Book review: The Secret Lives of Introverts, by Jenn Granneman
“Say what you will about labeling. That little label changed my life.”
Jenn Granneman, founder of the blog Introvert, Dear, a community site for introverts, relates advice, interviews, statistics about introversion, and ideas about how to make one’s way in the world as one.
Adjusting to a world that’s not exactly geared towards introverts is a tall order. As comedian and self-professed introvert Amy Schumer confessed in her popular memoir last year, “Actually, I don’t know how we survive at all. It feels impossible.” After reading Susan Cain’s monumental look at introversion, Quiet, which was, no joke, life-changing for me, I’m always on the lookout for similar writing that can explain something so simple yet profound about myself and others like me. Quiet felt like therapy.
For Granneman, that helpful book was Marti Olsen Laney’s The Introvert Advantage. It’s oft-quoted throughout this one, as she shares how she started understanding more about her inborn temperament and how best to use it to her advantage instead of seeing it as a flaw, which is certainly how it feels at first. “I was too different – too messed up. The world was to much, too loud, too harsh.”
Her explanations of the difference between temperament and personality were incredibly thoughtful and helpful, and I think many people who struggle with their own introversion or criticize someone else’s would do well to read and really absorb this. An introduction to what’s here on that topic:
“Introversion is a temperament, which is different from your personality; temperament refers to your inborn traits that organize how you approach the world, while personality can be defined as the pattern of behavior, thoughts, and emotions that make you an individual. It can take years to build a personality, but your temperament is something you’re born with.”
The book consists of sections addressing different introvert problems, wherein Granneman explains her own experiences with these typical introvert issues, which is helpful. It’s good to hear from someone else’s place of experience. She interviews other introverts for their experiences too, but their quotes appear unedited and read like sometimes-rambling survey responses. In fact, when she conducts a survey through her website of relevance to one of these topics, the results are incorporated pretty much verbatim, and it feels like a slog through. There’s not as much streamlining of information as I’d have liked.
Chapters also address common misconceptions about what being an introvert means, and they seem intended and helpful for both those trying to figure things out about themselves or trying to understand others. Tactics and quotes from famous introverts, the likes of which include Bill Gates, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, and even Barack Obama (I was pleasantly surprised by that one!) provide interesting perspective.
There are also thoughts and admonishments from judgmental extroverts and how to handle them, since there are unfortunately many all-too-common refrains. “When I get older, I want to remember that I knew how to have fun when I was young,” one extroverted friend is recounted as telling an introverted one. “Extroverts think that if something is fun for them, it should be fun for us, too. Although introverts can and do enjoy the occasional party, we generally have a different definition of fun.”
Much of the book (too much, I felt) is about relationships and dating. Although this is a potential minefield of problems for introverts, I tend to think it’s something you have to resolve on your own, and any advice manual is going to fall flat in providing the right help because it’s such a personal issue with such different circumstances person to person. But then again, like Amy Schumer says, it feels impossible to be introverted in this world so I guess we can use all the help and ideas we can get.
Other segments are directed at extroverts looking for insights into how best to treat or interact with introverts. That’s the “inside our hidden world” subtitle, I guess. It seemed like a gimmicky addition, as the tips are reworked reiterations of the chapter’s content.
I found Quiet to be a more helpful and insightful book, and maybe it’s not fair because that book taught me so much and I was mentally always comparing it. But it’s also so smoothly written that even if you’re not reading it for self-help or personal development reasons, it’s a fascinating, excellently informative psychological read.
This one has a fluffy, almost teen magazine feel – most chapters had a line like, Do you feel X way? Read on for more about why and what you can do about it. I’m not a self-help reader and Quiet was not a self-help book; this one is, so maybe I was the wrong audience from the get-go. I’d just hoped to gain more insight and fewer vague or obvious, overused platitudes.
It could still be very helpful and its format makes it easily digestible for someone beginning to figure out that they’re introverted and what that means, so looking for any ideas and encouragement about how to create a more positive lifestyle.
The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World
by Jenn Granneman
published August 1, 2017 by Skyhorse Publishing
I received an advance copy courtesy of the publisher for review.
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