Review: Quiet by Susan Cain

EBOOK; 370 P.
CROWN, 2012
SOURCE: PURCHASED

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.

In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts—from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.

I read Quiet during my week-long trip to Berlin, and found it to be a perfect travel book – each chapter stands on its own and you can dip in and out of the book depending on when you have time to read. I read mostly during plane rides and in public transport (U-bahn), and felt that my reading experience or enjoyment wasn’t at all disrupted by this. In fact, it gave me more time to mull over the ideas and arguments that Cain puts forward in her book. Because there’s a lot to chew on in Quiet.

I think most of you have already heard of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, but it’s essentially a non-fiction about introversion and how it’s treated in modern society. The book is well-researched, well-written and extremely accessible exploration of the introversion–extroversion duality and the Western world’s preference for the later. In her book Cain, a former lawyer and negotiations consultant, studies introversion through different perspectives ranging from biological and sociological to economic. Although Quiet can be classed as a self-help book, it is also a study on personality psychology. The publication of the book in 2012 started the “Quiet Revolution” and as a cause of that it felt like everyone was talking about introverts and extroverts. I think that’s also the first time that I discovered these traits and quickly identified myself as an introvert. And reading Quiet definitely affirmed this. It’s good to note that the book is quite Americentrist; for example the formation of The Extroverted Ideal is painted against the backdrop of notoriously extroverted American society. Coming from the land of many silences, a lot of staring at shoes and almost zero small-talk, I have never really struggled with introversion, but I can understand that the social norms in the States (and elsewhere) are significantly different. Which is why I personally found the section concerning globalisation and the cultural differences between East and West to be the most thought-provoking one.

Quiet offers interesting insight into historically remarkable characters who were introverts, and reveals how behind many extroverted leaders there is often a team of introverts who make the magic happen. Meeting new people or giving a speech is always nerve-wracking for a shy introvert such as myself, but through reading Quiet I came to understand that, although it is important to face the fears and learn from the experience, it is also OK to be who you are. Many others have found themselves from the pages of this book and I have heard several praise this book as a real eye-opener. I think Quiet will by default appeal to those who identify as introverts, but I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in popular psychology. To understand ourselves is important, but to understand others is vital.

Other bloggers who adored Quiet:

4/5

It’s always been private occasions that make me feel connected to the joys and sorrows of the world, often in the form of communion with writers and musicians I’ll never meet in person. Proust called these moments of unity between writer and reader “that fruitfull miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude.”

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4 thoughts on “Review: Quiet by Susan Cain

  1. I keep meaning to read this, it sounds so interesting. Your point about different cultures is enlightening, I hadn’t given that much thought but of course it will have an impact. As a major introvert myself, your description of Finland makes me wonder if it could be my ideal country 🙂

    • Haha, you’re very welcome to visit and see for yourself! I’ve talked a lot about the subject of ‘Finnish silences’ with exchange students who have come to study in Finland, and they say that although it is at first very unnerving, you gets used to it quite quickly – and some even enjoy it! But yes, do read Quiet! It is great.

  2. I loved this book. I’ve always known I’m an introvert, and as an American, that always seemed like a bad thing. Learning more about introversion really helped me identify my strengths; it was so validating! I’m glad you liked Quiet too. (And thanks for linking to my review!)

    • Thank you for your nice comment. I read your review when I was writing mine and it reminded me of the many instances when I read pieces that embodied some of the feelings that I’d had for a long time but felt that they were just something that was different or odd about me. Quiet is definitely a book that I’d love to have a book club for.

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