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

Quiet by Susan Cain
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Jun 11, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: adult, non-fiction

While reading the introduction to this book, I felt a pricking behind my eyes. I felt validated for all those years of being made to feel that there's something wrong with me for not being more social, feeling awkward with small talk, preferring books to dating, having that moment of panic when walking into a room full of people, even if I know those people and the absolute torture I felt as summer camp and in the college drom. Of course, moments later I felt suspicious of the book. We need to be especially critical when something or someone tells us what we want to hear. Now having read the book, I feel that it's best treated with a critical eye.

Many of the points in the book were valid. As a society we do idealize the extrovert and often overlook the contributions made by the quieter among us, especially in a business setting. And while I have felt the frustration of getting passed over by someone who is slicker, but not otherwise better, than me, I felt that her perceptions were skewed to the hyper-competitive world of litigation and business. She seems to assume that these settings represent everyone's experience. I feel that the rest of the world is a bit more receptive to quieter voices. I mean, we do have a positive archetype of the strong and silent type. Think Clint Eastwood, or the inscrutable Femme Fatale. In fact, introverts are often perceived as being deeper and more intelligent than extroverts. I particularly took umbrage when she stated that it's hard to imagine American parents being proud of a child who would read in a social setting. Mine were. My extroverted father was especially proud of my studious nature and would brag about it to anyone who would listen.

My next issue with this book was the way she would jump around with examples and points. The section where she starts with Einstein, brings in Moses and then cites some preliminary study almost gave me whiplash. Frequently I found myself wishing that she would use that legendary introverted focus and explore a point with greater depth. Instead I found the book skipping around without really reaching the conclusions that the author seemed to find so obvious.

Perhaps this is a problem that's intrinsic to psychology and sociology books. People are far more complex than any dichotomy. In her discussion of relationships between introverts and extroverts, I found my husband and I represented in both sides of the spectrum even though we are both hard core introverts.

I wanted to like this book. Really I did. But I found it to be a flimsy piece of pop psychology. Many of the case studies she cited lacked depth, which makes them little more than anecdotes. Many of the laboratory studies she cited had only preliminary findings. It lacked rigor, which is a shame. The topic is one that is (obviously) near and dear to my heart. Much of the information in the book was good and interesting information. I just wish it had been presented better.
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