Book Review: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain led to the article in Time Magazine  What if Introverts Ruled the World which I discussed in my most recent article.

This book is like the Black Power movement was to African Americans, to Introverts. In fact she starts out with Rosa Parks as the Introvert, that the civil rights movement depended on. She argues that the world is dominated by Extroverts and as recent as the 1920s the world became more dominated by the Extrovert Ideal as she put it. I would argue that it has been present long before. The work world has been dominated by extroverts and the ideal, that everyone should be extroverted and gregarious has been inculcated into people, those introverts found to be maladjusted. There is a degree of truth to her suggestions.

She spends far too much time on the Extrovert Ideal giving far to much space to people like Tony Robbins going into the whole experience like in some ways sounds like she is a fan. Being an introvert myself, I would find it extremely difficult to sit through and be part of that whole malarky. He is a slick salesman. Then she moves on to Harvard Business School and Saddle Back mega church. Her annecdotes are interesting, the research insights interesting, but the focus on the Extrovert Ideal in some ways winds up leaving me feeling inadequate, frankly I have little interest in that world.

Another problem I have with the book is it doesn’t take into consideration the Giftedness part of the equation, given that many gifted people are Introverts, it’s as though she only sees the world in white, black and gray in the middle, not a multi-dimensional, colored picture. Unfortunately as well, much of the research and researchers are old and dated.

Malcolm Gladwell: Arrogant and Insensitive.

First before I start, I want to say, before everyone jumps to his defense, Malcolm Gladwell is definitely gifted and I found his earlier books “The Tipping Point” and “What the Dog Saw” very interesting and though provoking, and this is not a full out attack on him or his writing. His books are often full of little interesting snippets of information.

His book “Outliers” is another story. I started reading it with interest, after reading the other books, but found myself turned off, not sure why but I knew something was wrong. I like his idea of the 10,000 hours needed to learn a skill and to get to a highly proficient level in any field, and there is something to say about it.

He writes a book, acting as an expert on education, though he has done no real research and has no advanced degree in education. It seems like his knowledge is more about sports, for example the time of year most hockey players were born. He wrote an interesting article in The New Yorker about the problem of professional football, which was excellent, but he is not an educator. I was listening to an interview by the radiolab guys.  Radiolab, a program produced by WNYC in New York, that is syndicated across public radio. I first heard them on The science show. They interviewed Gladwell talk about the interaction between destiny and determination. Robert Krulwich asked him whether he denied giftedness  or did he hate the gifted? I thought this was a good question and the book and his discussion does raise these questions. He argues that gifted education is about picking high achievers, which is most definitely not the case. Of course high achievers are among the gifted, but he totally dismisses the challenges that gifted children deal with, particularly those who are twice exceptional. I was a student before gifted education was established and I hated being in the wrong classes, being in boring classes, which were a torment. Maybe he also missed gifted education like myself and resents those who got it.

This book perpetuated and created idea that giftedness is a myth. For instance this article in New York Magazine, it’s all about testing and preparing your children for the test. But it ignores the reality of testing, and IQ and the New York system, where there are limited opportunities to get into the gifted system. Gifted children need to be engaged in school, and often don’t get those needs met in normal classes. This problem goes far beyond New York or any other location for that matter.

Another problem is that Gladwell references, old out of date material. Terman’s Termites was research done many years ago and is largely out-of-date with respect to current thinking about intelligence and giftedness. During its time, the research was good, but Terman started researching in 1929, many many years ago. He starts critiquing one of many intelligence tests. Many of the tests have issues, but he picks Raven’s Progressive Matrices  and not the more widely used Wescheler or Stanford Binet tests which are the standard, and most researched, used and understood tests. He misses what IQ measurement is about, i.e. mental processing power.

According to Eric Wargo, writer for The Observer, a publication of the association for psychological science, in an article  he wrote, Gladwell had a dream of becoming a gold medal runner, and suggests he was a Prodigy who didn’t wind up later going on to stardom. Clearly for him it’s about becoming a star, or observations, that graduates from gifted programs didn’t become superstars or become the next Einstein. The differences between those who become stars in sports and those who are purely amateurs is very different than about intelligence. Living with Being gifted and growing up gifted is not about stardom, but more trying to find your way in the world, trying to be able to fully use your abilities. Which I think goes to what Gladwell is more about Elitism, Stardom, how the few exceptions become who they are. Gifted people may become high achievers, but that’s not what it’s about. Just because you can’t  become a star don’t dump on us.

Living With Intensity

Living With Intensity, edited by Susan Daniels, Ph.D., & Michael M. Piechowski, Ph.D. Published 2009, by Great Potential Press.

