Quiet is a book that every introvert should own at least ten copies of so that a copy can easily be whipped out and shoved into someone’s face when said introvert gets asked, “Why are you so quiet?” “Why aren’t you contributing anything?” or “You should speak up.” Cain earnestly champions for introverts with this well-researched work and makes a strong stand for the importance of introverts in an extroverted society.
Quiet begins by questioning the Extrovert Ideal, the idea that faster-speaking, louder, and charismatic people are looked upon more favorably than those who are quieter. With chapters such as “When Collaboration Kills Creativity,” “The Myth of Charismatic Leadership,” and “Why Did Wall Street Crash and Warren Buffett Proper”, Cain describes the history of how the Extrovert Ideal came to be and why it’s not necessarily a good thing. Using a combination of personality psychology studies, interviews, and personal experiences, Cain looks at the differences in cultural perspectives and biological components of introversion and extraversion, and ends Quiet with advice on how to cultivate introverted kids for an extraverted society and how the two different types can better communicate with each other.
I picked up Quiet after listening to Susan Cain’s talk on TED. It was also right after I got feedback from a professor who suggested that I “ask questions more aggressively,” and I felt like I needed a reason or excuse for why I am the way I am. I think a lot of shy people pick up this book for the same reason I did, and although being shy doesn’t necessarily equate to being introverted, this book is a useful read for both populations, as well as for all the extroverts out there.
Quiet includes a TON of information, and Cain weaves together stories about introverts and recounts of psychology studies in such a way that Quiet never feels boring. (However, I must admit to skimming over a lot of the research since I’ve seen most of it before. I’m a psychology nerd.) And the historical events and people that are mentioned are fascinating; things that I’ve never associated with introversion and extraversion are actually deeply rooted in the two characteristics.
I like the suggestions that Cain includes at the end because introversion and extroversion is a two-way street; we can learn a lot from both types, and it’s important that we learn how to deal with both types so that we can build better and more meaningful relationships with one another. What it really means for the individual is that you have to be aware of your environment and react accordingly:
The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk. Use your natural powers – of persistence, concentration, insight, and sensitivity – to do work you love and work that matters.
So the next time you see a person with a composed face and a soft voice, remember that inside her mind she might be solving an equation, composing a sonnet, designing a hat.
A tribute to introverts everywhere, Quiet is like a gentle mother comforting a child, saying, “It’s okay to be who you are.” If you’re an introvert, or if you have introverted friends, family, and/or colleagues, give Quiet a try, and see what lessons you can take away from it.