Different

I recently read Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.  I really enjoyed it!  The book, among other things, discusses several studies demonstrating surprising places that introverts might do an excellent job: high-stakes negotiation, leading a company, creative thinking (much better than group brainstorming!).  Cain also does a good job of presenting the strengths of extroverts, so the book doesn’t feel like a manifesto for introverts to take over the world.

I also really enjoyed her look at the neurology of introversion/extroversion.  Research suggests that babies who are highly reactive to new stimuli tend to become introverts later in life – they shield their nervous systems from over stimulation (the converse is true of low-reactive babies).  Some new research also suggests that highly reactive children are much more sensitive to their home environment: they do much worse in poor environments than low-reactive babies do, but do significantly better than their low-reactive peers when raised in a supportive environment.  (They call these highly reactive kids “orchid children” for their extreme sensitivity but great success when treated right.  I think I am an orchid child!)

I left the book feeling most struck by how different people really are from one another, in a beautiful way.  Our culture is now into celebrating “difference,” but I feel like it’s at a surface level.  We acknowledge outer differences among people – skin color, weight, disability, etc. – but emphasize that we are all the same on the inside.

While, yes, we are all humans who all deserve respect and dignity, we’re not the same on the inside.  We enjoy different types of activities (not just skiing versus baseball, but interacting with people versus sitting on the couch).  Our taste differences go deeper than lemon and lime – our nervous systems are wired differently.

Greg sent me this article that discusses a paradigm shift in psychology research – one group conducted traditional psychology experiments across the world and found that Americans are weird.  It turns out that culture may have a huge impact on, for example, if you fall for certain optical illusions or how much money you’re willing to accept from another player.

I’m starting to realize the meaning of the phrase “richness in diversity.”  So many people say it.  The phrase used to conjure up images of differently colored children all holding hands in a circle.  Isn’t that sweet?

But “richness” goes so much deeper than skin color differences or whether you like chocolate or not.  It means that you want to have prayer meetings five days a week, and I don’t – and that’s okay.  It means that you want to play games with friends, and I want to go to bed – and that’s okay.  It means that you laugh loudly and are the life of the party, and I sit back and talk to 2 people – and that’s okay.  It means that I design the product, and you sell it – and that’s okay.  It means that you meet God through talking with others, and I meet him through quiet reading – and that’s okay.  It means that we’re going to clash sometimes – and that’s okay.

It means that you don’t have to try to become me and I don’t have to try to become you, but we learn from being around each other.  I am stretched when we pray in groups and you are stretched when we all study silently.  We’re enriched by being around people who are truly different from one another – a difference that is much more than skin deep.

Bah, writing about it makes it sound like all of the petty “difference is good” pieces that annoy me.  I suppose I’m trying to say that I’m appreciating that differences do exist.

Any thoughts?

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One response to “Different

  1. Pingback: Read in 2013, Part 1 | χορος χαριτος: A Danse of Grace

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