Subtitled “The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”, Susan Cain’s Quiet takes us on a journey through history and into the present, understanding why exactly introverts and the skills that they have are devalued in present day American culture. We also take a look into the brains of introverts and whether it’s nature or nurture that turns some of us inward and others outward. She then offers helpful hints on how introverts can deal with modern careers and find space for themselves in a world that demands meetings and presentations as indicators of business success. Rounding out the book with interviews and advice for parents with introverted children, Cain has provided an interesting study of many different aspects of “sensitive” personality types.
I am decidedly an introvert, and I imagine most people reading this blog are too – in general, we are people who need space away from the world to recharge our batteries, people for whom speaking in public is a struggle, and who essentially work best on our own. Cain offers a lot of definitions and also provides a little list towards the start of the book to help readers identify if they are actually introverts – she also takes pains to stress throughout that many people actually have aspects of both introversion and extroversion. This is not a black-and-white science.
I found it quite inspiring to read about how many introverts have changed the world. As an introvert who has learned to cope surprisingly well (I’m always shocked when someone doesn’t think I’m shy, and it happens more often than you’d think), I definitely felt refreshed by the knowledge that lots of other people do better with space to contemplate. The history of the subject was also interesting, especially the ways different cultures handle these personality types. It’s not surprising that more Americans count themselves extroverts than Chinese – part of it is definitely culture emphasizing ideals. But the other part is genetics, and even though we can learn to cope quite well, her strategies gleaned from interviews and personal experience are thoughtful.
I did feel a little bit at times that she swung a little too far in the direction of introverts – but given this is a book attempting to empower us, I can’t be too surprised at that. The other part I (obviously) did not find useful as a childless woman was the advice for children, and having read it I’m not sure it would have helped me as a kid. But I’ll leave that up to parents to decide – life isn’t easy for shy children, and helping them accept their personalities while giving them the skills to succeed can never be a bad thing to attempt.
Quiet is a worthwhile read for both introverts and extroverts – so the former can feel much more at home in their own skin and so extroverts can learn more about life on the other side of the divide. And if you’re in between, even better.
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