Title: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
Author: Susan Cain
At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled “quiet,” it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society–from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer. Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects. She talks to Asian-American students who feel alienated from the brash, backslapping atmosphere of American schools. She questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. And she draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the surprising differences between extroverts and introverts.
Perhaps most inspiring, she introduces us to successful introverts–from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Finally, she offers invaluable advice on everything from how to better negotiate differences in introvert-extrovert relationships to how to empower an introverted child to when it makes sense to be a “pretend extrovert.”
This extraordinary book has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how introverts see themselves (from Goodreads).
Thoughts: First off, let me just say that I am an introvert and that I am sure that my being one has influenced what I thought of this book. I distinctly remember being described as ‘shy’ by adults when I was a child or that ‘I needed to come out of my shell.’ As I got older I was described as ‘reserved’ and ‘hard to get to know.’ Which might be true on some level but I do not consider myself shy- I’m just introverted. I’ve known this for a while but it wasn’t until a year or two ago when my best friend that I met freshman year in college told me that when she first met me she thought I didn’t like her that I realized how some people perceive my introverted personality.I was a surprised, I admit, and when I questioned her she said that now she knows that that’s just ‘how I am’ when I meet someone new but at the time she didn’t know that and so she assumed that I didn’t care for her. Which was vaguely upsetting and I hope she didn’t think that for long; regardless, we are now fast friends so yay!
Anyway, reading this book was like reading about myself; I know I am introverted and I’m happy being that way but it was still so nice to read not only about someone who understands why I am the way that I am but who also thinks introversion is something to be celebrated. As I’ve gotten older I’ve grown more and more tired of comments like ‘you should put yourself out there more!’ and ‘you should smile more!’ and ‘you’re not talking, are you ok?’ This book was like a breath of fresh air on so many levels.
There are a couple of things that I really liked about this book. First off, I’m glad that Cain was very clear on what exactly introversion is and what it isn’t. Most people know that there are introverted and extroverted personalities and that extroverts are more common- about 70% of us are extroverts. The difference between the two personality types has to do with how energy allocation. Extroverts like people, they like to talk, and they thrive in large social activities like parties. Extroverts love to be around people because it makes them energized; they leave a crowded room or social event having more energy then when they left. Introverts are the opposite; interacting with other people drains their energy. Being around other people, talking, socializing, and going to events like large parties, concerts, etc. leaves them tired and depleted of energy. To recoup and recharge they need time alone to think or just to be by themselves. That’s it- that’s the only difference between introverts and extroverts!
But as most people are extroverts there is sometimes some confusion as to what being introverted actually means. Living in the US as I do further complicates the issue- the United States is one of, if not THE, most extroverted country on earth. We place great importance on being friendly, outgoing, excitable, sociable, assertive, quick thinking, and loquacious. In contrast to other countries, extroversion is prized to such an extent that being an introvert in America, especially in the American business world, possesses its own unique challenges, which Cain explains wonderfully.
I also really liked how Cain explained that yes, introversion and extroversion are different personalities types, but there is also a physiological basis for their differences. For example, introverts and extroverts process and respond to dopamine differently. She also goes into the whole nature vs. nurture debate and discusses being an introvert in an extroverted world, including when you should ‘fake’ being an extrovert and when it might be better to play to your more natural introverted strengths. I thought the sections on introversion, extroversion, and the business world was interesting, even if I don’t think I agreed with all of her points. To be honest I was most interested in the science behind introversion and the biological differences between both personality types. The chapters when Cain discusses self-help workshops and the relationship between extroversion and Evangelical Christianity fell especially flat for me. However there was enough about this book to make it an enjoyable read which I’m sure was helped by the fact that I recognized myself so much in the people and personality traits she was describing.
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