My 19 year old daughter recently asked what her hobbies were. I said, "Your friends are your hobbies". She looked at me like only 19 year olds can look at their mums. But it is true - her reason for being is her interactions with other people, preferably not old(er) ones like me. Based on an informal 20 question questionnaire on page 10 of this book she is almost 100% the perfect extrovert. Me, on the other hand, I am 70% introvert, and now that I know this, it explains all sorts of things about me. Unlike my lively daughter who needs to get her batteries charged from the energy of others, I need to get my batteries charged from not being with others, from being by myself. Finally I understand now why I don't like crowds, why I don't like going to parties or gatherings where I don't know people, why I am not the world's most natural and spontaneous entertainer, why I let the phone go to voice mail, why I enjoy writing so much, why sitting at home on New Year's Eve with mushrooms on toast, a bottle of bubbles and TV makes me feel so good! And it has been done more than once.
Even though this book is about whether you are one or the other, the author makes very clear at both the beginning and the end, that introversion/extroversion personality analysis is one of many tools and theories out there, and often it seems in conjunction with other theories too. So, as with all this stuff, it is all very interesting and useful and probably helpful to self understanding but not necessarily the gospel truth.
The author is a self proclaimed introvert, hence her interest in the subject. Her main argument in this book is that the world we live in, ie the current Western orientation to the Cult of Personality rather than the Cult of Character of perhaps 150 years ago does not suit the more introverted personality, which could be anywhere from a third to half the population. Think back to when you were at high school - who were the popular kids? Was it the science nerds? Was it those who spent their lunch hours in the library? Was it those who played solitary or individual sports like chess or fencing or even badminton? No of course it wasn't! It was the rugby boys, the girls who swanned around after them in packs, the kids that took the risks like smoking, drinking, having sex. The ones whose style of dress the rest of us tried to follow. The cool kids. Perhaps this is seen no more clearly than in her chapter on the differences between Asian students and non Asian students at American high school and universities.
The book is full of explaining all these sorts of differences and whether we are actually born with tendencies towards introvesion/extroversion; how our upbringing and early life shapes us; cultural differences; how survival of the fittest is not always survival of the loudest or the strongest; the effect the Cult of Personality had on the Global Financial Crisis; how as parents we can help our children who may not be so out there as us or their siblings, and even in our relationships where we can see and be understanding of our differences. And much more.
I have got so much out of this book, and it really does make me feel much more comfortable in my skin. Now I know why I used to howl my lungs out at the top of the sand dunes faced with all that ocean and noise. Why I was one of only two kids on 11 year old camp that wouldn't do the abseiling. And why I love books, reading and doing these book reviews!