Review of Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

What would you say to an attorney who loved her work on Wall Street but hatedQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking face to face meetings and found her self as the lead attorney on a negotiation team charged with solving a serious problem for a client as she sat across the table from a team of intimidating lawyers from the other side?

What would you say to a frustrated and concerned parent who wanted her child to fit in and have friends but who instead preferred to read at home?

How about a university student who found the “discussions” of their classes disgusting and a waste of time?

With the premise in her introduction (that parallels Stephen Covey’s similar views in his introduction to his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) that a shift from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality has “unleashed in ordinary people-introverts and extraverts-a nagging sense of personal inferiority that plagues them to this day” Susan Cain, a self-professed introvert, begins leading us on a journey of visits to quiet people such as university and high school students, parents of “quiet” but gifted and articulate children, a well-known mega church (Saddleback Community in Southern California), and through a number of signifcant studies of introversion and extroversion as she seeks to encourage all of us to “be true to yourself.”

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, (to be published in January 2012 by Crown Publishing) is a thoroughly researched book in which Cain argues for a greater understanding and acceptance of those who are often thought shy, bookish, backward, and even anti-social – introverts. Basing her views of introversion on the views and study of Carl Jung, Cain suggests that there is a place, a much needed place at times, for introverts in our society as a companion, and in some cases, a check, against the predominate extroversion of our time.

Along the way, Cain, takes us into

… the workplace and challenges the current preoccupation with groupthink and argues that working alone is still a viable and necessary activity for both productivity and business success.

… the modern American classroom and the need to help both school systems as well as the classroom affirm and encourage the introverted student to thrive as much as the extroverted student

… the financial world and how “introverts and extroverts think (and process dopamine) differently” as she contrasts the ‘Wizard of Omaha” Warren Buffett who has made money in a tough economy with those whose risk taking caused financial loss for themselves and others as well

… parents, and students, who struggle with a ‘shy’ label that creates both personal and academic problems instead of seeing how the richness of their inner world is an asset

In this midst of this journey she focuses her study on what I have often thought about on this discussion on personality as a whole and this particular aspect of personality.

How much of it is nurture and how much of it is nature? Where does free will come into play?

Her significant use of studies done on identified introvert and extroverted students using MRI scans is a strength of this book as it reveals that there is a biological and chemical aspect to personality that must be considered. But in doing so she acknowledges that there is a grey area into which we must take account in the dynamic of human personality.

In short, Quiet affirms the place and importance of introversion in society and Cain challenges our current extroverted society with bringing the deep and necessary gifts of those who are more introverted into play.

(I wish Cain would have taken more time to discuss ambiversion as I believe that I am such a person and that there are others who are equally able to move between introversion and extroversion without difficult. But I also enjoyed her presentation of High and Low Self Monitoring (HSM’s and LSM’s) discussed in chapter 9, When should you act more extroverted that you really are?)

In short, I believe that Quiet is going to be, and must be, a welcome volume to the discussion of personality in the years ahead because of its impact on our personal lives, our education, our workplace, our financial health, and (an area Cain briefly discussed) our faith. I am glad that Cain, whose own story is told in a unique way in the book, has written this book.

I believe that this book would be a great book for college classes on personality, for those in ministerial training, as well as for human resource and educator continuing ed and training.

On my review scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (great) book I rate Quiet a 5 a great read!

Note: An advance reader copy of this book was sent to me via the Amazon Vine review program in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

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