Whenever conversation lands on the subject of what kind of child I was my dad likes to tell the story of friends coming to ask me to go play with them and me declining in favor of reading a book. My grandmother says she could leave me to play with a cup of mixed beans and I would be happily occupied for an hour grouping them by color, shape, size or number of spots (this usually preceding or following accounts of my cousin turning the whole house upside down within minutes). I was a quiet child, as you can see, with clear signs of introversion from a young age. I never really grew out of it either, still hesitating to accept party invitations and perfectly content to spend my time in the company of one or two friends, or in quiet pursuits. When I first saw Big Bang Theory on TV I was so delighted, because although I'm not a Trekkie or a scientist in a lot of ways the guys on that show are my people. So it's no wonder that I would be compelled to seek out a book on introversion.
I am usually not a fan of nonfiction. These books tend to lose my interest relatively quickly and no matter how curious I am about the subject if the book isn't done in a style more populistic than academic I have to force myself to concentrate. So when I opened Quiet for the first time I braced myself for a laborious experience. Imagine my surprise and pleasure when Susan Cain started the book with an anecdote, signaling that it was going to be about people, not abstract concepts. Anecdotes like the one in the first chapter kept the book going for me, alternating stories about historical figures such as Rosa Parks, Dale Carnegie and Eleanor Roosevelt with stories about people Ms. Cain met in the course of her research. These stories provided the reprieve needed to keep the academic sections about studies and the science of it all from taking over, as well as an insight into the making of our high-energy environment.
One of the beauties of this book is the fact that it examines introversion and extraversion from a variety of angles, taking into account the significance of nature and nurture, societal norms and situational pressures, ability and desire to adapt and mimic traits necessary to succeed. It talks about introversion and extraversion at all stages of development, from childhood to old age, describing second-grader Isabel and the author's own grandfather as examples. It takes a look at how cultures affect temperaments of the majority, discussing differences between Asia and Europe and challenges people of both descents face. Best of all, it does all this in a language that is easy to understand.
It still took me a week to read Quiet because of the sheer amount and quality of the information. I would turn off my e-reader with thoughts and ideas clamoring for my attention, my mind trying to process everything I've just read at the same time. It's not a particularly exciting book, in the usual sense, but I was extremely excited to read it, sometimes for the validation it provided and sometimes for ideas on how to make it in a world where it literally pays to speak up, and loudly, without wearing myself out trying to be a polar opposite of who I am. I'm still excited about it and I think that everyone should read this book, regardless of temperament. After all, at least a third of us are introverts, and it's time we started really paying attention to and harnessing the power of quiet.
This is an incredible book; totally validating for those of us who are introverts. Cains research is exhaustive and illustrated that this wasnt some psychobabble by a new theorist.
Cain takes the historical approach to how America turned into the land of the Extrovert. In fact, business and industry have turned it into the ideal.
After explaining the differences between the introvert and the extrovert in the light of the latest psychological and neuroscience research, Cain shows what the introvert brings to the table. Everyone in business doesnt have to be an extrovert and Cain proves it through real-life examples.
I feel the strongest part of the book is the light she places on introverted children and how to help them accept their differences, help them strategize their difficulties (classrooms are mostly set up for group activities; this constant togetherness is hard on introverted children) and become successful people.
Cain also spends time with parents, helping them understand how they can help their introverted children to shine. She gives examples of extroverted parents with introverted children and extroverted children with introverted parents. I only wish this book were around when I was a kid; my aunt constantly took my book away and made me go out and have fun.
I feel that Cains message is uplifting: Even though Americans are mostly extroverts, introverts can make their mark by accepting their unique gifts and giving themselves the quiet time they need to think.
I expected to really like this book, but did not. The author picks and chooses which research to cite and then beats it to death. She treats all introverts as though they are the same and all extroverts as though there is only one type -- the person who walks into a room and is the life of the party. I expected a more balanced approach. I would not recommend this book.
Author Cain has said that contemporary introverts are in a position similar to that of women in the 1950's and 1960's. Sometimes it feels exactly that way, with people not understanding that for so many of us, social situations, while fun, can be exhausting. That I'm personally not afraid of speaking my mind or talking in front of people, but there is nothing better than a quiet afternoon with a book. So bring on the comparative language! Quiet is a like a breath of fresh air - like unexpectedly encountering an amiable, very agreeable old friend. To an introvert, in a job requiring pseudo-extroversion, surrounded by book discussion group members who summarily critique interesting introverted characters as just "shy" and "antisocial," Quiet is a comforting revelation.
Cain begins by describing the many variations of introversion and extroversion, pointing out that there is no one definition that scientists and psychologists agree on. She also offers a helpful self-quiz, inviting readers to determine just how introverted or extroverted (or ambiverted) they are.
Most of the remaining chapters are organized similarly: introducing a personality, developing one topic related to introversion (such as "reward sensitivity" and investing money), and including many statistics and data from studies as support. For instance, in chapter two, Cain writes of attending a conference presented by self-help guru Tony Robbins, then uses her experience there and at Saddleback Church to describe a societal shift from a "Culture of Character" to a "Culture of Personality." Throughout the book, the reader thus meets Harvard Business School Don, computer entrepreneur Steve Wozniak, First Lady and activist Eleanor Roosevelt, and married couple Greg and Emily. He/she ponders cooperative learning and open office plans, "rubber band theory" ("We are elastic and can stretch ourselves, but only so much"), optimal levels of arousal, the trade-off theory of evolution, Free Trait Theory, and introversion in the classroom. This balance of jargon with biography with statistics yields a pleasing blend of insight. True introverts will rejoice throughout, as Cain points out that their emotions are normal, their reactions are valid, and their potential is unlimited.
Cain urges readers, armed with all of this research, to now critique and ultimately reject the "Extrovert Ideal." She provides plenty of interesting and accessible evidence to do so.
(Cain is an honors graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School. She is well-published in a variety of publications, including The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Wall Street Journal. She has won many awards and speaks often as the head of the "Quiet Revolution.")
One of the most fascinating books I have ever read. For being a "thinking" book, meaning not a novel you cruise through, it was a fairly fast read. I took notes and knew not long into it I'd be ordering a copy to own. Even if you are not a self-identified introvert (I totally am and highly sensitive on top of it) you work with one, are married to one, parent one, etc. Even just from a societal perspective of how values have shifted over time was interesting. I wish every person I knew could read this, even if selfishly only so they could better understand me and that it isn't that I am anti-social but that I would rather socialize differently. I also loved discovering the difference between introverted and shy (I am not shy-as it is inherently painful and introversion is not). It was eye opening and sad to realize how extrovert driven our society has become and how ill-fitted it is to my partially introverted toddler. I felt very validated as an introvert that there isn't something wrong with me but that my skills and preferences are just not the expected norm. Such a GREAT book!
###%%ZOWIE!!! WOW!!! FANTASTIC!!!! GREATEST BOOK EVER!!! I CAN"T BELIEVE HOW WONDERFUL IT IS!!! SUSAN CAIN IS THE BEST!!!! HOW DID SHE DO IT? TRULY UNPUTDOWNABLE!!!IT SHOULD BE REQURED READING FOR ANYONE WHO WANTS TO LEARN TO READ!!! MY DOG AND CAT MUST READ IT!!!! I'M CALLING UP ALL OF MY FRIENDS AND TELL THEM HOW WONDERFUL AND HOW - WHAT?