105 of 106 people found the following review helpful
on 21 May 2014
In many ways, this is the sort of book that should be read by anyone who manages other people, including those who are responsible for children's education, because it goes a long way towards clearing introverts of the charges that are often laid against them - that they're aloof, unfriendly, unwilling to speak up, no good at giving presentations, etc. These are all things that can disadvantage the introvert who is, for example, being interviewed for a job or asking for a promotion.
The problem is, I think the people who are most likely to read it are introverted types who just want a bit of reassurance that there isn't actually anything wrong with them. That's a shame, because even though the book does that job very well, it could have a wider application. I only found out about it myself because I kept seeing it recommended on online forums when this specific topic was actually being discussed. Maybe the introverts of the world should start a campaign to make this book compulsary reading for anyone who has to work with other people...
To answer the criticism that this is a US-centric book and not as relevant to readers in the UK: think for a minute about the last time you saw an office which had separate rooms or cubicles for workers instead of an open plan layout; think about how many times at school or university (or indeed at work) you were told to "get into groups" to work on a problem that you could have solved by yourself; think about how many job adverts you've seen for roles which have no customer contact at all and yet demand that applicants must be "outgoing" or "lively" or similarly ghastly wording. The truth is that the Extrovert Ideal has encroached on UK society as well, however temperamentally unsuited we Brits might be! Susan Cain provides some welcome balance and sanity in a world where everyone seems to be trying to shout louder than everyone else.
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Throughout my life I have had well meaning people telling me I should want to socialise all the time and that there is something wrong with me because I would almost always prefer to be curled up at home with a book. I have always had to battle for my quiet time against my nearest and dearest who think I should want to be with them. If I spend too much time with other people I start to lose sight of who I am and I have to spend a few hours by myself to recharge my batteries.
This is something I've always known about myself. When I first heard the word `introvert' and understood its meaning I knew it applied to me. But being an introvert was something that you just didn't talk about because being the life and soul of the party was the ideal. To get on at work and in life you need to be outgoing and willing to spend all your time talking to other people. The Western world values extroversion and introverts don't count partly because it is difficult for them to make themselves heard.
The book discusses research in the field and how the quality of introversion is displayed in the world. I found it fascinating to read about those who predicted the last recession and who said that what the banks were doing was extremely risky. Banks were staffed by extroverts who liked taking risks and they didn't want to listen to the quiet people sitting in the corner poring over graphs, charts and figures and predicting doom and gloom. What this book shows is that we need both introverts and extroverts to get a balance between excessive risk and excessive caution.
I was intrigued to learn that it is not only human beings who are introverts or extroverts, animals and even fish have those qualities too. Guppies which live in areas of rivers where Pike feed have different personalities from those who live in the same rivers in places where Pike don't swim. If one type of Guppy moves from one area to another it takes about twenty years for their personalities to change as personality traits in Guppies seem to be inherited. In some circumstances introversion is a trait which is necessary for survival as it imbues caution and careful assessment of risk - in this case Pike swimming by and looking for a tasty meal.
Various studies have been carried out which show that introverts engaged on creative work do a lot better if they are allowed to work on their own in peace and quiet rather than being forced to work in an open plan office. Yet the trend is for everyone to work in open plan offices. Some companies are gradually realising they need to provide both environments for their staff so that people who need peace and quiet to do their best work can find space to shut themselves away from the crowd.
This book is well written and an interesting and lively read for anyone who is an introvert or who lives or works with introverts. I found it a fascinating and thought provoking read - most especially the chapter on bringing up naturally introverted children. I found myself wanting to stand up and scream `YES YES YES' at the top of my voice as I recognised myself in so many of the examples quoted. The extrovert ideal of the Western world is not the ideal in the East where courtesy, quiet behaviour and deference to other people are regarded as admirable qualities. Maybe I need to go and live in China or India to be valued.
186 of 198 people found the following review helpful
Written by an introvert mainly for introverts, this is a good mix of research, reflection, anecdotes and advice that's also obviously quite a personal work for the author. It's well written, definitely thoroughly researched though at times feels like she's trying to justify the introvert's way of being rather than overtly celebrate it - perhaps just a reflection of the subtext of the book!
As someone who's clearly been a life-long introvert and also an experiences personality and psychometric profiler I was curious to see what the author's take would be on the introvert vs. extrovert debate. My impression is that she's writing from the point of view of an introvert who found herself vying for a place in an extrovert's world who then discovered more and more people like her. She refers to the 'Extrovert Ideal' a lot which seems to be a reflection of the fact she's US-based and statistically this is a more extrovert nation and culture with around 65% of the population measuring as extroverts, casting introverts into the minority. However, for the UK reader it might be a little trickier to identify so intensely with her experience as in the UK the population is split almost evenly.
My guess is that this book is more likely to be read by more introverted souls seeking to understand themselves and their power better - and I'll be recommending it to some of my friends! It would be a shame for the extroverts of the world to miss out on getting to grips with what's actually happening beneath the calmer, quieter, more placid surfaces of some of their family, friends and colleagues, and I'll be recommending that those friends then pass it on to the extroverts in their lives!
