A Quiet Person’s Manifesto

Sophia Dembling’s new book, The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World, is sly, smart, wise, wise-ass and funny. In other words, it’s a lot like the author herself.

I read it slowly, savoring it and nodding and agreeing with her and recognizing myself on every other page. I was by myself, of course, since introverts, unlike grapes, do not hang out in bunches.

The truth is, I found myself getting more and more pissed off the longer I read it. “I’m realizing I’ve been oppressed by extroverts my whole life,” I told my marginally more extroverted husband when he showed up after work.

He told me I wasn’t really that introverted. This is a typical reaction, according to Dembling. People always go around assuring you you’re not really an introvert, using the same tones of kindness and concern they would use to tell you you weren’t really schizophrenic. Not really.

“I’m proud of being an introvert,” I told him. “The world has been shaming us for eons. It’s like high school, except now I have wrinkles.”

I went on, screaming about how introverted I was, and outlining some of Dembling’s points. Why do we feel something is wrong, simply because no one is talking? Why is it weird to need time to yourself? Why should you be apologetic for being, basically, a quiet person? Why does everyone have to be so goddamned perky and peppy?

That kind of introverted outrage is normal, too, Dembling says. We, the quiet, have spent our lives in a world that values sparkle and fire over still waters, no matter how deep. Nobody wants to be Melanie and everybody wants to be Scarlett. And, oh, sure, the meek might inherit the earth, but what’s it going to look like after the extroverts have hogged it for millennia?

Dembling cautions that we shouldn’t turn on extroverts or blame them — since they are, after all, pretty amusing and being around them is kind of like going to the circus. We also shouldn’t become introversion snobs, assuming we are deeper, more thoughtful and creative and sensitive than extroverts (even though it’s pretty obvious we are, but whatever).

Anyway, if you trend toward the quiet side, I highly recommend Dembling’s book. She’ll have you nodding your head and pumping your fist and swilling your wine with quietly heartfelt enthusiasm.

So that explains it, you’ll think. No wonder you loathe audience participation, charades, karaoke, costume parties and, worst of all, clowns. So that’s why you end up in the bathroom so frequently at chaotic parties (and did, even before you were menopausal). And why you despise practical jokes and April’s Fools Day and team-building and brainstorming meetings.

Most of all, Dembling pushes us to re-think the world and appreciate and respect our own inherent natures. Like the very best books do, hers lingered with me long after I’d finished it.

I could go on and on, but I am an introvert and I know when to shut up. So, good-bye and enjoy the good read.

(Copyright 2013 by Ruth Pennebaker)

Check out Just Another Day in the Life of a Pessimist

24 comments… add one
  • Sandra Nash Link

    I adore this review and will be ordering the book immediately. I totally relate to everything you are saying. It’s been challenging going through life with an exceptionally extroverted and sociable mother. I could go on and on about that…

  • Exactly the reaction I had! I’ve spent my life believing there was something wrong, in sports-mad Australia, “introvert” is definitely seen as a disease to be “got over”. I’ve spent the last few months starting, for the first time in my life, to feel better about myself, to say “I’m more sensitive about many things than some other people, and that’s okay.” I started to be proud of being an introvert and gently disabusing people about introversion-as-disease if I was told I “should” get out more, go to parties, “meet people” (I’m an expat in Bangkok, not exactly and introvert’s city), learn how to do/stand shallow chit-chat. I tell my therapist how good I’m feeling, lately, and list the things in Sophie’s book that I related to so strongly…
    therapist’s response? Perhaps we should investigate Asperger’s. Grrr. Why must the world pathologize introversion? I mean, I know that if we weren’t so mired in anxiety because of years of oppression that we’d probably run the world – in a very different way to extroverts – but why are they afraid of a better world? 😉

  • Love it. I am an introvert and I’ve had people say that – “Of course you’re not introverted!” so many times…I worked hard to overcome a lot of it and now am comfortable with being more extroverted in shorter bursts (I can manage, even enjoy parties, no need to hide in the bathrooms) but then I need downtime to recharge. I’m comfortable with my introverted-ness.

