Introvert Power: Laurie A. Helgoe
September 11, 2008
Book: Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength
Author: Laurie A. Helgoe
Age Range: Adult
Background: I first learned from the blog Shrinking Violet Promotions (and links from that site) the definition of an introvert. The gist is that introverts lose energy when they're with other people, and recharge by being alone, while extroverts gain energy from other people. This was a revelation for me. The idea that I am introvert, by this definition, explained so much. Why it was so important to me by senior year of college NOT to have a roommate. Why I get so worn out when I travel with people or have houseguests (even people I enjoy spending time with). Why time that I spend alone reading is so important to me, and why I get cranky if I don't get that time.
It seems crazy to have gotten to my late 30's without understanding this about myself. But the truth is that I do get drained from interactions with other people, and I do need time alone to recharge. It's such a relief to understand this behavior, and to find that it's apparently a normal thing. This understanding has changed my life. It's definitely helped me in coping with travel and conferences, and in setting limits for myself. So when I read about Laurie Helgoe's Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, I thought that it would help me to understand and cope with this whole introvert thing even better. And I think that it will. What follows is a review, but one that's more personal than most of my reviews, because I discuss my reactions to the book.
Review: Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, by Laurie A. Helgoe, is basically a self-help book for introverts. The idea is to help people understand what it means to be an introvert, provide coping strategies, and ultimately help people to learn to use their internally directed strength as an asset. Written by an introverted psychologist, Introvert Power presents both personal anecdotes and academic research.
I found reading Introvert Power to be a validating experience. I flagged numerous passages, nodded my head many times, and occasionally laughed out loud. There were a couple of passages that I double-flagged, something I've never felt compelled to do before, because they spoke so strongly to my own experience. For example:
"If you get trapped in a conversation with an extreme talker, by all means, cut in--then cut out... You think this is rude? If you were being beaten on the head, would walking away be rude? For introverts, being "talked to death" is very much like being beaten on the head. Some of us end up with migraines, some of us get slimed by the anger spewed in our direction, and most of us feel drained of life energy. Talk can hurt us, and protecting ourselves from harm is not rude." (Page 133)
So, so true! I used the "beaten on the head" analogy myself about a month ago. I had a headache at the time, when someone was talking at me aggressively, and I said afterward "He might as well have been hitting me. It wouldn't have hurt any more." So yes, this book definitely spoke to my experience, and put into words things I had never seen written out before. About why I don't think well on my feet (because I need time to process things), why I prefer email to phone, and why I would rather share a meal with one person than 12. About why I've always disliked meetings:
"What we share as introverts is the love of ideas and the desire to explore them with minimal interruption. We want and need input, but we'd rather get it through reading, research, and rich conversation than through unfiltered talk." (Page 158)
I have never understood how anyone can work in a cubicle. Now I understand that maybe it's just introverts who can't work that way.
There were parts of the book that I skimmed, including detailed sections about how to create a retreat in your home, and how to plan to go away on a retreat. There were exercises suggested that I wasn't inclined to follow. I think that the bottom line for me is that I'm not looking for recipes for what to do next (especially not in the sense of decorating my house) - I'm still looking primarily for understanding. Though, in looking back over my flagged sections, there are a few nuts and bolts things that I would like to try to remember. Like:
"If someone makes a request and demands an immediate response, say "no." It is easier to change a "no" to a "yes" than to get out of something." (Page 94)
"Don't... introduce topics that bore you ... (or) ask questions that can be answered with "fine."" (Page127)
"Pick your medium when you can. If someone says "I'll give you a call" and you detest phone conversations, say "Could you email me instead? I'm harder to reach by phone." Even if you answer all your calls, this is not a lie: you are more defensive and harder to reach in a phone conversation." (Page 139)
"At every party there are two kinds of people--those who want to go home and those who don't. The trouble is, they are usually married to each other" -- Ann Landers (Page 143)
I can't say that I got out of this book what the subtitle promised, about finding hidden strength in this inner introvert life. I found that part a bit of a reach. I think that Laurie Helgoe tried hard to be a cheerleader for introverts, and make readers proud of their make-up, but I'm not personally at that stage. I think that I'll be doing well if I can understand my own limitations as an introvert, and learn some coping mechanisms.
But I am going to keep the book, and read it again in a couple of years, and maybe it will reach me on another level then. For now, though, I gained some validation, and picked up a few tips that I think will help me in my relationships, and I consider those things a very satisfactory return on my investment in the book.
If you think that you're an introvert, and you want to understand the whole thing better, this could be just the book for you. Introvert Power might also be of interest to extroverts looking to understand the introverts in their lives, but the "we are introverts" focus could make the book offputting for extroverts. For me, Introvert Power left me feeling a bit more at ease with myself and how I interact with the world, and that's a pretty nice thing to get from a book. Thanks, Laurie!
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc.
Publication Date: July 1, 2008
Source of Book: Bought it
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.