Book Review: The Introvert Advantage

The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney book cover

The Introvert Advantage: How Quiet People Can Thrive in an Extrovert World is written by psychologist Marti Olsen Laney, who is herself an introvert. She observes that we live in a culture that values extroversion, and cites Dr. David Myers, who identified extroversion as a prerequisite trait for happiness in his book The Pursuit of Happiness. So, what is an introvert to do? Being very much an introvert myself, I was curious to find out what the book had to say.

The book begins by describing some of the differences between introverts and extroverts. The major difference being that introverts draw energy from the internal world, while extroverts are externally energized. Introversion is sometimes confused with social anxiety, being a highly sensitive person, or schizoid personality traits, but the author outlines how these are all distinct.

The author observes that introverts tend to be concerned about how others are impacted by their actions, and may feel guilty that they have mistreated others when in fact they haven’t. They may also tend to think that the things they find bothersome, such as interruptions, are bothersome to everyone.

The book also covers some of the biological differences that may exist between introverts and extroverts, including differences in blood flow patterns in the brain and neurotransmitter activation. The parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for resting and digesting-type activities) appears to be more dominant in introverts.

The second section of the book considers how introverts can adapt in an extroverted world. Suggestions are given for navigating relationships, parenting, socializing, and the work environment. For those who aren’t sure if they are introverted or not, this section may be helpful, as it characterizes typical introverted reactions in these types of situations.

I found some of the points made in the chapter on work quite interesting. The author says that extroverts need to be told in detail what introverts are doing at work because otherwise they might not think anything is happening. This surprised me, but perhaps it’s because, as an introvert, I’ve simply been missing the boat. The author also suggested that an introvert’s openness to others’ opinions may be misconstrued as a lack of conviction in their own beliefs. Interesting. Other things didn’t ring true for me personally, such as a dread of deadlines.

The final section was on “coping with introversion.” The author suggested a 3-P’s approach, involving personal pacing, setting priorities, and setting parameters/boundaries. She characterized introverts as slower-paced and slow-moving, requiring careful pacing to conserve energy. I don’t find that to be a very accurate description of my own particular brand of introversion.

The author suggested that nurturing was important for an introvert’s delicate nature, and recommended a variety of self-care strategies including scheduling regular rest breaks, increased light exposure, aromatherapy, and exercise. While I’m all for self-care, being an introvert doesn’t necessarily make me a delicate flower. Finally, the author presented strategies for “extroverting”, i.e. behaving in a more extroverted manner.

While the book is pro-introvert, a lot of attention is paid to making oneself extrovert-acceptable.  Granted, the title gives fair warning of this, but it felt a bit off to me. There’s a fine lining between adapting to minimize personal distress and changing to be more acceptable to extroverts.

While the author validates the experience of introverts and their strengths, such as the ability to reflect, she also seemed to characterize introverts as fragile, slow, low energy, and not functioning particularly well in the world at large. It seems unlikely that this was the intent, and perhaps my reaction stems from my own decision quite a while ago that I was going to allow myself to be a proud introvert and not “play at” extroversion to suit others’ expectations. Suggesting that introverts are low energy seems to contradict the author’s earlier assertion that introverts simply find energy in different ways than extroverts.

One thing I was quite uncomfortable with was the idea of packing an introvert survival kit, consisting of what sounded like a suitcase-full of items including earplugs, snacks, water, a music player, a note card with an affirmation, a cotton ball with a soothing scent, medication for motion sickness, a parasol/umbrella, sunscreen, hand cream, lip balm, a battery-operated fan, a small spray bottle, a large-brimmed hat, sunglasses, a sweater/blanket, self-heating pocket packs, and earmuffs.

To me, this verged on insulting; being an introvert doesn’t mean I can’t handle being outside of the house. I carry lip balm around with me, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with my introversion. If anything, this suitcase-load would be more appropriate for when I’m depressed, except then I wouldn’t have the energy to carry it all.

I think this book could be worth a read for anyone who’s introverted and uncomfortable about it or introvert-questioning, so to speak.  It offers some practical tips for fitting in with a largely extroverted world. Overall, I found it didn’t really pull me in, and I ended up skimming through some sections. I was glad I picked up a copy from the library rather than buying it.

The Introvert Advantage is available on Amazon (affiliate link).

You can find my other reviews on the MH@H book review index or on Goodreads.

There’s more on introversion in the post How Common Is Introversion?

14 thoughts on “Book Review: The Introvert Advantage”

  1. Just came across this book somewhere not so long ago and, being an introvert myself, and being interested in introversion in general, thought I need to read it, but I’m very glad I saw your review as now I think I woon’t do it. I think it’s very incorrect to just say introverts are always slow-paced, have low energy and not functioning well in the outside world. ALthough the thing with not functioning well in the world could apply to me, as well as rather low energy, I really doubt I should blame my introversion for it. I could name a few introverts I know who are social people and everything but shy, just need to charge their batteries alone in the silence and cosiness of their home (otherwise they get exhausted and their energy goes down), and don’t freak out when alone. My Dad is an introvert and he’s definitely not slow-moving. I don’t know what the author meant by “fragile”, but I know many introverts to whom this term just doesn’t apply, some maybe would feel insulted, I’d rather say sensitive or something like this, delicate also sounds a bit exaggerated to me. So I feel like this characteristic describes either an introvert with some disorders like social anxiety or depression, or a shy person, or maybe there are different definitions of introversion about which I didn’t know or something. And adjusting my behaviours to extroverts seems horrific, if not completely impossible to me personally, as well as unfair. Why wouldn’t they adjust to us? 😀 Thanks for the review. 🙂

  2. It may have been her doctorate degree project made into a book. It sounds like it wouldn’t really be of help to me, personally, but I hope it helps some people.

  3. I guess one thing you could do without changing who you are as an introvert is to go where introversion is the predominant/ accepted personality in the culture. I mean, you may have to learn a new language and live in a foreign country, but still…:)

  4. Hi Ashley, thanks for doing this review. You see, I used to be a Big Extrovert until my own Great Depression of 2008. I gradually started my healing journey and in 2011 went Big Introvert. Cut off facebook, had no twitter to begin with, nor linkendIn and still no Instagram and blablabla. 2013 saw me start to find balance between the two, and am still doing so. My current spiritual journey of 70 days has already been termed by some as weird, self absorbed and CRAZY. Maybe I could use some from that kitt? hahaha but na, I’ll be ok when I re-emerge. For now, I love my ‘dive under the duvet’ life rather than’ life of the party’ former life. Have a peaceful weekend

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