    Working from home has been great for me. I get all the alone time I need (and more!) and then I’m ready to be social when my extroverted husband wants to. 😉

  • Yes! Introverts rise up and . . . oh, never mind. Your comment about team-building meetings made me break out in hives. Torture! I just WORK with these people, why do we need to form an intimate bond? But that attitude may be the reason I don’t work in an office any longer. I’m sure I must have rolled my eyes in job interviews when the employer talked about the office staff being like family. Really? That bad?

  • This is the longest-running argument in my life. When we met our first year in graduate school, Sherlock started arguing with me, insisting that I’m not an introvert. WHY. I never understand, though maybe you’re on to something — “they” see it as such a failing and don’t want it to be true of you. Of me. Anyway, it’s the most hilarious argument to have, and it’s become a friendly one now, after all these years. (Still, I’ll bet he thinks he’s right about me.)

  • I’m very strongly introverted, but get the “you CAN’T be an introvert” thing because I’m comfortable speaking in public. Truth is, other people exhaust me. Especially the ones who have no filter between their brains and their mouths and NEVER shut up. I definitely need to recharge away from the crowd.

  • I think I must have found all of the introverts in the world and turned them into my colleagues and friends because there are very few extroverts in my life. It makes me feel like the so-called normal one.

  • This is a wonderful book! If you have any inkling that you may be introverted, read it~

  • I’ll be reading this too. Another book that might appeal to some introverts (though not all) is called The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron. That book was unbelievably dead on for me and explained so much.

  • This books sounds great. I’ll recommend it to the next introvert I see. Sometimes I wish I still was one, but I’m not.

  • I can so identify. I am truly an introvert, have always thought I needed to be more of an extrovert, but only manage it for limited periods of time. When it comes down to it, I prefer my own company. This sounds like the book for me!

  • Great review–I loathe practical jokes and karaoke too. I need to pick up Dembling’s book.

  • Thanks goodness, your introvertedness does not prevent you from speaking out to your website audience! Boldly, even!

  • Thank you and loved this. As an introvert I don’t normally comment as I like to read blogs quietly and on my own.
    As for Melanie’s comment – I was told introverts make the best public speakers, actors etc because they go into their own bubble and don’t care what other think.
    For years of being a “loud introvert” who because they blog is seen as an extrovert I loved this.
    Thank you 🙂 X

  • Sounds like a good book. I have never been an introvert, but the older I get, the more “alone time” I need. I wonder if I’m turning into one.

  • Sigh … As an extrovert since I left the womb, I’ll try not to be insulted. Some of us are good, heartfelt, and empathetic people too. And, after living on mountain for the last decade or so, I’m becoming a bit more of a hermit. I have to go into town today for a team lunch, and I’ll be exhausted when I get back. I know some people think of extroverts as energy vampires, but I’ve always felt that I give FAR more than I get when I’m with people.

  • There’s also the book QUIET which got a lot of press. My husband is an introvert and I think he can relate to the book & these comments. I’m an extrovert in an introvert’s job. So I don’t oppress anyone b/c I don’t talk to anyone all day! Or if I do, it’s to interview them and LISTEN to what they have to say…

  • I’m an introvert most of the time, except for those moments when this other person takes over — Scarlet. She doesn’t stay very long, though. Thanks for recommending this book. I had not heard of it.

  • Cindy A Link

    Thanks for this, Ruth. I have endured many years of torture at the hands of co-workers who feel flipchart brainstorming is the way to go. In three decades, I have not participated in one single flipchart brainstorm that actually produced anything of value other than to make me feel exceptionally anti-social. I think introverts should rise up in the workplace and demand equal rights. You all blurt your brains out, and I’ll be over here carefully solving the problem.

  • merr Link

    I have heard of this book and want to read it!

  • Bernadette Link

    I must read this book because it’s about me. I was conscious very early on that I was an introvert born into a world that values extroverts. That used to bother me, but no more. I like being me. In the words of Dr. Seuss: “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

  • I love being an introvert. I can be my own best friend.

  • Christine Link

    Oh, I hadn’t heard of this book. I am such an introvert. I loved Quiet (by Susan Cain). It made me feel so less alone. I’m definitely looking for this book.

  • I’m either an introvert or an outrovert, depending on the situation. I will definitely check out Sophia’s book.

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