Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking is a must read book for anyone that has ever associated themselves as an introvert or for anyone wanting to understand introverts better. This book is especially important for people that constantly feel exhausted because of the societal and cultural pressure to be more out-going.
This will be the very first non-fiction book review I have done. Because of that reason, I will explain the format of this review. First I will talk about the sections in the book and a short summary of each section so that people will have a good idea what the content of the book actually is. Next I will then tell you my opinion of the book, both the good points and the bad. Lastly I will talk about how the book effected me.
Quiet is split up into 4 different parts. Each part then has sub-chapters. Each sub-chapter deals with a specific trait dealing with introverts or extroverts and provides a scientific study or someone’s experience to collaborate that chapter.
Part One primarily focuses on the extrovert ideal in which western cultural has adopted the idea that being an extrovert is the ideal personality in every day life. The first chapter is all about how the industrial revolution changed everything. People started to move into the city and got jobs that made them deal with the public. The better you talked, the better chance you had at landing yourself a good job, because it was all about selling yourself to businesses. The self-help craze soon began because there was a necessity for people to get better at being an extrovert. The next chapter is about personality, that the extrovert personality is the personality most wanted, and the one people react to the best. The writer visits a Tony Robbins’ self-help seminar, a Rick Warren church meeting, and the campus of Harvard Business School, and finds much the same atmosphere at each setting. The last chapter of part one is all about the idea that group think is the best way to promote ideas and create a successful business. Susan Cain then finds some scientists that have run experiments on groups of individuals and have found exactly the opposite, that the best ideas usually come from introverts. A lot of the most successful people on Wall-Street and Silicon Valley have made their break-through alone. Some people need to have time to themselves because it is scientifically proven that intense concentrated alone work is ideal for people to become successful at what they do.
Part Two is an intensive focus on introverts and if they are born that way, if the environment makes the introverts, and if they can overcome their biology to act differently. There are many scientific studies that Cain describes in this section of the book. The first chapter of this part deals mostly with scientific studies on babies and their reaction to stimuli. They found that babies that are highly sensitive are much more likely to develop introverted personalities later in life. The next chapter has to do with how introverts can overcome their fear of public speaking and the roll of free will when it comes to changing your personality. The following chapter is a fascinating read on people’s reactions to extroverts vs introverts and how reading the body language of introverts make people trust them more. Introverts are much more likely to feel embarrassed or have an empathetic response during a conversation. These are good things as embarrassment and empathy reveals how much that individual cares. Then the final chapter in this part is the difference between introverts and extroverts when taking risks. It is an interesting chapter that looks at the recession of 2008-2009 and how extroverts didn’t see the warning signs that something bad was going to happen but introverts did. It is about how introverts are more likely to think things through and extroverts just live in the moment.
Part Three is a smaller section but it is the examination of Asian culture and how they value introverted personalities more than extroverted personalities. It is a good balancing chapter to see the counter of western culture’s obsession with extrovert traits. I was especially interested in the personal stories of young Asian American students that have a similar idea to being introverts as mainland Asia in high school/home and how they deal with life and studying at an American university.
Part Four focuses on introverts needing to act more extroverted than they really are on the job, how to talk to significant others that might have an opposite temperament as you, and what the teacher needs to do to help introverts in the classroom. The most interesting part of this section deals with the need for introverts to have time to themselves to recharge. You can be an extremely extroverted person in the business room, because your job demands it, but you must have time to yourself to recharge.
Opinion: I absolutely loved Quiet. As someone that has struggled to be more out-going his entire life it was nice to read something that justified scientifically, multiple times, that it is alright to have a more introverted temperament. That “here’s the research! This is how I am! I don’t have to try to meet anyone’s expectations anymore. I don’t need to feel apologetic or defensive in any way.”(pg 147) I can stay true to who I am and it is alright. Scientifically it is important that there are introverts in business and society because they bring a skill set that is much needed. There is a place for everyone and no one really has to change themselves.
The thing that impacted me the most is the realization that introverts need time to themselves, doing the thing that they want to do, to recharge. Without that time of recharging, their life feels chaotic and out of control. Anxiety and stress levels go through the roof when introverts are constantly made to do things that extroverts always want to do. It is alright to do what you want to do, “spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re suppose to.”(pg 269) Also, taking your time to react to things is perfectly fine, you can take extra time to process information and emotions. It doesn’t make you slow or unintelligent to need extra time to process things. It is more important to take the extra time than it is to get upset at being pushed into something.
The biggest draw back of this book and the only reason that I gave it a 4/5 instead of a 5/5 is because I did not believe that Susan Cain accurately depicted self-help books. As a proponent of self-help books myself, I found her view on them to be generalized. She believes that most self-help books are all about becoming extroverts but I believe that self-help books are about gaining confidence. Gaining confidence is important to introverts and if reading self-help books do that for introverts, then they should read them. Also her ideas of introverts vs extroverts near the beginning of the book was a little too one-sided in favor of introverts. Also, even though it was stated a few times, the idea that most people fall in the middle of the temperament scale, was not stressed enough.
Recommendation: Anyone that is interested in figuring themselves or others out more should read this book. There is a large focus on scientific studies, which makes the book highly credible. The scientific jargon was not overly complex, but complex enough to be taken seriously. If you feel any pressure in your day to day life to act more out-going, check this book out.