Title: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
Author: Susan Cain
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.
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