Thursday, October 20, 2011
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who invent and create but prefer not to pitch their own ideas; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled “quiet,” it is to introverts we owe many of the great contributions to society—from Van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.
Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with the indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Susan Cain charts the rise of “the extrovert ideal” over the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects—how it helps to determine everything from how parishioners worship to who excels at Harvard Business School. And she draws on cutting-edge research on the biology and psychology of temperament to reveal how introverts can modulate their personalities according to circumstance, how to empower an introverted child, and how companies can harness the natural talents of introverts. This extraordinary book has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.
As an introvert myself, this book drew me in just from the title, and I can truly say this is a fascinating study of what being an introvert means.
With a mixture of anecdotes and scientific research, Cain explores how introverts function, what makes us act the way we do, and why in this day and age it is such a difficult thing to be respected as someone who is different. Most of us have faced all of the things she mentions, from teachers who think that there is something wrong with children who prefer to read than play, to the minutia like making small talk that can drain some of us of all energy. She does a fantastic job of explaining why we function in this manner, and she manages to show us that we are not wrong in the way we act; we are just different.
The narrative is always interesting, keeping the reader engaged all the way through the book. Although this is a serious research book, it never bores, on the contrary, it is hard to put down. There is a wonderful section on how to take care and nurture an introverted child, which can be a challenge since most of society is geared towards extroverts.
Introverts need different things, and modern life refuses to provide those things, with its constant rewards for those who speak the loudest, whether they have the right answer or not. If you are an introvert, or if you know an introvert, this is a great read. I highly, highly recommend it.