Have you ever carried a book around that provoked lots of questions: “How do you like that book?” “I read a good review of that book; do you like it?” “My friend is reading that. What’s it about?” … and so on. I’ve just finished carrying around Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (Random House, 2013). I’ve dealt with all these questions and more. In between carrying it, I’ve been reading the book. At almost 300 pages it’s a decent sized book, and I enjoyed every chapter and every discussion in it. Her TED Talk on “The Power of Introverts” is one of the most-watched videos of all time!
I was glad to get all those questions about the book. It gave me an opportunity to share what I was learning. Sharing what you learn helps solidify those lessons in your brain. Cain’s focus in Quiet is the introvert in a predominantly extraverted culture. She points out that one-third to one-half of our populace is introverted, yet contemporary American culture assumes and favors extraverts. (You probably already know, but to verify whether you are an introvert or extravert, Cain has a short quiz linked at her Web site.) Cain doesn’t have a bias toward introverts, but the book effectively reminds the reader that introverts are not inferior in any way and indeed have a great deal to offer.
Cain explores the history of recent American culture and how it came to be extravert-biased. She addresses the myth of charismatic personalities and how our educational system is biased toward them. She also addresses workplace collaboration and open workspaces and their effect on creativity and innovation. (I happened to be reading that chapter at the same time that Marissa Mayer, the new Yahoo! CEO, ordered remote workers back to the office to increase innovation. Note to Ms. Mayer: Cain argues that it doesn’t work that way.)
Cain also devotes a considerable amount of space to how the brain works and what introversion and extraversion look like biochemically, psychologically, and socially. I found these chapters fascinating and insightful. I found some great insights for understanding myself (a strong introvert) and dealing with others—both introverts and extraverts.
I was glad to see that Cain also devoted space to cross-cultural issues. Our society is increasingly culturally diverse and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that various cultures have a cultural stereotype when it comes to introversion and extraversion. Cain’s exploration of this issue will help anyone who is a cultural transplant or anyone (leaders, educators, etc.) who works with cultural transplants.
Cain’s style in Quiet is very engaging in the way she weaves solid research and storytelling. Discussions of research are never boring, as she often tells the background of the actual researchers and their passions that led them to a field of inquiry. Practical applications of each and every point are made. She connects the points to public speaking, working in teams, parenting, social settings, financial investing, and more. I also very much enjoyed stories of well-known people (e..g Rosa Parks, Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and many others) as well as “regular” people from her own life.
If you read Quiet and want to discuss it in a group, or want questions to think about on your own (for the introverts!), this is a link to a discussion guide from her Web site.
I strongly recommend Quiet by Susan Cain. Leaders, managers, teachers, parents, and anyone wanting to better understand the power of introversion will benefit from this volume. You can read chapter one by clicking here.
Note: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.