At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled "quiet," it is to introverts that 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 indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the 20th century and explores its far-reaching effects. She talks to Asian-American students who feel alienated from the brash, backslapping atmosphere of American schools. She questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. And she draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the surprising differences between extroverts and introverts.
Perhaps most inspiring, she 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. Finally, she offers invaluable advice on everything from how to better negotiate differences in introvert-extrovert relationships to how to empower an introverted child to when it makes sense to be a "pretend extrovert."
This extraordinary book has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how introverts see themselves.
©2012 Susan Cain (P)2012 Random House
"An intriguing and potentially life-altering examination of the human psyche that is sure to benefit both introverts and extroverts alike." (Kirkus)
"Cain gives excellent portraits of a number of introverts and shatters misconceptions. Cain consistently holds the reader’s interest by presenting individual profiles, looking at places dominated by extroverts (Harvard Business School) and introverts (a West Coast retreat center), and reporting on the latest studies. Her diligence, research, and passion for this important topic has richly paid off.-" (Publishers Weekly)
"An intelligent and often surprising look at what makes us who we are." (Booklist)
Family father, neuroscientist, and non-fiction addict.
I thought long about whether I should give this book 4 or 5 stars because there were certain aspect of the book that I did not like. Some central assertions were based almost entirely on anecdotes. I realize that it is a powerful way to drive home your message, but it can also be disingenuous - appealing to people’s emotion. I was also not very pleased with Cain’s description of the neuroscience. She made it seem as though the almond sized amygdala was all there was in the brain and that whether or not this part of the brain lit up under certain circumstances was all important. Yes, yes, I am a cerebellar scientist and am therefore probably overreacting here, but I would have preferred that the neuroscience was left out instead of receiving this very biased account.
Ok, enough of the bad stuff. I did after all give this book 5 stars (which is rare for me). The reason for this is that this book is one of few books I have read in my life that really made me see things, especially myself, in a new light. While I consider myself to be a rather social person who gets along with others I also have many introvert traits. During my time at University I really did not like the weekends because I felt that I had to go out and drink and dance not to be considered strange. I have also always been a little bit ashamed that I can be a “coward”. At least that is how I would have described it to myself before reading this book. Now I prefer to use the terms cautious. I am also a highly adaptable person and I can to some extent transform my behavior based on the circumstances. Again, before reading this book I saw this as being a disingenuous person. After all, you should be who you are and stand up for your ideals no matter what the circumstances, right? While I used to think this I do not anymore. It would be absolutely terrible if everyone spoke their mind all the time. The world needs people who can work in different circumstances, people like me. I guess what I am trying to say in this paragraph is that before I read this book I had consciously and unconsciously bought the extrovert ideal that is so prevalent in our society. I had seen all my introvert traits as weaknesses that I had to combat and conceal. This book made me see that these traits can work to my advantage and it helped me find the proper middle ground where I can better assess my own personality, my strengths and my weaknesses. If you are also an introvert or have introvert kids I really really think you should read this book!
Overall the book is well structures, easy to read and of a good length. Cain starts out by describing the extrovert ideal. To drive this message home (though I think it is a fairly obvious point) she describes a day at a Tony Robbins event where everyone is dancing, speaking with deep confident voices, doing high fives and walking on coal etc. Cain, who is an introvert feels awkward under these circumstances (as would I), and she is not ashamed of it. She states what should be obvious but strangely isn’t, that the world needs people with different qualities. Indeed, under certain circumstances it is better to be more quiet and less assertive. According to studies Cain describes bosses with highly skilled employees are better of if they are introverts, probably because being more quiet allows them to better harvest the qualities and ideas of the employees. Cain also talks about the power of working alone. As one illustrative example, take brainstorming which is normally done in small groups. Actually studies show that you get a better brainstorm if people are allowed to come up with ideas on their own which are later pooled. In certain situations, a group of people can be a constraint rather than a benefit. She also brings up several examples which have been founded by introverts such as Apple, Microsoft, and Google. Though these are huge companies it is hard to tell whether these examples are representative of the overall picture. Nevertheless, there can be little doubt that qualities such as cautiousness, empathy and conscientiousness can be very good qualities to have in some companies. Cain suggests that in some cases introverts can even hold aggressive stances in negotiations because they are less likely to antagonize the other part the way an extrovert outspoken person might.
