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.
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.
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.
As a self-confessed introvert, I found Susan Cain's Quiet to be a pleasing read. Upon reflection, though, that is largely because it bigs up us quieter people - some of Cain's assertions about extroverts are patently silly, even if she's clearly being tongue-in-cheek. I think she's trying to make the argument that society is tending towards valuing certain personality types at the expense of others, but the problem is that people don't fit neatly into one type or another - we're all a mixture of traits.That said, I think it's an important message that quieter people have their own, extremely valuable strengths. It is hard to feel like you fit in when everybody else seems to want to stay out partying and you want to go home with a book - and it's nice to feel affirmed in that, even if the issue is not as black-and-white as presented in this book.
Pleasingly Quiet is a well-written and clearly well-considered popular psychology book and unusually for a popular science writer Cain admits that some of her own preconceptions and assumptions about the subject are flawed which made me warm to her as a writer. However, like many recent popular science and psychology books, Quiet is a quick read and feels padded out with superfluous case studies and anecdotal examples. Perhaps I have a higher level of scientific knowledge than the average reader, but I don't find descriptions of scientists particularly useful in explaining their research so the tendency for popular science books to do this kind of annoys me. I'd say Susan Cain's TED talk on the same subject ([...]) argues her case much more eloquently - because the message isn't diluted by irrelevant details.
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!
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.
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.)
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!
on 15 June 2013
As a child I was always quiet, I was considered strange, the outcast by others around me. I would, and still do, experience overwhelming shyness when forced into situations where talking loudly is expected. I would keep my thoughts to myself, not risk being shouted down be the rest of the group. Even now, as an adult, I prefer not to speak up in front groups of three or more people. I think my words through many times before uttering them.
For the majority of my live, I have wondered why. My teachers used to write reports and criticise me for not been that type of person children should be. To me, shouting out without thinking is rude.
As soon as I opened the pages of this book and started reading, it all started to make sense. I understood that I am not strange, an awkward outcast, I'm just higher introverted.
I can not thank the author enough for writing this book. It has changed the way I view both myself and those around me. When I attend local groups, I think 'Ah, that person is introverted like me...' and I try to engine a one-on-one conversation after the meeting is over.
This book is a must-read for any one who is, or who knows, is married to, is a parent/child of an introvert. This is definitely one of my top books I've read to date.
on 24 October 2014
An easy and entertaining read with a mixture of facts, examples, science and humour. I didn't check the validity of her references though, so I won't comment on the truthfulness of those facts and science bits. But this book helped me look into myself and understand a solid part of me.
Although people are extremely different and not all introverts share the same qualities so some places I didn't quite connect to, especially when all her examples include all these successful lawyers, business men and people who love what they are doing. I was looking for advice or tips on how to actually fit into this society that worships extroverts. Many introverts, including me, are so introverted that they don't have any particular field they are interested in working in. That, or the field is so narrow that getting a job in it is really unlikely, unless you have a qualification or the money to get one.
Even in UK you need to be bubbly and excited about selling a pair of socks.
I didn't find any helpful advice or insight into how to deal the pressure of working at an average job for your average introverted Joe. Sure I now see my strengths and know that I'm not crazy for being introverted. But in reality it's very difficult to adapt even knowing your strengths. Wearing the extrovert mask is what I do. But it tends to fall off. The answer to how to function in this society is probably to change oneself so that you fit into the standard, so that you become another number in the statistics. But the author of this book says you need to accept yourself and be OK with who you are. How do you combine being who you are, at a job you don't love and where you need to be fake?