20/07/2008

The Introvert Advantage (by Marti Olsen Laney)

I had never heard of Marti Olsen Laney, who is a researcher and psychotherapist. But I saw her book recommended, and - as a strongly Introverted person - thought it might be worth reading. So I bought it in the Summer, from Amazon UK (link on the left).

I found 'The Introvert Advantage' both encouraging and frustrating.

It was very good to see Introverts championed, particularly in an extraverted society such as the USA, where this book was written. There are some interesting sections in the book on brain pathways, plenty of anecdotes, and some pros and cons of introversion, which should encourage those who may have suffered in childhood. I don't personally know of Introverts who were hassled to be more sociable or outgoing - perhaps, growing up in the more introverted UK, it's less of a problem - but for anyone who feels that Introversion is abnormal, this book should be a great help.

The style is upbeat; the book was clearly well thought out, and well-written. There are some examples of possible Introvert problems given, with suggested solutions, alongside real-life anecdotes, which were always encouraging. There were also some strategies for dealing with the Extraverted world, and events such as parties; these all made a lot of sense, albeit not suggesting anything I did not already know. I particularly enjoyed the quirky quotations at the start of most sections.

On the other hand, the author seems to confuse Introversion, sometimes, with the Idealist (NF) temperament as described by David Keirsey in 'Please Understand Me'. She says that Introverts hate being playful and spontaneous: this is certainly true of some (including me), but absolutely not true for Artisan (SP) Introverts - those whose Myers-Briggs preferences are ISFP or ISTP.

She also talks about Introverts being imaginative; again, this is true of some, but not all. Some - eg Guardian (SJ) introverts, the ISFJs and ISTJs are pretty much grounded in reality, liking concrete language and facts, while some Extraverts - particularly the ENFP and ENFJ Idealist Extraverts, and also the ESFPs - are very imaginative indeed, and can forget about the outside world, or pressing but routine matters every bit as much as Idealist Introverts.

I thought the first half of the book was mostly excellent, truly dealing with the Introvert/Extravert differences on the whole. It explained clearly how Introverts need time to themselves to recharge, and how this is basically due to brain pathways which are different from those who recharge amongst other people and outside stimulation.

But then it got gradually fuller of Idealist content, and thus more unhelpful to the many who may be Introverts, but do not have the NF temperament: in other words, about 95% of them! I say that as someone with INFJ preferences: for me personally, most of the book was in fact relevant. But for Introverts with other temperaments, particularly those who are already struggling with their differences, it might be counter-productive to read much of the second half of the book.

It's a long book to cover this subject; perhaps the first half said all that needs to be said. Overall it was certainly interesting and very readable. I would certainly recommend it to any Extraverts who have difficulty understanding or accepting their Introverted colleagues and loved ones, but less enthusiastically to Introverts, particularly those who are not aware of the temperament/type models that define more than just two broad types of people.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 20th July 2008

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