Bookish's Reviews > Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Quiet by Susan Cain
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Jun 02, 12

it was amazing
Read in May, 2012

I already knew before reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain that I am most definitely an introvert. Consider the damning evidence: I would rather stay home and read than go to a party (unless it's composed of close friends). I often find it painful to make small talk. I enjoy being alone. And although people tell me I have a strong personality, I loathe to be the center of attention, preferring instead to be, yes, the quiet, observant one.

Yet despite knowing this about myself, I was astonished by how Quiet illuminated my personality, the personalities of those I knew, and my relationships. Reading Quiet was absolutely revelatory.

It explained so much and connected so many dots for me that I couldn't stop talking about it for weeks after I read it.

Quiet delves into all aspects of introverts such as the historical, psychological, biological. Cain, for example, pinpoints when our society transformed from a culture of character to a culture of personality. The world now celebrates an Extrovert Ideal - paying attention and valuing charisma and a bold personality, men and women of action over the "quieter" ones, those who prefer contemplation. She directly connects the 2008 financial collapse to our society's misplaced faith in extroverts - thinking that those who are the loudest and most persuasive should be at the helm of our financial institutions, without proof that they actually knew what they were doing.

"Introversion---along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness--is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology."

Growing up, and even now, I always felt that my introverted tendencies meant that there was something wrong with me. Why didn't the prospect of large, boisterous parties attract me? Why did I like being by myself so much? Why did I hate making small talk when it was so easy for others? My sister always made fun of me for having much fewer friends than she did. It turns out that all these tendencies didn't mean that I was abnormal (phew!). (*I'm abnormal for other reasons not covered by this book.*)

Most of the above stems from the fact that I need less stimulation than extroverts, who need the constant energy from socializing and interacting with other people.

Furthermore, being shy and/or antisocial is not synonymous with being an introvert. I love getting together with my friends and planning dinners, movies, and activities. But unlike extroverts, I prefer small, intimate groups. My introverted nature likes one-on-one interactions over large parties. I prefer depth rather than breadth.

Quiet celebrates the fact that I and other introverts flourish in solitary pursuits - which is a powerful affirmation. Rather than saying we need to be more outgoing or social, in other words, go against our own nature, Quiet says the world benefits from letting introverts be exactly who they are. Albert Einstein, Van Gogh, Gandhi - all introverts.

"Some of our greatest ideas, art, and inventions---from the theory of evolution to Van Gogh's sunflowers to the personal computer--came from quiet and cerebral people who knew how to tune in to their inner worlds and the treasures to be found there."

What's troubling is that the world - from schools to the workplace - are geared towards the Extrovert Ideal. Group work anyone? I hated doing that in school and I hate doing it now. Why? Because inevitably, either I do all the work while the group sits on my labor OR one person, usually the loudest and most persuasive, somehow dictates the direction the entire group will go. Yet my schoolmates and I were routinely forced to work in groups. In the workplace, Groupthink, as Cain puts it, is the trend, where everyone is forced to sit a room together to brainstorm ideas, even though studies show that it is less productive.

I could go on and on about all the insights in Quiet, but suffice it to say that this is a powerful, insightful, and thought-provoking must-read not only for introverts, but anyone who is close to an introvert - which is to say, everyone should read it!
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Elizabeth (new) - added it

Elizabeth I loved your review. Like you, I have always felt uncomfortable in large groups and prefer my own company to some. My husband sometimes worries about me because I don't need to spend my time mindlessly conversing with people I have nothing in common with. I love small groups where every person's voice is heard - not just those with the loudest or most persistent. I will certainly be reading this book soon.


Kerry Very nicely said. I couldn't agree more.


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