnecessary in a self-help book. Why bother with understanding which paths neurotransmitters take inside our brains if we only really care about the outcome of this process: our thoughts, words and behaviours? I’m sure this part of the book will be of interest to those of us who need and actually can’t go without scientific explanations when they learn something new. For me, the relationship between how the brain works and some typical introvert qualities, such as difficulty remembering facts, or the frequent need to rest, was something new indeed! I used to think of these as faults to be amended…
What next? Next, the book reaches out to us and leads us into the world: intimate and familial relationships, social and professional life, and all sorts of problems that go together with these. This part contains a multitude of substantive tips on dealing with stressful situations for both introverts and those of us who have an introverted person in their life. What may annoy you is the either-or approach to introversy and extroversy used to interpret most human behaviours here. But it’s worth remebering that, like many other concepts in psychology, this false binary is only meant to ease the understanding, and may have little to do with how real-life individuals act and feel.
Finally, the author asks us to look… inside ourselves. You would think that for an introvert, this is the easiest task on earth, right? But what Laney encourages us to do is to continuously learn the advantages and limits of our temperament, tune in to and take care of our needs, and thus create a good life environment for ourselves – both in our minds and outside. In a world where adults are only ever expected to be able to take care of a child if they have one, but not necessarily to take care of themselves, this task may seem formidable. Laney’s voice, which in this part of the book sounds especially intimate and uplifting, can encourage and support you along the way.
And after we have looked inside ourselves, the author has one more little proposition for us – but if this is supposed to be a review, I’d better not share the entire contents of the book with you, right? I’ll only add that you don’t have to read it cover-to-cover. There aren’t any traps for lazy readers such as “As you remember from Chapter 4…” so you can safely leave off the parts that don’t interest you.
Now go. Read this book. Or any book. Books are cool.