Monday, March 12, 2012

Ideal Character - 19th Century vs. 20th Century

This weekend, I started reading Susan Cain's new book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. It's getting rave reviews - even the woman at the cash register told me it was great (yes, I still go to an actual store and purchase actual hard copies of books sometimes). I'm only two chapters in, but wanted to share something particularly interesting from early in the book.

Cain discusses the research of Warren Susman:
Susman counted the words that appeared most frequently in the personality-driven advice manuals of the early twentieth century and compared them to the character guides of the 19th century.
Any guesses about what he found? Here are some of the common words from the nineteenth century:
  • Citizenship
  • Duty
  • Work
  • Golden Deeds
  • Honor
  • Reputation
  • Morals
  • Manners
  • Integrity
And now the early twentieth century:
  • Magnetic
  • Fascinating
  • Stunning
  • Attractive
  • Glowing
  • Dominant
  • Forceful
  • Energetic
Quiet, pp. 24-25. This strikes me as something of a downgrade. Although, if I had to guess what the results of the early twenty-first century would be, it would be something like:
  • Celebrity
  • Rapping
  • Sex Tape
  • Bling
  • Kardashian
Just kidding... maybe... a little.

The gist of the book seems to be that we have created an ideal involving outgoing personality traits. In the process, we have lost sight of the value of the quiet people who lock themselves in an office or lab and crank out creative, productive, and innovative solutions. It's an interesting premise, and thus far, an interesting book.

Posted by Philip Miles, an attorney with McQuaide Blasko in State College, Pennsylvania in the firm's civil litigation and labor and employment law practice groups.

Image: Amazon Associate link.