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by Marti Olsen Laney
Workman Publishing, 2002
Review by April Chase on Feb 4th 2003

The Introvert Advantage

If you've been called shy, a shrinking violet, or a wallflower; if your friends tease you about still waters that run deep; or if you feel that you're just not a "people" person, you may find this book very revealing. Dr. Laney, an introvert herself, convincingly explains the reasons for your behavior, and the differences between an introvert (you) and an extrovert (most of the rest of the world).

Popular culture is very extrovert-oriented. "America was built on rugged individualism and the importance of citizens speaking their minds. We value action, speed, competition, and drive," writes Laney. Introverts, quieter and with a much lower energy level than "outies," often perceive themselves as slow, lazy, or just somehow wrong. They are seldom portrayed positively in the media, and may be urged to be more outgoing by their parents and peers. And, since introverts are outnumbered some three to one in the population, they may feel overwhelmed by all the extroverts around them.

To help develop coping skills, the book offers a number of checklists and quizzes to gauge where you fall on the introvert/extrovert scale, and where the significant others in your life fall, too. There are sections on dealing with others in a variety of relationships, from romantic to professional. Laney discusses how to minimize differences, how to socialize without undo stress (socializing is a particular introvert weak point), and how to make yourself seen and heard at work (self-promotion being another one). By using the "Three P's: Personal Pacing, Priorities and Parameters," introverts cannot only function in an extroverted world, but also excel.

Laney identifies some high-profile introverts, including television journalist Diane Sawyer, first lady Laura Bush, and a number of famous writers and actors. The impressive achievements the people on her list have made should dispel any idea that introverts are unable to gain (or stand) the limelight.

In some sections of the book, though, Laney seems overly cautious in regard to the capacities of introverts. The differences between the two personality types have long been recognized, but the introvert personality has not been studied a great deal. The theories Laney presents – that introverts need are more inward-focused and need more quiet time to recharge as a result of their intensity and lower energy levels - certainly seem reasonable, even obvious. She calls the differences a matter of  "depth versus breadth." But surely we're talking a matter of degrees, here.

Are introverts really so delicate that it is necessary for them to explain to their dinner partner pre-date that peaceful surroundings are a personality-type necessity for them? By encouraging "innies" to explain (and obey) their needs for rest, quiet, and comfort, Laney makes the whole thing sound somehow rather like a disease – yet she is careful to differentiate between actual diseases like depression and an introverted personality. It is all a bit confusing, and no doubt all the more so to extroverts who do not share the feelings in question.

The book is very well designed, broken down into easily readable sections with catchy headings like "Mind Over Chatter" and "Parenting: Are They Up From Their Nap Already?" It is interactive, with lots of questions and quizzes, and summaries for each section so that reviewing the information is easy.  It is definitely worthwhile reading, and the more introverted a person is, the more they will get out of it.

 

© 2003 April Chase

 April Chase is a freelance journalist and book reviewer who lives in Western Colorado. She is a regular contributor to a number of publications, including The Business Times of Western Colorado and Dream Network Journal.