Please Be Quiet

One of my absolute pet hates is small talk.  I will be honest with you – I completely and utterly suck at it and I used to spend hours planning what I was going to talk to my hairdresser about.  I was also probably the only person on this planet who found the perspective of having to go and have their hair cut equal to being given a life sentence for a crime they hadn’t committed.  That was until I found a hairdresser who despises small talk as much as I do and we either talk about ‘interesting stuff’ or I withdraw quietly into my headspace and she cuts my hair. Perfect.

It turns out that there is a reason why I loathe small talk, spent most of my childhood preferring to sit quietly and daydream instead of playing with lots of noisy and annoying kids and consider an evening with a book ‘socialising’.  I may be farther along the introvert spectrum than I thought, as Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain enlightens me.

After having filled in her Are you an introvert? checklist I find out that I am 60% introvert and about 40% extrovert (I answered a few questions with ‘it depends’ instead of a straight yes or no).  Almost an ambivert and to quote the writer: “yes, there really is such a word.”  This is why even though I like my quiet time and occasionally disappear into my ‘restorative niche’ I also occasionally crave the company of my fellow humans and enjoy presenting in front of groups of people  – I am more or less in the middle of the introvert/extrovert spectrum.

A few aspects of the book are interesting and the author presents the data in a (mostly) very accessible and anecdotal style, like when she attends a variety of workshops and conferences that promise to turn their participants into amazing salesmen/talkers etc. as being an extrovert equals success, charisma and confidence.  And as it turns out in a lot of cases, the promise of a miraculous transformation comes with a hefty price tag.

In America, extroverted parents have been known to send their introverted children to psychiatrists and have them put on medication to have their introversion ‘treated’.  If socialising is an extreme sport at the Harvard Business School I would never even come close to an Olympic medal.

In fact, it is both fascinating and scary to realise how modern society has moved from the ‘Cult of Character’ to the ‘Cult of Personality’ and is structured around cultivating the characteristics associated with extroverts and their inconsequential small talk.  Most shockingly, we design school classrooms and workplaces to primarily conform to the extrovert ideal: open plan offices, brainstorming sessions, promoting Group-think and not much else.  I must say I liked Susan Cain’s suggestion to create offices that have open-plan bits for the extroverts and nooks and crannies where the quiet people can have their quiet time.

If Peanut has inherited the ‘introvert gene’ and tells me one day that he would rather read a book or draw or daydream instead of going to another birthday party (‘parents’ small talk hell’) then fine by me.  However, I also would like for him to try things out and take occasional risks (OK, then we may go to every second birthday party, I can cope with that and there is always the option of hiding with a book in the toilet)

In many ways Quiet is an important book.  It is timely, engaging and tells its readers (who I assume would be predominantly introverts) what empathic, modest and great thinkers they are; instead of nerdy, quirky, odd and shy losers.

However, it loses its appeal at times, especially during the chapters where she cites endless fMRI studies.  And it is a shame that ambiverts, or almost-ambiverts do not get much mention or in fact any at all.  There is a lot of talk of how introverts adapted to the extroverted world, but what about those of us who are in the middle (almost) of the spectrum?

Susan Cain here is an idea for a sequel.

Whether you are an introvert, extrovert or have the best of both worlds, you will most likely find this book interesting.

For now, I am off to start a quiet revolution.  Psst…

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Disclosure: I was provided with a free copy of  Quiet and I received no other payment to write this review.  I really enjoyed this book and all opinions are my own.  I would not have it any other way.  You can find Quiet in your local bookshops and libraries. 

Ghosts of Christmas Past and Future

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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!  I am taking a break from blogging until January. I need time to  work on expanding my waistline (chocolate!), getting through the pile of books on my bed table, writing a poem a day for the next 30 days (yes, I like my personal challenges and yes, probably 99% of these poems will be haikus) and doodling. 

See ya all in 2014! Have a Merry and Creative Christmas!

Love

BlueBeretMum

Prose for Thought

My Desert Island Tomes

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‘Go out.  You’ll get square eyes from all that reading,’ was a mantra I heard throughout my childhood mainly because my idea of having a great time wasn’t to cause trouble (ok, sometimes it was but only when it involved climbing trees and crawling through my wild meadow pretending I was a spy) or to play with Barbie dolls (that I didn’t own anyway) but to hide in a quiet corner with a book and disappear into fantastic worlds, make friends and embark on great adventures.

My books have always been my closest friends and they made me the person I am today.

The kind of person who will happily go home to read if she gets bored at a party.  Or, at said party, hide in a corner with a copy of 1984.

The kind of person who would rather write her blog than go shopping.

And the person whose handbag weighs a tonne as there are at least two or three emergency books in there.  Just in case Armageddon kicks in and I am stranded in a post-Apocalyptic world full of lizards running the show.  I don’t mind as long as I have something to read.

All throughout my adult life my books have been my morning cigarettes and my nightcaps.

I am what I read.

Inspired by Desert Island Discs and the recent literary edition of Stylist I have compiled a list of my own Desert Island Tomes.

It wasn’t an easy choice, the list could stretch into infinity and back, so here are those very important books that shaped my life:

  1. Emily Series by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, Emily’s Quest)  – Emily Starr was my closest friend when I was a child.  A little girl brought up by her aunts dreaming about being a writer and one day achieving that dream. She was the one who made me believe that writing can be a way of life, a vocation that I could and should pursue.  I used to go for long walks with my shaggy dog Gapcio and have long discussions with Emily, dreaming up new lives, plots and tribulations, drawing to myself an odd look here and there. (more…)