In the remainder of the book Cain writes about the nature nurture debate (it bothered me that she seems to presume that free will exists, but I forgive her), and about different examples where temperament mattered (ex Wall street crash). The last three chapters serve as a type of guide to introverts and to parents of introverts. What types of conflicts tend to happen between introverts and extroverts and how should these be solved? What strategies can introverts use to avoid falling off the earth altogether? To what extent do you push your introvert child to do extrovert things such as hold presentations? Cain suggest sensible answers to all of these questions and I think that many people would benefit from reading this, and they are genuinely encouraging to introverts and parents of introvert children. I found it encouraging for instance that introvert children are influenced by their parents more than extrovert children. Thus introvert children will benefit more from good parenting than extrovert children (which is nice to know if you are indeed a good parent).
I have always known that I am an introvert, but this book taught me so much about myself that I don’t know where to begin. This book really blew me away and I look forward to sharing it with a lot of friends and co-workers.
The thoughtful and insightful explanations of introverts and extroverts, and the examples of each given.
The realization that introverts are not inferior as our culture would have us believe.
She remarkably brings the author to life to me.
I want to learn more along these lines since listening to this book.
Say something about yourself!
I bought this book to better understand how I could support our exceedingly introverted son. What surprised me is how much I learned about myself, as well. I learned why I am always so utterly pole-axed after even a brief lunch with friends--and how to better manage my energy. And I got wonderful insights into my son's "quiet" and also learned, as hped, how to support him. After reading this book, I feel like being an introert is very much like having a hidden super power.
I have bought ten copies of this book to hand out to friends and family--and every single person has been amazed at what a fabulous book this is.
If you have a relationship with someone who is on the quiet side, this book will explain to you what is going on in that quiet person's head and heart.
If you are a quiet person yourself, you will find this book to be empowering. The stuidies cited will make you feel wise, will make you grateful to be the introverted soul that you are. You will feel really good aout yourself and want to read it over and over again.
With all the interviews with successful introverts, those who have managed to come out of their shells somewhat, yet still retain their core quiet nature, I felt for the first time in my life that I was not alone. And that the quiet me, who is truly content to be alone for days on end, who would rather read than go to a party, who gets exhausted when pushed into the madding crowd--all that is okay. In fact, those introverted qualities are to be cherished and nurtured.
The book also helped me gain some insight into my son's inner world. He is far more introverted than me, bordering on social anziety. QUIET offered sound advice on hleping him find some balance and encouraging him to push himself in a healthy, nurturing way.
I wish every teacher, every CEO in the world had to read this book. It would open their eyes to the value and wisdom of the quieter people in the world.
If you are involved with a QUIET person, or are a parent to a quiet person, this book will really help you understand why your true love/son/daughter/ parent/friend is the way he/she is--and by the end of the book, you will look at that person with an entirely new, and appreciative eye. You will wish you were QUIET, too.
Ms. Cain is so insightful. The reader (not sure if it's the author) is one of the best I've heard.
This is a fantastic, incredibly well-written collection of the science behind introversion.
This is actually quite an inspirational book. I have listened to quite a few “Self Help” selections, specifically in the business genre. The problem with 99% of these books is they try to change what is an introverted individual into an extrovert individual. Cain reveals that this is, for the most part, impossible. If you are an introvert you can only fake being an extrovert. It is like trying to change a homosexual into a heterosexual. They could possibly fake it but you can’t change the nature of the beast. She makes a convincing argument that not only is introversion normal but in many ways an asset. She lists many ways to deal with introversion in today’s extroverted business climate and world in general.
