“You know people thought you
were a snob in school because you didn’t speak to anyone. And now that I know
you, I realise you are nowhere close to being a snob at all!”
This is a statement made 10 years ago by a now very dear friend about
our school years which was some 20 years ago!
10 years ago, the word ‘snob’ hadn’t forged its way into my lexicon. I
recall very vividly opening up the Oxford Dictionary, leafing through ‘S’ until
I made it to ‘Sn’ and dragged my fingers all along the print until I could stop
it at ‘snob’. And it read: A person who
believes that their tastes in a particular area are superior and despises those
with inferior tastes
Okay, I may have taken the literal meaning a little too personally but
I’d instantly understood the underlying significance. More so, because that
wasn’t the last time I would hear something to that effect.
I will not deny that I allowed those notions to perpetuate a stifled
existence. I was not a snob. I was selective, yes, about people (no, not
because I considered someone inferior to me. Heck, what would that even be
based on?) and the topics that suited my interest (because I have had very
limited interests). So truth be told, I will not always be able to contribute
to a conversation, like say if you are talking about football! But I am an
enthusiastic listener and that is how I piece information together about
football, in this instance.
Over time, however, I began to notice that according to my hypotheses
– which is: most people are not accustomed to being listened to – my very act
of ‘not speaking’ was viewed as an act of defiance. So I got further labelled.
And the cringe-worthy, Cultured. Yes, I was being considered cultured
(layered over my ‘gender’ – a social construct again) because it’s viewed as a
good thing when girls/women don’t say too much. Yes, therefore, cringe-worthy.
Over the years, I have heard more ‘Why are you so quiet?’, ‘Why do you
think so much?’ and ‘You have to put yourself out there. Go interact!’ than anything
else. Of course, I hope to live to see the day when ‘Thank you for listening’
becomes a part of our everyday parlance.
The struggle has been real. Very real (if such a coinage were to
exist). Until I came across Susan Cain’s TED Talk
. Those 19 minutes that summer
of 2012 I sat staring at my computer screen glued to my spot. ‘The power of
introverts in a world that can’t stop talking’ – that turned out to be the
beginning of a very redemptive moment of my life!
Because as it turns out 20 years ago - when I was still in school -
the word ‘introvert’ hadn’t made its way into the world’s lexicon with the same
fervour as it has in the past couple of years.
But now I had ammunition to stop shaming myself. As twisted as that sounds,
I had also been the one reinforcing to myself over the years that I ‘should not’
be so quiet. That being quiet was wrong! But when Susan mentions her own
struggles during the TED Talk - “And I made these self-negating choices so
reflexively, that I wasn't even aware that I was making them.” – I knew this
had elements of my own story in it! And therein began a slow and gradual walk
out of shame into self-acceptance. And a little bit of public awareness – the
public, of course, were those within my own circles. I’d even read out an
excerpt at my then workplace’s mid-year retreat! I haven’t stopped sharing the
TED Talk since.
Cut the chase to the holiday season of December 2015 when I got over
procrastinating and finally picked a copy of Susan’s book: Quiet. It has been
among the best gifts I could’ve gotten for myself. I’ve furthered along in my
progress towards my own redemption. Here’s why.
Susan’s brutally honest all the way. Including about herself and the
journey of her book: “The authors whose books get published – once accepted as
a reclusive breed – are now vetted by publicists to make sure that they’re
talk-show ready. (You wouldn’t be reading this book if I hadn’t convinced my
publisher that I was enough of a pseudo-extrovert to promote it.)
It was refreshing to hear the arguments from her interviews with
different people on the subject of Leadership: “I worry that there are people
who are put in positions of authority because they’re good talkers, but they
don’t have good ideas. It’s easy to confuse schmoozing ability with talent.” I particularly
loved her stance on how collaboration kills creativity with the New Groupthink
that ‘elevates teamwork above all else’. It’s so rampant that even schools
issue instructions such as ‘You can’t ask the teacher for help unless everyone
in your group has the same question’. Instead she advocates that we ‘seek out
symbiotic introvert-extrovert relationships.’
There’s a treasure trove of nuggets for parents of introverted
children too from experts Susan spoke to: “Instead of seeing these kids as
vulnerable to adversity, parents should see them as malleable. …the ideal
parent: someone who can read your cues and respect your individuality…” And of
the introverted child she mentions, “He had more acceptance of his parents than
they had of him”
Susan however speaks for both – the introverts and the extroverts:
“Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style. But we’ve turned it
into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.” To the
Introvert she says: “…find your flow by using your gifts… Being relatively
unmoved by rewards gives you the incalculable power to go your own way. It’s up
to you to use that independence to good effect…”
If anything this book has not only been instrumental in helping me
define my normal but also helped me feel normal about it. There is nothing
debilitating about tapping into the power of your own quiet.
This is an experiment to share insights from things beyond travel that have inspired me. Of course, books have accompanied me on my many journeys and have influenced my perceptions alongside.
I'd really love to hear your thoughts to this review (done completely in my own signature style of free-flowing thoughts)