What I liked about 'Quiet' was:
- it's not a psychology text book and is more deeply personal, sharing people's experiences
- for those who are unfamiliar with what introversion is and the reality of the 'inner world' experience, it serves as a great introduction, whether you are an introvert or work with or live with one or more
- there's plenty of good research quoted to back up the author's reflections, ideas and recommendations
- it's written in an engaging and approachable style with no hyperbole or self-aggrandisement, unlike some self-help literature
- although she could rage against the glorification of the extrovert ideal, she doesn't
My criticisms (if you can call them that) are:
- it is definitely written from the 'introverts are the minority' point of view which in the UK isn't true in general, though certainly is true of some professions
- she has a very wide definition of the behaviours and preferences linked to introversion, some of which I don't wholly agree with and isn't used by the psychological community at large
All in all I found it to be a solid, informative and well-written exposition of the true, if quiet, power of introverts.
66 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on 22 November 2012
Finally a book praising the fact that the quieter and shy members of society have as much to offer as those who have a natural ability to be heard.
Cain looks at lots of case studies of people, couples and well known individuals who through the use of subtle and modest techniques are able to influence the more extroverted members of society or a relationship. Her first case study is herself, and she looks at Rosa Parks, Ghandi and others.
She also looks at how introverts need to have time and space of their own to be able to function, and how some introverted people manage to carry off a extroverted persona at times to help them fit in.
I really enjoyed this book, don't feel quite so alone now!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"Quiet" will strike a chord if, in an attempt to secure a job, you have ever claimed in a personality test to prefer going to a party to reading a good book, only to find that you still come out with an introvert's score.
Susan Cain makes an interesting comparison between the "Culture of Character", which valued those who were serious, disciplined, modest and honourable (think of a Jane Austen hero) and the "Culture of Personality" with its emphasis on impressing people and influencing them which developed Dale Carnegie style in C20 America to feed an economy based on mass production and sales. The latter obviously tended to encourage "charismatic leadership" and the desirability of employing extroverts. Cain produces a vivid description of Harvard Business School, where the young men "stride, full of forward momentum" and the women "parade like fashion models, except they are social and beaming". "Good luck finding an introvert round here," they quip.
Yet, there is growing evidence of how assertive people who are allowed to take decisions, often on the basis of inadequate knowledge, just because they sound confident, frequently make serious errors which they would have avoided if only they had listened to an introvert. The unwise investments made in the recent financial collapse, and the decision to fight the Iraq War come to mind. By contrast, introverts may make surprisingly effective leaders in organisations where there is a need to be receptive to the ideas of staff undertaking complex tasks.
Cain discusses how introverts may need to "act extrovert" to achieve their ends but also urges them to claim the acceptance to be themselves, not criticised for "working slowly and deliberately", liking to concentrate on one task at a time, and being "relatively immune to the lure of wealth and fame", often called "reward orientation". In a perhaps rather utopian section, she suggests how education could be adapted to meet the needs of introverts e.g. not so often forced to work in large noisy groups with continuous interaction.
I particularly enjoyed the introduction, which provides the gist of the book as is often the case, and the wonderfully entertaining Chapter 2 featuring the "hyperthymic...extroversion-on-steroids" guru Tony Robbins as he sets out to "unleash the power within" at a minimum of $895 a head. This book often seems to be more a dissection of American culture than about introversion.
Although I was initially very impressed with "Quiet", I soon found that the anecdotes seem rather long-winded and corny, the scientific theories a little oversimplified and some of the examples given of introversion appear subjective and open to question. To be fair, this is probably the reaction of an introverted Brit to a relatively over-chatty, populist American approach.I began to skim through, looking for the key observations which could in fact be summarised in a single colour supplement article. Yet, if Cain succeeds in stimulating more people to read about psychology, and induces a few extroverts to think more positively - even gain a little more awareness - about introversion, this book will have achieved a good deal.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
As an introvert myself, I was quite fascinated as to the insights that might be contained within this book, but ready to be disappointed with yet another thinly disguised self help book. What I got was a book that contains the most cogent argument imaginable for changing the approach to management, learning and life in general.
Extroverts are very good at energising people and carrying projects forward, but the introverts should be the ones allowed the time and space to get the projects started as they are far more likely to have workable ideas. With a number of real life examples this book doesn't lack rigour as some others do. I would recommend it for all people, extroverts and introverts alike, but I have a feeling that the managers that I have come across would regard the conclusions reached as unworkable! Read this book and come to your own conclusion, but I urge you to at least give the argument an unbiased hearing.
146 of 158 people found the following review helpful
In `Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking', introvert ex-corporate lawyer, Susan Cain, describes and illustrates a body of mostly US-centric research into personality types, which she divides into introverts and extroverts. Throughout the book, she weaves in her personal tales of inner transformation once she takes on board both the strengths and weaknesses of being an introvert, growing up and working in an American culture that appears to value and reward extrovert behaviour above all.
