The book in question is called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. It was recommended by author Lois McMaster Bujold, on her blog a few weeks ago.
Disclaimer the first: I am an introvert. I am, so far as I can tell, about as introverted as it is possible to be, which I first was able to give a name to in high school almost forty years ago when I tested off the introvert end of the bell curve as part of some forever nameless (because I don’t think they ever told me — I’m pretty sure these were pre-Myers/Briggs days) psychological testing process.
Not that I didn’t know I was before that, I just didn’t know what to call it.
Disclaimer the second: I have a tendency to get a bit hostile when I read books on introversion, because most of them tend to be written by faux introverts rather than the real thing, and because they generally make assertions, such as the concept that an introvert can enjoy public speaking, that I disagree violently with. It is my beyond firm belief that if you enjoy public speaking (as opposed to being able to do it if you absolutely positively have to), then, no, you’re not an introvert, pretty much by definition (no, I’m not going to argue that here — if you disagree with this incontrovertible fact (as opposed to opinion), please post about that on your own blog, thank you).
And now I’m done with the disclaimers, which probably give you a pretty good idea of what I expected from this book, which is what I’ve mostly gotten from other books on the subject. Which may make you wonder why I read them, but it’s kind of like watching America’s Got Talent. Some people have talent. Some — don’t. Books on introversion have some concepts right on the money, and some clear out in left field. But I did expect those concepts to be about introversion.
The book was about introversion, don’t get me wrong, but the new and useful concept I acquired from this book is about something called social cues, and the spectrum of ability to read those cues humanity has.
I suspect the fact that I really had no clue what the term social cues meant until the author explained it is what gave me the first inkling that perhaps I’m about as far on the “social cues? huh?” end of the bell curve as I am on the introvert end. I cannot begin to count the number of times I have realized from days to sometimes years later, that someone was trying to ask or tell me something and I simply didn’t get it because they weren’t direct enough for me to catch on.
Like the time just after my second divorce when my mother attempted to find out if the reason both my marriages had gone south was because I was gay. I’m not, which is neither here nor there, but it did not dawn on me that my dear elderly Southern Lady mother’s hints on the subject were her way of trying to find out if I was, until, oh, about six years after the little talk in question, when something reminded me of the conversation and the other shoe dropped, along with my jaw.
So does my realization this afternoon after another incident that only happened yesterday (not with my mother, and not one I can comfortably speak of here) mean that I’m getting better at recognizing when people want me to know something but they’re too uncomfortable/disdainful/bad at recognizing the clueless to tell me straight out? (or, I suppose, they could think they’re actually being direct, but that’s a scary thought)
Somehow I doubt it.
But at least I have a name for it now.
So where are you on the introvert/extrovert scale? And, just as importantly, on the social cues bell curve?
Oh, and does anyone have any suggestions for teaching myself how to catch in real time at least some of the conversational dust motes that I’m missing?