Summary (from the publisher): 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 thought Susan Cain presented her case for introverts in a clear and logical manner. She used anecdotes throughout the book to back up her points about introverts being just as (or more) intelligent, capable, and thoughtful people as extroverts, and most of the anecdotes were interesting.
I particularly appreciated the way Cain demonstrated that presentation is often valued more than substance in business settings. The part where she talked about Asian businesspeople in Cupertino taking classes to help them be more assertive and vocal was especially poignant. These were highly intelligent men and women who should have been able to go far based on ability alone, but who were reduced to having to take this kind of extra class essentially because they weren’t as loud and obnoxious as their extroverted counterparts.
I did have a few issues with the book. First, I would have liked it if Cain worked from a more rigid definition of introversion. She basically admitted she was using a cultural (read: pop psych) definition rather than anything found in an actual textbook. With such a flexible definition, it’s easy to stretch and mold the “data” to support her case. Almost anyone can be made to be an introvert — or at least have introverted tendencies.
Another problem I had with the book is that it started to feel very repetitive by the end. Then again, I guess there are only so many ways you can show that being quiet, thoughtful, deliberate, bookish, etc. aren’t negative qualities.
And finally, I wish Cain hadn’t ended the book with tips on how to deal with/overcome introversion. After spending all that time showing how introversion should be viewed as a positive rather than a negative attribute, it seemed odd that she would need to include such tips. Thus, I’m choosing to ignore that part and embrace the side of me that’s more comfortable staying at home on a Saturday night looking for an organizer for my pots and pans than going out with a group of people.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain is a decent read that provides some good insights into what makes introverts tick and shows that they can be every bit as productive and valuable as extroverts. However, it’s not a hard-hitting book that plumbs the depths of the topic or that offers much in the way of further research. I give this one 3 stars out of 5.