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May Book Review!

The Irony of Being an Introvert- Shout it from the Rooftops!

Joseph D. Portoghese, MD, FACS | Vice President AIAMC Board of Directors

So, there I was in a group discussion about diversity and resident evaluations when the question was raised, “What about introverts? Do they get shorted on evaluations just because they don’t speak up as much as the extroverts?” Wow. I had never considered that, and I’m an introvert! Imagine ‘mind blown’ gesture here. The insightful person who posed that question was our own Deb Simpson and, of course, there was a path to explore the issue: she suggested the book ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain.

The subtitle of ‘Quiet’ is “The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking”. While that may grab the attention of a casual book browser, it doesn’t really do the book justice. One reviewer called it “part page-turner, part cutting edge science”, and he’s right. ‘Quiet’ is first of all incredibly well written. Personal anecdotes are mixed with conversations with researchers and ordinary people in a way that builds a consistent story that expounds on the book’s premise in an organized and engaging fashion. Second, the book is meticulously researched with social and psychological researchers quoted, their work explained, and an appendix lists nearly 300 citations if you care to go direct to the source material. 

In the introduction, Susan Cain states “We see ourselves as a nation of extroverts - which means we’ve lost sight of who we really are…one third to one half of Americans are introverts…” Through four major parts, the author shows the strengths of introverts. She does this without criticizing extroverts but just our cultural love affair with the Extrovert Ideal.

·       The Extrovert Ideal! Western culture (particularly American) where the externally oriented ideal is someone gregarious and comfortable in the spotlight.  Speak first, listen later…

·       Your Biology, Your Self?  Think amygdala and how to respond to stimuli – does hanging out with a small group of friends seem better than a raucous concert with people you don’t know?

·       Do All Cultures Have an Extrovert Ideal? Cain argues that there are introverts and extroverts in almost every species of the animal kingdom – each with a corresponding survival strategy.  Yet cultures vary in what they value.

·       How To Love, How to Work?  It’s essential if one’s partner /friends are not your intro/extrovert match – each just needs to recognize and value the differences and work our compromises. The talents an introvert brings are vital (careful listening, synthesizing, creativity) yet they may need to “speak up” a bit before all their thoughts is assembled given the pace of the workplace.

I’ll end with one more reviewer’s quote: “A smart, lively book about the value of silence and solitude that makes you want to shout from the rooftops.” Gotta love irony! I think you’ll enjoy this book.

Brief Bio: Joseph D. Portoghese, MD, FACS is the Chief Academic Officer and Designated Institutional Official at AdventHealth Orlando.  Clinically Joe specializes in both general surgery and minimally invasive surgery.  He established and served as program director for the General Surgery Residency.  He is on Florida State University’s Community Board and is a clerkship faculty member for FSU.