Nonfiction; 370 pgs
Source: I purchased a copy for my own reading pleasure.
At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.
In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also 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. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.
When Quiet first came out in in 2012, I was very excited. American society has often placed more value on extroversion than it has on introversion. People who are quick on their feet, outgoing and are energized by socializing seem to be a step ahead of those of us who are more thoughtful, analytical and tend to need time alone to reboot.
I have always been the more reflective type, preferring to observe what is going on around me before joining in. I feel drained in social situations, rather than energized. I need my alone time to regroup and focus. I do better when I work on my own than in a team setting. And I prefer small groups to large crowds. I am a more private person, and am very introspective. I hate talking on the phone and do not have much patience for small talk. The list could go on and on. My introversion runs deep.
The agency I work for recently adopted Gallup's employee engagement theory based on focusing on strengths to increase performance. It wasn't a surprise when I took the strengths survey that my top five strengths, particularly three of them, fall distinctly onto the introverted side. I like the idea of focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses. And to see some of my more introverted traits in a strength-based light has been validating in more ways than one. American culture pushes extroversion from the day we are born (it's even pushed in schools as early as elementary school), and introversion is seen more as a weakness.
What I loved about Susan Cain's book is how it completely flips the idea that extroversion is better on its ear. Through extensive research, time and time again, Cain shows how, throughout history, introverted traits have benefited business and society. Her book is full of examples of introverts shining. She also goes into how introverts have adapted in an extroverted society, sometimes able to fake it with the best of them--but it can take a toll. She also discusses how there is no perfect cookie cutter definition of an introverted and extroverted person. While some traits tend to be more recognized as one or the other, there are social introverts and their are quiet extroverts. And what of ambiverts, who fall more in the middle of the spectrum, with both introverted and extroverted traits?
I especially found it interesting how different cultures view introversion and extroversion. Asian countries tend to value introversion more, for example, whereas the Western world places more value in extroversion.
Quiet was more focused on business, especially in the early chapters, than I expected, and there is a definite bias toward introversion in the book. I expected that, of course (I mean, just look at the title of the book!), but even though Cain says both are equal, extroversion didn't come out as being in the best of light. I wouldn't have minded a bit more balance in that regard.
I came away from Susan Cain's book feeling even more pride in my introversion than when I started; although, I admit it is hard to completely get rid of those old feelings of wishing I were more the kind of person who was at ease in social situations and more impulsive at times.
To learn more about Susan Cain and her work, please visit the author on the author's website.
© 2017, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.