Review: ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain

by Kim on March 9, 2012 · 21 comments

Post image for Review: ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain

Title: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
Author: Susan Cain
Genre: Nonfiction
Year: 2012
Acquired: Library
Rating: ★★★½☆

Review: One of the questions that usually comes up during a job interview is, “What is your greatest weakness?” My usual response, and one that often surprises people, is that I can be really shy (not an especially great trait for a journalist, right?). But after reading Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, I think the more appropriate answer is that, at my core, I’m an introvert.

According to the book description, introverts are the kind of people 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 Cain is reluctant to define “introvert” or “extrovert” fully, she does give a few qualities that I think are useful in making the distinction:

  • Introverts and extroverts have different levels for outside stimulation — introverts prefer less outside stimulation than extroverts.
  • Introverts and extroverts work differently — introverts work more slowly and deliberately, while extroverts like to tackle assignments quickly.
  • Introverts and extroverts have different social personalities — introverts listen, think, and write; extroverts talk more and are often more assertive.

But, as Cain goes on to explain, introversion/extroversion is best looked at on a scale, and not every definition or discovery will be true for every person who thinks of him or herself as an introvert or extrovert.

Quiet is divided into four sections: evidence about society’s preference for extroversion, how biology impacts introversion/extroversion, how culture impacts preferences for introversion/extroversion, and advice for how to advocate for introversion and help introverts thrive in an extroverted world. I found the first two sections fascinating, the last two a little more self-help than I cared about. I was much more interested in learning about what might cause introversion and how preferences for either trait are valued in the workplace than strategies for, say, helping introverted children thrive in school.

On the whole, I think Cain makes a good case for the argument that the world isn’t necessarily better when ruled by extroverted people. There is a lot to be said for how introverts work and interact with others that make sense and could improve the way society functions. Quiet, in particular the first several chapters, is a great look at what science says about personality and what we can learn from it.

Other Reviews: Read Handed |

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane@BibliophileBytheSea March 9, 2012 at 6:04 am

I am an introvert as well, and want to read this book. As a former HR executive, I worked in the field for 20 years, I never felt like it was the right job for me (too much people contact).

On job interviews, if asked “what your weakness is”, I wouldn’t suggest saying you are shy or an introvert. Believe it or not many managers see this as an undesirable trait depending on the position — accounting — and other more solitary type jobs being exceptions.

For weaknesses — saying something like , “I need to learn how to delegate better when I have too many projects”, is something that would be not really seen as a bad thing.

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Kim March 14, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Oh my, I can see why being in HR would be exhausting for an introvert… I feel wiped out after dealing with too many people in a row.

Thanks for the advice re: introversion in an interview. I usually follow it up with ways that I’ve learned to work around those tendencies, and since I tend to get bubbly when I’m nervous (in job interviews) I think the introversion thing surprises people.

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Amanda March 9, 2012 at 7:46 am

I am not yet sure if I will read this. Jason has the audio version on order from the library. I’ll take a listen and see if it ends up working for me. I do like nonfiction much more in audio!

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Kim March 14, 2012 at 7:29 pm

I’m really not sure how this one would work in audio! I’m not sure it would work for me — I tend to need more of a plot in my audio books. I hope it works for you though!

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Julie @ Read Handed March 9, 2012 at 8:20 am

I loved this book. It all made so much sense, and I enjoyed reading about the different studies, etc. I posted about it here.

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Kim March 14, 2012 at 7:30 pm

I liked learning about the studies too. I never really thought about introversion/extroversion as a response to stimuli, but that really made sense to me.

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Vasilly March 9, 2012 at 9:42 am

I’m an introvert so when I heard about this book, I couldn’t help but want to read it. I have it on hold at the library so hopefully it comes soon. Great review. Thanks for letting us know about the last part of the book.

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Kim March 14, 2012 at 7:31 pm

I think part of my reaction to the end is that I don’t feel like my introversion is something that needs to be “managed’ — I sort of know what I need to do to function. The ending seemed more designed for people learning to cope with or work with introversion who weren’t familiar with it already (extroverted parents of introverted children, for example).

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Belle Wong March 9, 2012 at 11:53 am

I just read an interesting piece by this author in this month’s issue of O! magazine, where she talked about how being introverted actually has helped her out in her professional life. I like the idea of approaching introversion/extraversion as a scale. I am an introvert in a group but I think people would call me an extrovert in one-on-one interactions – I’m one of those hand-talkers who gets really excited, with the words just spilling out of me, when I’m talking about things I find interesting :)

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Kim March 14, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Yes, I like thinking about it on a scale too. Most people aren’t always introverts or extroverts, but range between the two depending on things like situation. She does talk about how introverts tend to be better in smaller interactions (one-on-one), so what you describe makes total sense :)

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Colleen March 9, 2012 at 8:12 pm

This is a book I definitely want to read. Over the years, I have done Myers Briggs testing at work a number of time and each time I test in the introvert scale – my co-workers are usually surprised because I do compensate for it well at work but I know that deep down I get my energy from alone time which is the hallmark of an introvert.

I think introverts can be very observant and have good instincts which sound like great traits for a journalist!

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Kim March 14, 2012 at 7:34 pm

I always, always score introvert on Myers Briggs. Other answers have changed over the years, or I fall in the middle, but I’m always way on the introvert side for the exact reason you said — energy from being alone.

I think I deal with the shyness thing pretty well on the job, depending on the story topic and what’s required to get the information I need :)

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Suzanne March 10, 2012 at 7:09 pm

This is on my to-read shelf. I hope to get started on it soon.
And I agree with Colleen — introversion is a great trait for journalists

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Kim March 14, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Like I said, I think it depends. In a breaking news type situation, I think it can be a bit of a hindrance, but for other stories I think it does help me be a better listener.

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Trisha March 10, 2012 at 11:11 pm

This sounds like a really interesting read. I’m fascinated by personality profiles in part because I’m so strange. When I took the Meyers-Briggs, I was rated an introvert by 1 point. :)

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Kim March 14, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Huh, that’s cool! I love personality profiles too. I want to do the traits one… I can’t remember what it’s called now…

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Lu March 11, 2012 at 6:26 pm

I’ve heard her TED Talk is very good. We’re reading this for book club this month. I’m pretty excited!

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Kim March 14, 2012 at 7:37 pm

I didn’t know she did a TED Talk; now I’m off to find it :)

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Jenny March 11, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Hahahaha, I always like reading books about how introverts deserve more respect. We do deserve more respect! We too are awesome! But sometimes I wish strongly that I were an extrovert — weekends like this past one, where I had tons of people around, wear me the hell out, and it’d be nice to be able to deal with such weekends with greater aplomb.

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Kim March 14, 2012 at 7:39 pm

We do! And I agree. I wish I were more extroverted so that after a day of work I wanted to go out and hang with friends. Normally I want to just come home and read or do quiet things, which I think makes me a lame friend sometimes, you know?

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