Susan Cain, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”

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Reviewed by Femflection

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. If you aren’t one yourself, you work with one, or you’re the partner or parent of one.

Introverts prefer listening to speaking; innovate and create but dislike self-promotion and favor working on their own over working in teams.

Susan Cain, a former Wall Street lawyer, has been researching and writing about the subject for years. In “Quiet”, she looks at how our lives are shaped by personality.

Some “Quiet” quotes:

  • “Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.”
  • “Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.”
  • “There’s nothing more exciting than ideas.” 
  • “Unleashing a passion can transform a life…”
  • “Introversion- along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness- is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living in the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.”
  • “There is no one more courageous than the person who speaks with the courage of his convictions.”
  • “Figure out what you are meant to contribute to the world and make sure you contribute it. If this requires public speaking or networking or other activities that make you uncomfortable, do them anyway. But accept that they’re difficult, get the training you need to make them easier, and reward yourself when you’re done.”
  • “Or you’re told that you’re “in your head too much,” a phrase that’s often deployed against the quiet and cerebral. Of course, there’s another word for such people: thinkers.”
  • “It’s not that I’m so smart,” said Einstein, who was a consummate introvert. “It’s that I stay with problems longer.”
  • “A Manifesto for Introverts:
  1. There’s a word for ‘people who are in their heads too much’: thinkers.
  2. Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.
  3. The next generation of quiet kids can and must be raised to know their own strengths.
  4. Sometimes it helps to be a pretend extrovert. There will always be time to be quiet later.
  5. But in the long run, staying true to your temperament is key to finding work you love and work that matters.
  6. One genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards.
  7. It’s OK to cross the street to avoid making small talk.
  8. ‘Quiet leadership’ is not an oxymoron.
  9. Love is essential; gregariousness is optional.
  10. ‘In a gentle way, you can shake the world.’ -Mahatma Gandhi”

“Quiet” – The book:

Susan explores the value society places on introverts and the science that makes us more or less outgoing; how where we land on the introvert-extrovert spectrum influences our choices, friends, conversations, careers, success, and even love.

“It governs how likely we are to exercise, commit adultery, function well without sleep, learn from our mistakes, place big bets in the stock market, delay gratification, be a good leader, and ask “what if.”

Susan, a self-confessed introvert, points out how society is biased against the introvert. From childhood we are taught that to be sociable is to be happy.

The Power of Introverts is not about extrovert-bashing. Extroversion is good, but we have made it into an “oppressive standard” to which introverts must conform.

So, is introversion a really “second class” trait? No, says the book. Consider the introverts J.K. Rowling, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Dr. Seuss, Yeats, Steven Spielberg, Larry Page and so on. It shows how introverts, with the extroverts, enrich the society.

Yet in schools, ideal students should be extroverts and in organizations there is insistence on working with teams and group conformity.

Susan’s point is simple: we need to move beyond the present (and past) cultural obsession with extroversion and learn to love, understand, and make good use of its opposite.

Passionately argued, very well researched (over 50 pages with notes!) and filled with stories of real people, “Quiet” has the power to change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves. Despite the massive amounts of psychological research, “Quiet” reads more like a story than a textbook.

To find out where you fit on the spectrum, take Cain’s informal quiz on her website.

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