My rating: 5 of 5 stars
For many years I’ve known I was an introvert. But it wasn’t until I read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain that I truly began to understand what that meant. It satisfied my need to understand myself and others – introverts and extroverts – and backed it up by the science. Yet, the tone of the book is conversational, as if you are sitting in a comfortable nook with the author explaining it all in easy-to-understand language.
The book is very balanced in it’s approach. This could easily devolve into an introvert vs extrovert argument, but it never does. Ms. Cain stresses again and again that we need both types in the world and uses dozens of examples to illustrate her points.
In America and many other countries, there is a culture of personality, with an emphasis on how others perceive us. The person who can “sell” himself with charisma and confidence and verbal ability is the celebrated ideal and often tapped as a leader. However, when you look below the surface of institutions and movements based on this ideal, such as corporations, motivational speakers, and evangelical communities, you see that the push to conform and the “teamwork” mentality actually kill creativity that could increase innovation and sales. A big segment of workers are alienated and countless opportunities are lost because the abilities of introverts aren’t being used or even considered.
These qualities include sensitivity, persistence, the ability to concentrate and analyze, and create deep relationships if given the time and space and quiet they need.
To prove what is possible, the book sites numerous examples of introverts who have excelled, why, and how they did it. Some are famous, such as Steve Jobs, Al Gore, Warren Buffett, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Lewis Caroll. Others quietly plug away, such as managers of financial institutions that weathered the Wall Street Crash of 2008 and came out ahead and a successful and beloved Harvard University psychology professor.
The book discusses ways introverts can stretch their personalities a little to accommodate their environment. It shows examples of how introverts and extroverts can learn to see each other’s points of view, work together, live together, and thrive despite and because of their differences. It specifically examines why and how teachers and schools, business managers, and parents can understand, help, and benefit from introverts and their skills and perspective on the world.
I, for one, grew up thinking there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t as sociable as everyone else. I eventually grew away from that feeling, mainly because I have a good support system. But what about other introverts that don’t have that support and can’t speak up? I sincerely hope people, particularly teachers and business people, read this book and really consider what they would find if they looked at others and saw not just the outside appearance, but the possibilities below the surface.
Introversion is an important topic to me and I plan to write future posts about it. Are you an introvert? If so, what kind of experiences have you had, good or bad, as a result?