Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Introvert Advantage: Research Shows Brains Hard-Wired Differently

Laney, Marti Olsen. (2002). The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World. New York: Workman Publishing.

Introverts “can’t get no respect,” in the words of the late comic Rodney Dangerfield. We live in a world that values heavy socializing, fast answers and multi-tasking. Working in noisy, shared office spaces in a way of life, and professional conferences that keep us booked from early in the morning until late at night are supposed to be fun. And that “ain’t me, babe” as an old pop song wailed.

Dr. Laney’s book offers three key messages. First, brain research now shows that introverts' brains are hard-wired differently, in a way that often facilitates more thoughtful processing and greater control of impulsive and emotional responses. Those can be real advantages.

Second, society gives introverts many messages that suggest we are not okay – labels such as shy, anti-social, slow, and dull. An introvert may be none of those things, and most have rich inner lives. Laney provides much needed evidence that it is time for introverts to accept ourselves and to insist extroverts do the same.

Third, Laney presents thoughtful coping skills for parenting, socializing, and managing relationships at work, with families, and in our personal lives. She understands that many everyday situations overtax the introvert cognitive pattern and offers non-evaluative suggestions.

Laney’s writing style is engaging and does not beef up the content with abbreviated case studies. I am weary of popular psychology and self-help books that present one brief example after another, each supposedly revealing some all-purpose life lesson. The result too often is the reasoning fallacy of hasty generalization. Laney’s chapter on brain research is especially worthwhile. Her coping suggestions are generally based on this, with examples that illustrate rather than substitute for research. There also are concise chapter summaries of the main points.

In summary, Laney has written a useful and concise guide to life for introverts and everyone who knows an introvert, which is the rest of the world. The book does much to dispel myths and misinformation and to grant introverts dignity in a society biased toward extroversion. Laney fulfills the subtitle's promise to tell introverts "how to thrive in an extrovert world."

No comments: