Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Book Review: Quiet by Susan Cain

Hello. My name is Emily and I'm an introvert.

I mentioned this to a friend-of-long-standing the other day (we've known each other for about seven years) and she was shocked - shocked! - that I wasn't an extrovert. "Really?!? I never would have guessed!"

In Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain discusses some of the misconceptions about introversion - for example, that introverts are shy - as well as why some introverts are mistaken for extroverts.  For one thing, introverts are the minority. About one-third of people are introverts and it's easy for the majority to simply assume that others are like them. Secondly, our culture favors extroverts. "Americans are some of the most extroverted people on earth." Extroversion - being outgoing - is seen as both a personal virtue and as a business advantage, so if you aren't naturally extroverted, developing some extroverted traits is pretty much required for survival. "Nowadays we tend to think that becoming more extroverted not only makes us more successful, but also makes us better people." And that's why many of us introverts fake it, at least some of the time.

But, Cain points out, this view is counterproductive and prevents introverts' skill sets and gifts, such as sensitivity, keen observation, intense focus and concentration, introspection, and depth of contemplation, from being used to their best advantage. It "fail[s] to distinguish between good presentation skills and true leadership ability." It neglects the fact that "there are many different kinds of power in this world...The trick is not to amass all the different kinds of available power, but to use well the kind you've been granted."

Cain cautions against New Groupthink, brainstorming, and open plan offices, which put introverts at a disadvantage. She urges introverts to self-monitor, identify our own core personal projects, and find restorative niches in our everyday lives. Introverts and extroverts have vastly different "sweet spots" or "preferences for certain levels of stimulation." An extrovert will often get bored at an introvert's optimal stimulation level, while an introvert will be overwhelmed and emotionally drained trying to sustain an extrovert's level. Recognizing your personal "sweet spot" can "increase your satisfaction in every arena of your life" she avers.

I was particularly interested in the intersection she describes between introverts and "highly sensitive" people. "It's as if they have thinner boundaries separating them from other people's emotions and from the tragedies and cruelties of the world. They tend to have unusually strong consciences. They avoid violent movies and TV shows; they're acutely aware of the consequences of a lapse in their own behavior." While not every introvert is highly sensitive and some extroverts are, I found the descriptions went hand-in-hand for me.

It's nice to have what are sometimes seen as weaknesses recognized as strengths, and to read a book that provides the scientific evidence that demonstrates the benefits of the way your brain works. Definitely recommended reading for everyone who is an introvert, thinks they might be an introvert, knows an introvert, or just wants to better understand how a third (or more) of the population thinks.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
by Susan Cain
ISBN: 9780307352149
Buy it from Amazon here: (hardcoverpaperback, ebook, audiobook)
Find it at a local independent bookseller.
Look it up on Goodreads.
Check it out at your local library (find the nearest one here).


  1. What a great review.

    I discovered I am an introvert in the middle of a Pearl Jam concert, lol.

    I'll check this book out!

  2. What a great review.

    I discovered I am an introvert in the middle of a Pearl Jam concert, lol.

    I'll check this book out!