Shy, Snobby, or an Introvert? This Book Explains it All

by Abby on April 13, 2012

Things I’ve been called in my life: shy, sensitive, cerebral, an enigma, quiet, mellow, snobby, stuck-up. Some compliments, some not. Some accurate, some not.

What I know I am is an introvert. I like reading and writing. I like to socialize one-on-one or with small groups of friends. When I attend a big conference or event I am crazy-nervous and sometimes nauseous beforehand and exhausted afterwards. (But that doesn’t mean I don’t still go and get something out of it.) When I have real conversations with people, online or off, about books, ideas, fears and goals, I feel energized.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan CainEven though I’ve always known I’m an introvert, reading Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking was eye-opening. And also, validating. If When I am interviewed in O magazine, this will be high on the list of “Books That Made a Difference to Abigail Green.”

For the first time, I felt like maybe all those years I thought there was something wrong with me because I “couldn’t hack it” at the big corporate jobs and hated working in cubicles and by committee, the problem was actually that those environments were entirely the wrong fit for the type of person I am. (Cue Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”)

Cain estimates that 1/3 to 1/2 of the population are introverts. That means that even if you do not consider yourself an introvert, chances are high you may be married to one or raising one. Also, there’s a whole spectrum of introverts; we’re not all painfully shy librarians who quake at the thought of human contact.

It’s not the same as being shy. Shyness is about fear of social judgment, while introversion is about how you respond to stimulation, Cain explains. Introverts feel the most alive and creative in quieter, low-key environments. (Types the freelance writer working by herself in her empty house.)

Another point Cain makes is that introverts often flourish online. Well-known bloggers and social media mavens who consider themselves introverts include: author and Silicon Valley hotshot Guy Kawasaki; Pete Cashmore, founder of Mashable; and Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist. Cain writes:

Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read, to say that they can express the “real me” online, and to spend more time in certain kinds of online discussions. They welcome the chance to communicate digitally…. The same person who finds it difficult to introduce himself to strangers might establish a presence online and then extend these relationships into the real world.

The story of my life! Right here in a New York Times-bestselling nonfiction book! Cain advises introverts to “stay true to your own nature” and to “find your flow by using your gifts.” “You may be so busy trying to appear like a zestful, reward-sensitive extrovert that you undervalue your own talents, or feel underestimated by those around you. But when you’re focused on a project that you care about, you probably find that your energy is boundless.” Preach it, sister!

Cain also explains the square-peg-in-a-round-hole feeling I’ve always had in my career: “Introverts have spent so much of their lives conforming to extroverted norms that by the time they choose a career, or a calling, it feels perfectly normal to ignore their own preferences. They may be uncomfortable in law school or nursing school or the marketing department, but no more so that they were back in middle school or summer camp.”

Yes! I’m not lazy or unfocused or antisocial or not a team player. I’m an INTROVERT. It all makes perfect sense now.

I could write a whole bunch of other posts on how this book relates to parenting, marriage, culture, and more. But for now, just take it from me: Quiet is a must-read. It’s not at ALL an easy read – it took me a good 2 weeks of slow and methodical reading and rereading to get through it. As it should be, since Cain spent 5+ years working on it with the big fat Appendix to prove it. For a taste, check out Susan Cain’s TED talk online.

So what about you, readers? Are you an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere in between?

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Lou Mello April 13, 2012 at 8:04 am

Well. we’re glad that you can come alive online.


Abby April 13, 2012 at 8:42 am

It’s not like I’m a TOTAL snooze in real life… 😉 I’m guessing you’re an extrovert, Lou!


Lou Mello April 13, 2012 at 3:49 pm

I believe that I am probably an extrovert, although, I do occasionally look forward to a quiet Saturday reading with just music on in the background.


Ali April 13, 2012 at 8:12 am

Abby, I’m surprised you’re an introvert!

Have most of your critics been women too? Men have always been understanding of my disposition, describing me as shy, quiet, modest, etc. But the women have always called me bitchy, snobby, antisocial, etc.

I’ll have to read the book. I’ve called myself an introvert for years, but I fear social judgment, which now appears to be shyness. So I don’t know anymore.


Abby April 13, 2012 at 8:45 am

Interesting point, Ali. I think the book does discuss how it’s more socially acceptable for women to be introverts. I used to be very shy and self-conscious, but I’ve come a long way. Having kids has definitely helped. They force me to be more outgoing, and they are good examples that we shouldn’t worry so much about what other people think of us. Look at my 3yo, who rocks backwards pants and mismatched shoes on purpose!


Pamela April 13, 2012 at 9:01 am

I thought you were writing about me! I nodded my head yes as you listed all the desriptions of an ‘introvert.’ And it’s true, we struggle all our lives to make it through as ‘extroverts’ – friendly and party-hardy, and happy to be snuggled in a large group of people. NOOOO, my brain/spirit always screamed, let me go back home in peace, to my singular abode (with my introverted husband and equally introverted dog). What will be interesting is when you figure out if your childen are introverts or extroverts. Makes a big difference in your family dynamic. Thanks for the book review!


Abby April 13, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Your dog’s an introvert? LOL! Reading the book I kept trying to recognize my kids in the descriptions, but they’re harder to pin down than I thought. They each have some introvert & extrovert in them.


C April 13, 2012 at 9:05 am

Being an introvert I rarely comment but I had to speak up today. This is a really, really good post. You should be very proud of the content you are able to produce week in and week out. It never ceases to amaze me how easy you make it seem to be able to organize thoughts on a page and have them resonate with so many people. Your approach, dedication and professionalism will never go unnoticed and the future is shining bright as long as you keep at it. Love C


Abby April 13, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Thank you! I’m glad you can tell I spent much more time on this post than, say, my potty training rants. 🙂


Nadine Feldman April 13, 2012 at 2:33 pm

I agree, it’s a great book, Abby, and I’m glad to see you promoting it! I blogged about it fairly recently myself.

I am extremely introverted and proud of it. I’m glad that more and more of us can understand that despite societal messages, there’s nothing “wrong” with us. We’re just wired differently.


Malia April 16, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Thanks for this post, Abby. I just put “Quiet” on hold at the library. I think I’m much more of an introvert than I’ve ever realized. I always score near the introvert-extrovert border on the Meyers-Briggs test, but I’ve kind of ignored my introvert side because I don’t identify myself as “shy.” This post made me realize that introverts aren’t always wallflower types. I have lots of qualities that lean more toward introversion, but instead of valuing those qualities, I’ve always gotten a bit frustrated at myself for my introverted traits, like getting drained after social events and interviews and preferring one-on-one convos to big group gabfests. Looking forward to reading the book and thinking more about this!


Holly from 300 Pounds Down April 16, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Wow what an awesome book this sounds like!! I am an introvert and I totally fit this to the tee. My blog friends online know way more about me than most of the people I know in real life! lol…And I have often been misread as “snobby” when in fact I’m just quiet! I had someone tell me once that before getting to know me they thought I was snobby and it was all b/c I did not talk to that many people. Truthfully that was just me being introverted and not knowing how to interact in a large social group. I hate that I am often misread as snobby b/c of being quiet!


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