Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
You know you’re going to enjoy this book when you read the ‘Manifesto for Introverts’ that follows the cover page. It includes ten points. My favorite is the first:
- There’s a word for “people who are in their heads too much”: THINKERS.
A few others:
- Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.
- One genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards.
- “Quiet Leadership” is not an oxymoron.
- Love is essential; gregariousness is optional.
While Quiet makes a very solid case for allowing introverts to be just that, it is also directed at extroverts. It shows them how to get along with their loved ones and employees who are quiet or shy, and even how to best use their own skills in relationships and in the workplace.
Although the “Extrovert Ideal” hasn’t always been a necessity—Cain shows just how and when it became so–our culture now demands that all people be extroverts. This begins early when children who don’t want to be on sports teams are seen as broken, at least in their social skills. It continues through to adulthood, with schools playing their part to make sure that everyone is an extrovert—to succeed, to be chosen by that desirable university, students have to belong to just about everything. Cain makes the case that this is a big mistake. She gives examples of many famous introverts (my two favorite are Rosa Parks and Steve Wozniak of Apple Computers). She details all of the things that introverts bring to the table, thoughtfulness and empathy being two of the most important.
As introversion is defined in Quiet, you might find yourself thinking, “Yes, that’s me,” although you hadn’t thought so previously. This is because the stereotype is of a shy person who can’t manage social interaction. Yet while extroverts are glad-handing everyone at the party, true introverts interact in small groups and with cherished friends on a much deeper level. They can have great social skills. Though they prefer good books and solidary walks to those crazy parties, they are capable of presenting to large groups and taking up important causes if they are passionate about the goal behind the action.
Doubtless, introverts are undervalued in our culture. And that means that we ignore or refuse to tap into the strengths of about a third of the population. Cain makes a case for backing away from the Extrovert Ideal and allowing quiet folks to tap into their creativity and strengths in a way that will benefit us all.
High school housekeeping: If people have tried hard enough to convince you that the only way to be normal is to be an extrovert—and if you always feel weird trying—I hope you’ll give Quiet a read. It’s nice not only to be validated for the person you are, but to understand how important introverts are to deep friendships, to deep thought and creativity, and to larger systems like the workplace. This is a thoughtful book and not overlong. When the end notes that detail the research are omitted, it’s only about 275 pages.