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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars World, shut your mouth, 4 Jun 2013
This review is from: Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking (Paperback)
I have never been a fan of Myers Briggs personality indicators, with their basis on introvert/extrovert types. It always seemed too pat and simplistic. Surely, I thought, life and people are more complicated than this system allows. But then two things happened; I attended a training day at my work on Myers Briggs and started reading Susan Cain's "Quiet." Both of these delivered the same overall message; that Myers Briggs indicators give us a starting point with which then to understand ourselves, and use our knoweldge of our own types and others to help us adopt and use characteristics that will help us in our work and daily lives. And so an introvert can use out-going extrovert skills to master a presentation, and so on. What "Quiet" does is to focus on our cultural,historical and scientific understandings of intovert and extrovert types, with the sympathetic focus being on the introvert, hence the title. It is the author's contention that the introvert has been misunderstood and marginalised in favour of the extrovert, the "mighty likeable fellow" who in the early years of the 20th Century could win friends and influence people and sell loads of stuff. From then on, Cain argues, the exrtovert idea had been promulgated in Western society as the desired norm for childhood, school, work and social life. So children have been chastised for being and labelled as 'shy' or having an ' inferiority complex,' and these labels can persist to adulthood.
We move on to what Cain calls the 'myth' of charsimatic leadership, the force of personality inspiring with vision, steamrolling opposition and generally getting things done. Cain calls it a myth only so much as it is used as the desired norm of leadership styles. And she draws out how the workplace enccourages extroverted styles not only through recruitment bias but through structuring office space (open-plan) to encourage group-think and noisy collaboration over smaller groups and quieter reflection. Cain then explores the gifts an introverted starting point can bring, and how indeed a calmer, more thoughtful and reflective approach is necessary for human flourishing. She traces how introversion has been explored through evolutionary and biologcal science, and how psychology and modern reseach is determining just how these traits are apparent and develop from infancy onwards. She then looks at how both traits are necesary for human life, and attempts to correct the biases and imbalances as described above, desccribing how introverts can play to their strengths, harnesing quiet or soft power to win friends and influence people. Soft power in Asian cultures gets its own chapter, and the culture clash that arises when Asian students, brought up to believe that quietness and calm are indicators for wisdom, and that you should not contribute to discussions unless you have something solid to say, meets its US counterpart where the key thing is to be seen and heard to contribute in noisy group analysis.
In the closing section off the book, Cain explores how the two traits can learn from and inform each other, in the arenas of work and human relationships. There is a plea for schools to better understand their introverted students and to accomodate their learning styles through teaching methods and classroom design, e.g. Having smaller groups, more 1:1 explorations and down-time for students.
The book is cleary written, (quietly) passionate, and the science that informs it is interesting and accesssible (although at times weirdly contrived, as with intoverted fish avoiding capture through being cautious and avoiding nets). But for me, as an introvert, its most valuable contribution was the clear recognition and elucidation of what it means to have this at the core of one's personality. Literally, reading this I felt less alone, and could recognise myself in its pages from childhood on. The reassurance that I do not have to force myself to fit an extroverted template, and helpful guidance on how I could harness and use quiet power in my daily life, is very valuable. This then is a clear and readable, wise and felt exploration of the power of Quiet, and I am glad that its message is enjoying a wide readership, this book now being found on most book-shop shelves.
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Location: Dunton, United Kingdom

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