Introverts make up at least one third of the population, so every person probably knows at least one introvert, those people who are quiet thinkers and good listeners rather than gregarious party animals. Author Susan Cain makes a powerful argument that we strongly undervalue introverts when we have much to learn and gain from their insights. It is to many famous introverts that we owe some of the most impressive creations and marked innovations of our society. She discusses the rise of the Extrovert Ideal, and how it has led to huge changes in our schools, workplaces and businesses that favor extroverts. Through the use of passionate persuasion, meticulous research, and inspiring stories of real-life introverts, Ms. Cain shows that introverts are equally as important as extroverts in our culture and that our perceptions of introverts must change.
I can't recall where I first heard about Quiet. It might have been on GoodReads or it might have been on NPR, but however I found out about it, I knew the moment I did that it was a book I absolutely had to read. Now that I have, I understand why it became a runaway bestseller and the winner of the GoodReads Choice Award for non-fiction in 2012. This meticulously researched book takes a deep and powerful look at the cultural reasons why introverts are not as valued in Western society as extroverts. It will empower introverts in a way that perhaps no other work could by showing that there is nothing at all wrong with being that way. In fact, there are advantages to introversion that they might never have thought of. It also shows how they differ from extroverts, and how they can make their voices heard in a world that is constantly full of chatter. I would venture to say that every extrovert probably knows at least one introvert, whether it's their spouse, a family member, a co-worker, a student, or someone else in their lives, but they may not understand why that person is so quiet or that it's OK to be that way. In this way, extroverts can benefit very much from reading this book as well, because they will learn how to better communicate with introverts and all the wonderful contributions they make to our society if we take the time to listen and see them. It is for these reasons that I highly recommend Quiet to everyone, both introverts and extroverts.
Susan Cain begins her book by explaining how our society has grown up around the cultural idea of the "Extrovert Ideal" which she defines as "the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight." Pretty much every part of our everyday lives from our workplaces to our schools is centered around this ideal, and anyone who has trouble conforming to it is deemed to be odd or eccentric. The author makes a strong case for why we should move away from group projects and open work spaces and focus more on the power of the individual.
Ms. Cain also explores the biology of introversion: How much is nature and how much is nurture? How introverts are highly sensitive people. How their brains work differently, and how they process dopamine differently then extroverts. The scientific findings in these areas are astounding and back up everything I've learned about introversion/extroversion throughout the fifteen plus years I've been studying personality types as a layperson.
The author also takes a look at how not all cultures adhere to the "Extrovert Ideal." Then to wrap things up, she discusses the differences between introverts and extroverts: How some introverts can project a more extroverted public persona. How to bridge the communication gap between types, and how parents of an introverted child should handle that child's quietness.
Overall, Quiet was a fabulous book. I can't think of a single thing Ms. Cain didn't cover that I would have wanted her to, although there were a few gray areas in the research which I strongly suspect might be accounted for through differing personality types that go beyond introversion/extroversion. However, given that this was the focus of the author's exploration, I certainly didn't feel it was lacking in any way. For a scholarly book, it was a very engaging read and extremely well-written. As an introvert, it inspired me in ways I can't begin to express and has given me much food for thought. I'm sure I'm not doing it justice with my review, but despite my difficulty with finding the right words to tell how wonderful Quiet is, I can't recommend it highly enough. Everyone should read this book, whether it's to understand themselves better or to understand their introverted loved ones.
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