Currently Reading: Quiet

Author: Susan Cain

Genre: Non-Fiction/ Research

Susan Cain writes a thoroughly researched, yet charming book about the strengths of introversion in a loud world. If you are an introvert struggling to fit in or trying to better understand your needs, this is a great read. If you are an extrovert with an introverted child or loved one, I would strongly recommend you read this book.

As an introvert in a corporate environment and an academic environment that loves group-think and group work, I often feel exhausted after a working day. I come home and to unwind pour a bourbon, play a show or song that I am familiar with, and begin to cook. I am not a fan of a bourbon a day or the feeling that I am so wound up I need a release. I blamed this discontent feeling, this need to recentre and rebalance on a job that I am not thrilled or excited about doing. Reading Cain’s novel helped me realise that I am wound up because my very open office plan – with less than fifty square feet of workspace and dividers so low that I can see the entire desk of the eight people around me – may be a cause of my discontent.

But, I am an engineer. Though I may agree with an idea, I never believe it until I have tested it for myself. I went to work, armed with Cain’s advice, and sceptical that small changes would make me enjoy working – or at least feel less like I need a drink.

  1. I got to work early. I am not a morning person, but I knew the office would be a ghost town. I wanted to see how I would feel about the office without the crowd. Oddly, I actually began to get work started and felt somewhat engaged. I didn’t have any new work, I just was able to get focused and started on the job I have had sitting on my desk for a few days. I got it done in just a couple hours.
  2. I found solitude. In a way. This took a few tries to nail down just right. I have tried several times to drown out the noise around me with headphones. I played classical music loud enough to drown out the noise around me. This often resulted in a major headache or just a quicker withdraw of energy.

    In this novel, Cain mentions a study that showed that introverts performed worse when music was too loud. I realised that maybe the volume should not be so loud that the noise around me was completely covered by my music, but should be at a volume I was naturally comfortable listening to before background noise was introduced.

    This actually worked! I can hear those around me, but it is not overwhelming and my music isn’t so loud that I get a headache or feel drained. Instead, I am able to hear my own thoughts and enter my own realm of thinking and working.

  3. I sought out moments. I call them moments, these are the times I completely separate from the office. After I have just gotten out of a big meeting, had to do a lot of work with a group of people, or have had to work with someone who completely drains me of any energy, I find my ability to work is laughable. If I try to sit at my desk, I will fall victim to web surfing and probably end up with another book ordered from Amazon. So when I feel my energy slipping away and the tension beginning to tighten up, I go outside. Once out of the confines of the office, I meditate for five to ten minutes. (I felt bad about this at first, but I am doing it less often and for less time than the smoke breaks of my co-workers, so it evens out.)

I have felt so much better adopting these very, very simple strategies at work. They are things that I naturally wanted to do but did not really know why. Quiet helped me understand myself, accept that I do have to work differently than those around me, and to feel confident in working in a way that allows me to flourish.

-A Bookish Girl


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