Sunday, May 20, 2012

Quiet Susan Cain

Restorative niche, high and low reactive kids, orchid and dandelion children, introvert, extrovert - this book tries to understand how we tick. There are those among us who are reserved and then also those who seem to be the life of any group that they are in. In trying to understand our temperament and personality, we understand a little bit more our of ourselves and also those around us. And that I believe will help us deal with each one as an individual better. And this book is about all that.

My first exposure to the different temperaments came in the form of classic temperaments of melancholy, sanguine, choleric and phlegmatic. But it's easier to just have two broad categories - introverts and extroverts. In between, there're many personality tests like the Myers-Brigs and Keirsey tests which will help us understand our temperaments. It's been so many years since those days when psychology was more of a study of theories. These days, we have fMRI machines which can show scientists how our brain works, the role of amygdala, prefrontal cortex and so on. We can take peeks into our brains and see how they react and respond and in the process understand a little bit more what sets us apart from other animals

I wished I had this book when my kids were younger. Though it doesn't contain all the solutions to understanding my kids, it would have helped me understand them in a way that might have enabled me to avoid some of the mistakes I made because even though I was aware that different temperaments interact and react differently to our surrounding, there are many areas which the writer helps me see clearer. Her examples were funny in a way but I could identify with many of them. And being an introvert myself, reading the book, I found myself identifying with many of the situations.

Today's world is more ideal for an extrovert cos our culture has made virtue of the extrovert ideal. By understanding myself better, I think it helps me understand and cope better with life. It helps me accept that it's okay that often times, I relish being alone, even in a crowd, or why I often seek solitude for my timeout or why I can box people out of my life. It also helps me in my work because I deal with teenagers, understand that each kid behaves differently. And it helps me see why some methods work on certain kids and not others. I learned too I should focus more on encouraging our introvert children to be productive instead of pushing for confidence. Come to think of it, that's what MYF did for us - focus on productivity. The confidence came as a byproduct.

Teenage years are more about gregariousness and vivacity. If we focus on confidence, many of the quieter kids would be lost in the sea of extrovert idealism. It's hard for the introvert child to find his niche. And trying to make them fit into that extrovert ideal is tough on them.This is a book that describes us, the different us. Relationships are us. And in reading this, I realize the mistakes that I made with my boy as he was growing up, because I missed the signals. But I learned too that because I am an introvert myself, I tended to reflect a lot on my actions. And that helped somewhat in balancing some of the actions.

In quietness there is great strength, but introverts are like orchids. They can wilt under unsuitable conditions. They are unlike dandelion children who can adapt better. I think new parents should at least flip through this book, and couples too. Communication breakdowns can often be avoided if we learn the right way or understand our spouses, children or friends better. A spade is sometimes not a spade but it takes a lot of discernment to be able to see that sometimes. But introvert or extrovert, both compliment each other. It's always good to understand those different from us and work to include them into our world.

This is another non-fiction in my list this year. Book 10 and 7th non-fiction for the year.

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