Susan Cain's new book
Cain looks at extroverts and introverts in history, such as Vincent van Gogh and Abraham Lincoln. She looks at how introverts are often given short shrift in today's business culture, which privileges group projects and brainstorming in open-plan offices over private, quiet spaces for individual, in-depth focused activities.
Cain describes how extroversion became the favored version of 20th-century American personality and concludes this may not be to our benefit. In an interview she stated her thesis: "Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts, and many introverts believe that there is something wrong with them and that they should try to 'pass' as extroverts. The bias against introversion leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and, ultimately, happiness."
Her intriguing investigation of how introverts are viewed is backed up by wide and thorough research and thoughtful historical examination--the kind of work at which introverts excel. Her presentation is lively and engaging--the kind of communication at which extroverts excel.
But her work is a book, not a talk-show interview or morning-show presentation. It's not a twitter feed, Facebook page, or half-hour special on the Discovery Channel. Communication in a fixed medium, whether print on a page or pixels on a blog, is where we introverts excel. Extemporaneous speaking, from pulpits or on talk-show couches, is the world of extroverts.
I do believe that most of us grammar geeks are introverts at heart. We read, sometimes obsessively, a solitary activity if ever there was one, despite the efforts of social media reading sites and the allure of reading groups. We take time, mulling and contemplating, comparing and compiling, to draw out the deeper structures of sentences, the common patterns that generate the rules of comma placement, apostrophe use, subject/verb agreement, and preposition use.
Yet one of the greatest grammar theorists is linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky, whose 1957 work Syntactic Structures introduced the concept of transformational grammar and revolutionized the field. (It's beloved both by geeky grammar fiends and computer language fans.) If you've seen Noam speak, or are familiar with his other work, would you think of him as an extrovert or an introvert?
Who knows? And which are you? Do you feel like a misunderstood introvert, denied a private office and quiet time to develop your ideas and focus in-depth on one thing at a time? Or are you a happy introvert, surrounded by stacks of books from Barnes & Noble, with a Nook full of tomes that transport you to a private space even amid a New York City subway? One thing is sure: If you are reading this blog, you're probably not a giant extrovert. Geek Power!