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

Quiet by Susan Cain
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Jul 29, 2012

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bookshelves: non-fiction
Read from July 29 to August 11, 2012

I first heard of this book back in January on NPR's All Things Considered, and have been trying to check it out of the library ever since. It's taken this many months for me to lay hands on a copy. Turns out library patrons are all over a book like this. What were the odds?

This book has a lot of important things to say about introversion and extroversion and the rise of what Susan Cain terms "the Extrovert Ideal" in American culture. While it's no secret (certainly not to introverts) that our current culture inordinately privileges gregariousness and likability, this book points out that this was not always the case and can in fact be incredibly harmful both to individuals and to society.

I must say, I found Audie Cornish's (of NPR's All Things Considered) reaction to the book to be extremely disappointing, and typical of what I will call "the ugly extrovert." Here are Cornish's comments to Susan Cain, verbatim:

"Susan, I have to admit, as I read the book more and more, I became more and more offended as an extrovert. I felt like, wait a second. I listen to people in meetings. You know, I, like, felt sort of sheepish." (Full transcript available at http://www.npr.org/templates/transcri...)

You should feel sheepish, Audie Cornish. Geez. You're not listening to people even now, even when Susan Cain has taken the trouble to lay it all out for you, complete with footnotes. This book doesn't bash extroversion. All it really says, over and over, is that all of us would benefit, collectively and individually, if we stopped viewing extroversion as the ideal personality type. If we stopped passing over ideas offered by introverts in brain-storming sessions just because they speak more softly and slowly (on average) than extroverts. If we stopped switching to "open office" plans that banish quiet from the workplace and make uninterrupted periods of concentration impossible. If we stopped judging other people by their in-born preference for low-stimulation environments. In short, if we stopped privileging the likes of Tony Robbins over the likes of Albert Einstein.

That's all this book really says. If that's likely to offend you, then maybe this book isn't for you. Except it is for you. Especially for you. If you think you're likely to find this book offensive based on my review, go out and read it right now. You need to.
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