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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

by Susan Cain

genre: self-improvement

Synopsis from Goodreads

Quiet by Susan CainAt least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones 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 they are often labeled “quiet,” it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society–from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.

Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects. She talks to Asian-American students who feel alienated from the brash, backslapping atmosphere of American schools. She questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. And she draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the surprising differences between extroverts and introverts.

Perhaps most inspiring, she 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. Finally, she offers invaluable advice on everything from how to better negotiate differences in introvert-extrovert relationships to how to empower an introverted child to when it makes sense to be a “pretend extrovert.”


Enlightening. I’ve always known I’m an introvert, but it was interesting to read how some of my other personality traits may be tied to that. This book helped me figure out how to recharge and create a more productive work environment. It’s also helped my relationship with extroverts. In some ways, it’s a whole different language!

Think about two kids, a boy and a girl. The boy likes the girl and the girl likes the boy, but they don’t speak the same language. A little girl might express her interest by passing notes, whispering to her friends, giggling when he comes near. The little boy might kick her chair, poke her with a pencil, or pull her hair. Without an interpreter, these kids have no chance. In theory, adults have better communication skills and don’t run into this, but we do. Instead of a boy-girl split, there can be an introvert-extrovert split, especially in relationships. One of the anecdotes in Quiet was about a young married couple. The man was an extrovert; he threw large dinner parties every weekend. The woman was an introvert and wanted no dinner parties ever; she wanted quiet nights with just her husband instead of overwhelmingly large parties where she would be forced to make small talk. Both thought the other was being insensitive. Rather than just splitting it 50-50 and hosting a dinner party every other weekend, they also replaced the large table with several smaller tables so that there were never more than four people in a dinner group. The wife could focus on a few o the friends at a time and limit the amount of sensory input so that she didn’t get as overwhelmed while the husband still got to host dinner parties.

One of the other things that really struck a chord with me was the comparison of extroverts to sunflowers and introverts to orchids. Sunflowers can grow and thrive in many environments; they are pretty but don’t take your breath away. Orchids are stunning in the right environment but wilt in harsher climates. Cain discovered research that showed “sunflower children” out-perform “orchid children” when raised in low income households or environments where the child struggles. “Orchid children” out-performed “sunflower children” in high income households where the child had access to quiet time, books, and independent study. One can even predict whether a child will become an introvert or extrovert as young as three months old. When exposing future extroverts to new stimuli, a sunflower child will go with the flow. He or she may frown or make a face, maybe fuss a little or squirm away. A future introvert is more sensitive to new stimuli. They will fuss and scream when presented with something new (presents don’t count). Did you know extroverts literally have thicker skin? Introverts sweat more and are more sensitive to changes in environment because they have thinner layers of skin.

Lastly, on management style: introverts out-perform extroverts when their team offers suggestions. Extroverts out-perform introverts when their team is obedient without offering feedback. The experiment was to see how many shirts teams could fold in a set time period. Actors were placed in some of the teams and told to suggest a different way to fold the shirts. Because introverts were more likely to listen to the suggestion (and in this case it was a good one), they folded more shirts than the extroverts with actors in their team. In the teams that didn’t have actors, the extroverts were better motivators and instructors, so they out-performed the introverted team-leads who didn’t have actors in their group.

This is a good read for everyone (and I never say that). If you are an introvert, this will help you figure out how to utilize your unique skillset in a world that values extroverts. If you are an extrovert, it will help you interact with and understand the introverts. Parents especially, there is a section for introverted parents raising an extroverted child and one for extroverted parents raising an introverted child.

5 out of 5 stars

amazonbutton2 copy-Eliabeth Hawthorne

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