This is a book intended for counselors, psychologists or social workers, but it is reasonably accessible for other people who have interests in Psychology. It discusses Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilites and Developmental theory. The book covers children, adolescents, and adults including discussions on how Overexcitabilities can lead to misdiagnosis and mental health treatment that does not help. One of the authors Michael  M. Piechowski worked closely with Kazimierz Dabrowski in his native language. Dabrowski’s theories have been very important in many psychologists and others conceptualization of gifted psychology. Includes articles by many influential authors in gifted psychology and education. Includes case studies involving working with gifted people.

Book Cover

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The Brain that Changes Itself

The Brain that Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge, M.D. Published 2007 by Penguin Books.

According to Doidge, the common belief in neurology was that if the brain got damaged or missed key developmental milestones, the brain would never improve, and would never get better. More recent research and practical experience has shown that given a stimulating environment that nourishes and causes the brain to create new neurons, substantial changes can develop. This is called neuroplasticity. It seems very promising. Given some of the problems that some gifted people struggle with with Asperger’s for instance, or sensory processing issues, maybe people can find support and assistance that can help them change. I have concerns that people find that while may help, may lead people to feel disappointed and blaming themselves for hoping that change is possible. I think one needs to keep one’s expectations in check. It’s also curious that the author, who comes from the psychoanalytic world view is thinking about neuroplasticity. It had been typical for psychoanalytic people to suggest the best we can have is self-knowledge and much of our struggle will continue, just as ordinary unhappiness.

Author’s Website.

The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You

The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D., published by Broadway Books, 1998.

Elaine N. Aron’s book is aimed at helping people who are highly sensitive, which can include many GT people, especially those with certain Overexcitabilities, though she argues this is not just for gifted people. She suggests that being highly sensitive is not abnormal and such sensitivity, even though it leads to being stigmatized is a gift and not a problem. Her arguments are that people need to take steps to manage their emotions and the circumstances in their lives that overwhelm them. This can be useful, but sometimes can be difficult if the circumstances are such that you can’t make the adjustments. It is good to hear a lot of her comments especially her attempts to reframe and normalize the challenges that we face.

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Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Pracice–A reader

Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Pracice–A reader, By Howard Gardner, published by Basic Books, 1993.

Howard Gardener developed a multiple intelligences theory that argues that their are multiple intelligences, not just the core that most IQ tests measure. He argues that intelligence is more about developed potential and learned by practice and learning, not just something that one is born with that is just there. He is an author that poses an alternative perspective, and suggested that gifted is just about children, as adults grow, it’s more about developed potential. His work has strongly influenced educational reform where it has a lot of promise focusing on developing and helpign students learn and develop their potential, which is useful for all. He does not really account for the problems that gifted and talented people face, especially the emotional and social. In some ways he poses the alternative to the Dabrowski view of multiple overexcitabilities, which are hard wired which accounts for both potential and challenges gifted people face.

Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ

Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, by Daniel goleman, Published by Bantam, 1995.

Daniel Goleman makes the arguement that understanding how emotions work and knowing about how things play out with others is an important skill, and it may be more important than just IQ. Some gifted and talented people can have difficulty relating to other people, escpecially those more normal. Goleman backs his arguments by research, and argues that increasing this type of skill or intelligence in people can solve many problems in our socidety. The book comes from an scientific basis including research in neuroscience and understanding how the brain works and how emotions and memory. Other arguments made include the costs of not learning about our emotions like depression, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, prejudice, etc. This book has limitations, he could go further and talk further about how to use this information more and applying it and steps to do so.

Gifted Grown Ups: The mixed belessings of extraordinary potential

Gifted Grown Ups: The mixed blessings of extraordinary potential, by Marylou Kelly Streznewski, published by John Wiley & Sons, 1999.

This is a good basic informational book for gifted adults. It covers many basic information. The basic point of the book is “This is who you are and what you have to deal with.” This can be a good book to give to a friend who you want to understand you better. As far as books that may help you take steps to grow and improve yourself and live a better life, this is not the best. For many people this may be a good starting point. This book is also honest about some of the problems that gifted adults face in the world and challenges that we need to deal with.

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The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius

The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, Psy.D., published in Paperback by Ballantine books, 1999.

This book is a very useful book for gifted adults. It normalizes a lot of what gifted and talented people are and deal with and tries to provide a framework that people can use to enhance their lives and develop their potential. Jacobsen acknowledges the challenges GT (Gifted and Talented) people face in a normal world where talents and gifts are viewed as oddness and problems and helps us find ways to use them productively and face less pain in the world. This book is also good for those who aren’t sure they are GT and know more about themselves if they have not known a lot about who they are and why they have struggled with life. She breaks areas of potential into three different levels, collapsed or unexpressed, exagerated where all features are very big and balanced where we are able to use our potential to the fullest, but not be as troubled by it. She also helps normalize some of the criticisms that we have heard and face the reality that many of us create a false-self to avoid pain in dealing with others.

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