The narrator is the best female narrator that I have ever listened to. I have many hundreds of books in my Audible collections but for some reason I have never cared for female narrators. Mazur has changed that. As with some of my favorite narrators, I will specifically search for selections that she has done. She is that good!
Now the bad part for me; maybe not you. All of Cain’s heroes in modern day life are liberals. She gushes on and on about Al Gore, Barbara Streisand, President Obama and a host of many people that I have severe disdain for. I understand that it is her book and she can slant it as she wishes but considering the subject matter it was unnecessary. If you are politically conservative this leftist lean is annoying but if you think you would be interested in the subject matter this is still a must get selection.
While I do thing the overall message of this book was good and necessary, I was bothered (and had a really hard time getting over) some basic biases? (not sure if that is exactly the right word) that the author had. First of all, she rages on Harvard MBAs and then quotes time and time again research that Harvard MBAs did.
I think one underlying fallacy that she adopts is the idea that people contribute high quality work because they are introverted. And that if only more people would be introverted, we would have more high quality work.
It's as if she is saying that only cars that take diesel fuel are good cars. Just because introverts are fueled differently than extroverts doesn't mean their quality of work is better or worse.
The author must have some bones she wanted to pick and so she added them (and eventually diluted) the main point of her book. I think it is important that we allow people to be introverted just as we allow people to be extroverted, but I think she missed the target on what makes a person contribute high-quality work.
Quiet kicks off with the tale of Rosa Parks. The author imagined – and maybe I did too – that Miss Parks was a stately woman with a bold personality who could stand off against a bus full of people, an irate driver, and the police, and win – but she wasn't. She was small, and quiet, and tired, and simply refused – quietly – on that particular evening to comply with a stupid rule. And the author asks "How could you be shy and courageous?" This surprised me. Aren't the shy inherently courageous? What extroverts do without thinking – from asking questions in meetings or class to going to parties – introverts see as hurdles to be got over. Extroverts have to be brave in extraordinary circumstances. The shy have to be brave every damn day.
This sets the stage for the book. I learned quite a lot, but questioned some of the conclusions and directions the author went with, and in the end I can't say I feel the power the subtitle mentions. It's possible, and I see how – but it's a hard row to hoe, and all the other metaphors in "Hard Knock Life".
I should say, before I begin to maunder and meander about the book, that Kathe Mazur does a lovely job of the reading. She maintains a mostly neutral tone, so that her voice merges with the work; she disappears into the narration, for the most part. I'm curious about how her style would work with fiction; with non-fiction it's perfect.
I scored 19 out of 20 in the evaluation quiz in this book's first chapter; my only diversion from pure introversion (sorry 'bout that) is that I do like to multitask. I don't like to just watch tv – I'll be on the computer at the same time, or sewing, or something, anything. I hate driving with just the radio on now – if I don't have an audiobook in my ear I feel like I'm wasting valuable time. But even this might be a result of living in an extroverted world; I've had to learn how to multitask in my jobs, and it's sloshed over into life.
Being an introvert (with the addition of shyness, which, I find, is not the same thing – just shoot me now) … For me, that means that almost every morning when it came time to go to school I would feel sick. I had a ridiculously high absentee rate, because in general school was hell for me. I liked the classes, loved the way the world opened up a little every day, even kind of liked homework sometimes. But being expected to participate, being called on whether or not I raised my hand, having to participate in the group projects and readings-aloud and other torments teachers love to devise … Having to cope with my classmates, even those I considered friends… When I was in my mid teens I saw Dead Poets Society for the first time, and I was shattered. I was, I am Todd Anderson (only with much better parents). The wonderful, fictional Mr. Keating recognized Todd's limits, and knew how to move him past them. I never met the teacher who cared to do that – I never had a Mr. Keating, or even a Neil. (If you don't know what I'm talking about go watch the movie. Yawp.)
