Everyday Reading: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

May 8, 2012

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

I am an introvert. No question.

So Quiet, all about introverts, was fascinating to me the second I saw the title.

In fact, I had a hard time getting into the book (and another of my friends, who I feel like can read anything, said she too had a hard time with the print version), but once I checked out the audio version, I was instantly hooked and sped through it in a couple of days.

Anyone I talked to over the next couple of weeks got to hear WAY more than they ever wished to know about this book.

This book covers a lot of ground, without feeling like it's jumping around too much or just a bunch of random facts thrown together.

She starts with how our society became so enamored with extroversion - how the swing toward valuing charming, outgoing, witty, exuberant personalities and away from quiet, subdued, and humble happened.

She talks about how the major places that produce American leaders (like Harvard's business school) are geared toward extroverts, who then go on to make policies in businesses and schools and other places that are catered toward extroverts (because that's all they know!). In schools, we highly value group work and participation, and in the business world, the trend continues to be teams, group brainstorming, and low-walled cubicles so everyone is together all the time. These systems might work for extroverts, but most introverts find that kind of environment draining and not particularly productive (amen, amen, amen!).

And then the book discusses how parents with introverted children (especially when the parent is an extrovert) can help their child magnify their own strengths, or how marriages with one extroverted partner and one introverted partner can find a happy middle-ground. Or how introverts and extroverts can work together in schools or businesses or governments.

I loved how non-superficial much of the discussion was. It wasn't a "introverts like to be alone" kind of book. It was a "introverts tend to work better in this kind of environment" or "introverts like these kinds of social situations, but tend to not enjoy these kinds."

For instance, (and here I recognized myself), most introverts like social situations, but not large, impersonal social situations. They want an opportunity to connect on a deeper level with a few people, rather than have surface conversations with many people. I suddenly understood why I am so talkative at book club (a group with the same people every time and a small number of total people), but why I find myself slightly overwhelmed at enormous social gatherings.

There is also a lot of the book focused around how introverts can exhibit extrovert qualities when they have a lot of passion for something. Even though they might not like to give speeches, they're willing to do it for something they believe strongly in. They may not be the person who voices their opinion any time questions are asked - they aren't going to talk just to talk - but when they care deeply about something, they'll make their voice heard.

I also appreciated how it discussed the kinds of strengths that tend to be associated with introversion, especially the kinds of strengths that are overlooked when extroversion becomes the ideal personality. I saw things about myself that I'd never quite understood about the way I deal with the world and how I like my life to run. 

I feel like this is one I'll go back and read several times over my lifetime, and especially as my children start to exhibit introvert or extrovert personality-traits as they age. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who feels like an introvert, is married to, works with, or parents an introvert, or anyone who just wants some interesting reading.

Audiobook checked out from my library's online collection

15 comments:

  1. This has been on my to-read list for a little while. Fellow introvert here. :) Glad to hear it's worth a read.

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  2. I listened to her speech recently and have been meaning to read the book. This topic is so fascinating for me. I'm a definite introvert, and have always been fascinated by Myers-Briggs-type insights. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people automatically associate introversion with shyness, which is just not necessarily the case, and it sounds like this book does a good job of delving into the actual qualities of an introvert.

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  3. This sounds like something I didn't know I was looking for. I am opening another tab to look it up at my library right now!

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  4. Frankly after reading your review, I fear I suffer from split personality!

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  5. I loved this book! There's nothing like realizing 1. you are an introvert and 2. it's okay to be one after all.

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  6. Thank you! This fits why I can be so obnoxious :) when writing, but tend to not say much of anything when in a crowd. Along the lines of what our society now expects, a few months ago I saw a short news blurb about how shy/introverted people may soon be considered mentally ill. Lovely.

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  7. Ah, I completely recognize the part about exhibit extrovert qualities when they have passion about something. At Christmas, I played in a symphony for the Messiah, and my assigned stand partner didn't say one word to me through the whole seven-hour rehearsal. Then finally, when I asked what he did for a living, he LIT UP and started rattling off to me--in great detail--theories and principles he studies as a nuclear physicist. He could hardly contain his excitement and continued to whisper even after we began the concert. I was fascinated to realized how I'd struck a chord in him.

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  8. I just requested the audiobook from my library!

    I've been thinking lately about how often I feel awkward within the LDS singles scene, and this has made me realize that so much of the social part of YSA life is geared toward extroverts: let's get everyone together for munch and mingle, let's have ward FHEs, let's have ward activities, let's throw a party and invite EVERYONE! And don't even get me started on the younger more outgoing girls who are willing to plant themselves in front of guys much more than I could ever feel comfortable doing. I've been in my ward for several years now and I have many friends, but I feel awkward more than I'd care to admit. I'm not suggesting that we stop doing these things, but I do think we should have more opportunities to associate in small groups.

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  9. I loved this book. I felt like it was the book that told me that it was ok to be an introvert (which technically I knew before, but this felt like the permission I needed).

    Melanie, I know exactly how you feel. I would love it if there were more small group activities.

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  10. as an extrovert, I find this subject to mellow for my liking. really though, I have actually evolved into being more intro over time. Jeremy has gone the other way. I think we have found a middle ground. and, oh yeah, the Best Bad Luck I Ever Had was realy amazing.

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  11. interesting, maybe I will have to pick it up. I'm such an introvert, and that part about social situations describes me to a T. Taylor is the perfect opposite, so sometimes it is hard to get him to understand why I don't want to invite every person we know to everything! You get me.

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  12. I absolutely must get this read, and soon. So many disagreements in our marriage center around my desire to tell the world everything about myself, and that's just so not how my husband operates. Interestingly he has turned me into more of an introvert in certain areas, like with parties/small groups (I used to like the craziness of big gatherings but now I prefer smaller and more intimate groups). And if I could I would stay home all day every day to be productive and get things done.

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  13. This book first caught my attention when my husband sent me a link to Susan Cain's TED talk (http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html) that she did as part of her promotional tour.

    I am also an introvert and oftentimes felt like there was something wrong with me when I was younger because I just really hated working in groups, attending big social gatherings, etc, etc.

    I just ordered this book and I really can't wait to read it!

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  14. I heard about this book when I saw that it is being reviewed by Elaine Charles on her radio show (www.bookreportradio.com) I have listened to the TED talk and read numerous reviews. It looks like this is going to be a game changing book, and will perhaps introduce a bit of sanity into a chaotic society.

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  15. Sounds interesting. As a child I think I was more of an introvert, but now society and my life experiences have sort of turned me into an extrovert. I have a child who is very much an introvert and I have had difficulty lately with him. Definitely going to put this on my to-read list.

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