In the two and a half page conclusion of the book, she summarises maybe all you need to know about the strategies that introverts can adopt to take full advantage of their strengths (measured decision-making; empathy; analysis of situations based on sustained observation and reflection; intuition; ethical stances; preference for deep and meaningful social contacts; love of quiet and replenishing spaces etc).
Susan Cain comes across as sincere, sensitive, thoughtful and brave - as one might expect from her description of the typical introvert nature. She argues passionately that introverts, including those who come to the USA from a more culturally-introverted country, feel criticised and undervalued for being the way they are - shyness, sensitivity and seriousness are often seen as being negatives.
In some social and educational contexts, introversion is even seen as a kind of mental illness or learning disadvantage that must be cured. The author in fact acknowledges that constant exposure to extrovert behaviour; the pressure to perform in an inauthentic and pretend-extrovert manner; or just to `fit in' to a brash, noisy, insensitive world can be physically and emotionally damaging to someone more introverted.
The language and tone used in the book is that of American popular psychology and, as such, may grate on the European or British reader. Moreover, as most of the named people, cultural references, research and contexts mentioned are US-centric, I found this book somewhat frustrating. I hesitated between giving the book 3 or 4 stars, but recognise that introverts, like myself, need all the encouragement they can get!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Only a relatively small book (pages wise) really but I was getting bored half way through it.
The basics of psychology teach you that extroverts are often compensating for an otherwise introvert nature in order to become socially acceptable and vice versa for introverts. This book focuses on the introverts and goes a way to give examples of how this premise works. Still waters run deep and all that. Being quiet does not necessarily mean that a person has nothing to say or no strength in their personality. This book uses examples of real life people and research to help explain why we should pay more attention to those that say sol little. Empty cans make the most noise etc etc. All of these sayings seem to shallow and yet they really DO mean something and this book helps you understand that better.
I love psychology books or books that explain how our minds work or why we do things etc but despite this book being relatively short, it could have been a little shorter and it still would have conveyed everything it had to say. Either that, or the writing style could do with a bit of ooomph!
A new look at an aspect of psychology that has plenty of research to back it up. Psychologists are always doing research on personality and when they run out of ideas they take old research and give it a new slant. This is what this book is doing.
274 of 297 people found the following review helpful
Susan Cain presented a wonderful speech to the TED conference regarding the difficulties faced by introverts in a world that prizes extroverts. Both have strengths and weaknesses, but education systems and working styles have become geared to the extrovert skill set, to the point where introversion is seen as an undesirable weakness, almost a mental illness, and must be overcome. It's acceptable to spend 4 hours in a meeting with 20 people achieving nothing, but not to sit on your own for half an hour and complete the work from start to finish.
Susan's 20 minute speech was fascinating and I eagerly awaited her book, but I have to admit I'm a little disappointed now it's here.
Part autobiography, part social commentary, the book adds very little to Susan's TED presentation. If anything, it detracts from it. The book is directly written for the American audience - American people talking about American research and life in America, so by the end of was craving something with a wider net of references.
The practical advice to introverts is interesting, but mainly because it acknowledges that constant exposure to extrovert behaviour can be damaging to someone more introverted (been there!), but could you really afford to turn down a job because the desk layout wasn't right for your introvert needs? Do you really have a paediatrician recommended `engagement skills' group that your nervous toddler can attend?
As someone who's more introvert than extrovert, the book made me feel a little hopeless, rather than a little empowered.
For anyone who's ever wondered whether their choice to get an early night, rather than go out and party, really does lead to a diagnosis of social phobia, low self-esteem and childhood confidence failure, Susan's work is liberation. But I'd recommend taking 20 minutes to watch her full TED presentation rather than buying the book.
(Small NB - the book cover is white and porous. After half a day in a bag the book's ruined.)
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 17 April 2015
I'm so happy I bought this book.
I wish I had come across this book at leat 10 years ago, when I was in my early 20s.
I never took time until recently to question myself and try to fully understand, by looking deep within, the reality of my character.
I know it sounds strange, but I've realised that sometimes if you hear something often enough and by many people (even family), you take such truths as the only truth of who you are.
It's very easy to see certain characteristics and label them simply as "shy" and "low self-esteem". Something that needs to be fixed.
What this book does is shed light on the reality of the complexity of what is character and the fact that not everyone is the same, likes the same things or is comfortable to be in the same situations.
What the author does, which is different from other books I have been reading in the last few months on the subject of character, is not diagnose this difference as a deficiency or a failing.
It's not a flaw that needs to be fixed or a social handicap that needs to be outgrown.
It's just a different way of being which has it's strengths and weaknesses.
It's a beautiful informed and encouraging book, that I hope will direct anyone who has gone through life being labelled and accepting said labels as the only truth, to find their own real truth and live it fully.