In elementary school, in high school, in art school, had I been outspoken, had I been outgoing, had I at least been able to speak up and say "Oy! Over here!" – things might have been different. I wasn't able. Knowing that without a drastically different setting things I couldn't have been able – that alone made this a worthwhile read. "At school you might have been prodded to come 'out of your shell'—that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter". Well, yeah. And prying a snail out of its shell will have disastrous results for the snail.
And then there's work. The same thought processes go on in the average manager's minds as in the average teacher's: reward the ones who successfully walk the line between conformism and aggression, and pay attention to the ones who make you pay attention. Three words: "Team-building exercises"… the mere phrases makes me queasy. Why don't managers realize that the reason these things build camaraderie is because it unites everyone in their absolute loathing of the moronic and grating waste of time that they are? How does anyone think they're a good thing? Or, at least, that they're a good thing for everyone?
There is a section of the book which focuses on the Harvard Business School, and everything this author says about the school makes exquisite sense in terms of W's attendance there. For me, for introverts in general and those poor buggers who matriculate their introversion, it's another circle of hell. The title of an article from the HSB newspaper is quoted: "Arrogant, or Simply Confident?" Er. If you have to ask … Heh. If you have to ask, you might be an introvert.
A bit of an aside, from this section: "'It is approximately 2:30 PM, October 5th,' the students are told, 'and you have just crash-landed in a float place on the east shore of Laura Lake, in the subarctic region of the northern Quebec-Newfoundland border.' Um … huh? Newfoundland is an island, and so doesn't exactly share a border with any province; Quebec borders the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Also, this furthers a stupid stereotype that Newfoundland is glacial and filled with walruses and igloos. It's really not. Perhaps they meant Labrador? Also, Google Maps shows the lake is something like 13 hours from the coast. What idiot wrote this scenario?
Part of what helps make people successful, or perhaps simply a characteristic of successful people, is in their speech patterns. "Verbal fluency and sociability are the two most important predictors of success, according to a Stanford Business School study." Also, talking fast is seen as a good thing. Well, as the Mythbusters say, there's your problem. When I talk fast it's obviously nerves, not aggression or confidence. And, sadly, I'm one of those who waits for an opening to speak. I despise people who begin talking before I've finished a sentence – shockingly, customer service reps do it all the time; I've gotten into the habit of just finishing anyway. For me, it doesn't matter if the person I'm speaking to has just said something moronic (for instance, that Lake Laura is on the border of Newfoundland) or brilliant or anything in between that requires a response from me, I will wait for a pause before I interject. It's what I was brought up to call "politeness", and also ties into my own reserve. Apparently, what I see as basic manners is actually a hindrance to my success. Oh dear.
I unfortunately did not make note of who said it, but here's a quote that's sending me (and this review) on another tangent: "I'm sure Our Lord was [an extrovert]"… Really? How odd. I suppose every group tries to claim Jesus as one of their own, but I've never thought of Him as an extrovert. Charismatic, certainly; not shy, by any means; confident – well, sure, with God on His side… but extraverted? I really hesitate to class Christ in with some of the huckster evangelists making millions off his name.
Okay. Anyway. Another quote:
"Embarrassment reveals how much the individual cares about the rules that bind us to one another. … It's better to mind too much than to mind too little."
That's interesting. And it's true – the ones who are never embarrassed are the ones you have to be wary of. My sociopathic ex-boss was never embarrassed.
It suggests … that sensitive types think in an unusually complex fashion. It may also help explain why they're so bored by small talk. If you're thinking in more complicated ways … then talking about the weather, or where you went for the holidays, is not quite as interesting as talking about values or morality. The other thing Aaron found about sensitive people is that sometimes they are highly empathic. 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. In social settings they often focus on subjects like personal problems which others consider "too heavy"….
"The description of such characters as "thin-skinned" is meant metaphorically, but it turns out it is actually quite literal … skin conductance tests … High-reactive introverts sweat more."
Fabulous. Shoot me now. Yup, this book is all about me. (Except I love Criminal Minds, and when I spent a solid week a while back catching up on Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones I tended to walk away from my computer dazed at the enormous body count.)
I've gone through my life saying – or at least thinking – Don't you see that? Don't you hear that? Well, now I know – they, whoever they are at any given moment, might not see or hear – or feel or understand – whatever it is I do. I've said elsewhere that my sociopathic ex-boss loved to refer to me on every possible occasion as the office's "bleeding heart liberal". And here I learn that that hasn't been entirely a choice with me. I am wired to cry at Hallmark commercials and well up when someone else – even a complete stranger on tv – cries.
Yay. Bloody amygdala. Bloody pain in the arse amygdala.
How nice – how calm and unstressful and unteary – it must be to function at a lower level of empathy and heart-bleeding.
I loved the tidbits about the "Griselda moods" of Eleanor Roosevelt – "named for a princess in a medieval legend who retreated into silence". Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt – having two such standouts among "my people" makes it all seem a little less dreadful.
I loved the example of "The Bus to Abilene": "about a family sitting on a porch in Texas on a hot summer day and somebody says, 'I am bored. Why don't we go to Abilene?' When they get to Abilene, somebody says, 'You know, I didn't really want to go'. And the next person says, 'I didn't want to go – I thought you wanted to go' and so on…. The Bus to Abilene anecdote reveals our tendency to follow those who initiate an action – any action." The ones who speak up control the actions of the rest – especially those of us who hesitate to express an opinion.
This was a fascinating book; it was enlightening; it was clarifying. As I said at some point earlier, it is good in a way to know that, for the most part, I couldn't have handled a great many situations in my life very much differently. I’m wired to behave as I do. Also … knowing I'm not alone in this is, I suppose, also good. The introverts are the ones who don't network and make a splash, which means you can be in a room with ten introverts and two extraverts and it's the latter pair you – and the introverts – will remember later. Whereas each of those ten introverts will go away thinking they were the only ones who were uncomfortable and itching to get out. What a shame. If those ten introverts could get together, they might have a better time. Then again, getting together is antithetical to their nature, so … basically? The upshot? It sucks to be an introvert.
On the whole, though, I'm not sure what reading this accomplishes. It's startling to read (listen to) a really damned accurate description of my own personality, and to learn that there have been scientific studies done on people exactly like me to find out why we are like me.
It's nice to have confirmation that there are scientific reasons why to me the word "party" does not mean happy times, and that there are plenty of other people who feel the same way.
I think I understand better now why some people love Bosch and death metal and bull fights, when I prefer Vermeer and Billy Joel and the Puppy Bowl.
But I don't really need validation. I'm old(ish). I've (finally) reached a point in my life where I know my limits, know when I can push them and when I'd be better off not, know how to fake it when I have no choice. "Power"? In a world which disregards those who don't push themselves forward? No.
I love learning, teaching, and exploring!
When I decided to read this book, I figured that it would appeal mostly to individuals with introverted personality traits. However, I came to realize that the information presented was helpful to both sides of the introvert/extrovert spectrum. The book included descriptions of many studies on personality and individual/group dynamics and I thoroughly enjoyed these aspects.
The author presents the case that introverts are an important part of society and should not be asked to conform to the more gregarious ideals of the Western world. It came across almost as a defense for introverted behavior. I would definitely recommend this book to my friends, whether they are introverted or extroverted.
l'enfer c'est les autres
An enjoyable read. The author puts herself in the story to good effect. You, the reader, will discover things about yourself that you probably weren't aware of. I recommend taking the introvert/extrovert quiz in the book at the 31:30 mark of the first chapter before you start reading the book. Also, if you don't know where you are on the sensitive/intuitive scale take a sensitive/intuitive quick assessment test you can find on the internet before you start reading the book. The will make those sections of the book all the more interesting.
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