Sunday, January 27, 2013
Quiet - Susan Cain
Confession: Susan Cain's Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (Broadway Paperbacks, 2013) has been the topic of some very interesting and insightful conversations in our household for several months now, long before I was offered a copy for review. I had stumbled across Cain's excellent TED talk and taken the informal quiz on her website - both resonated with me. We had a lively family chat about introversion and extroversion over dinner one night; not too long after our daughter announced she wanted to make it the topic for an upcoming school project. She listened to the audiobook as part of her research and absolutely loved the book, so when I was offered a review copy, I jumped.
When the paper copy arrived, she read it first.
In Quiet, Cain proposes that our American culture has come to value and reward the qualities and strengths of extroverts to the exclusion of everyone else. Cain believes that this "extrovert ideal" (in schools, in the workplace, etc;) not only works to the detriment of individuals (making them feel less valued and making it more difficult for them to personally succeed) but that our society also risks missing out on the contributions of potential leaders and innovators. Cain thoroughly explores the evolution of the rise of personality vs. character in American history, and gives examples of many notable individuals (Rosa Parks, Gandhi, Steve Wozniak, Al Gore and others) who have made a difference not only in spite of, but even because of their quieter qualities.
For me, the most fascinating and resonant parts of Quiet had to do with understanding introversion on a more personal level: learning about "high reactivity" children and the relationship of sensory sensitivity to introversion, "pseudo extroversion" (how many inherently introverted people learn to adopt extroverted behaviors), and especially advice for supportive parenting of quieter children. Like many others who have read this book, I experienced several "aha" moments.
The book is both well researched and very "readable," even the scientific studies conveyed in a more conversational style. I could have done with a little less emphasis on "making a case" for accepting introverts - the inclusion of such high profile, highly accomplished examples almost belies the idea that introverts are undervalued, and even adds to the sense that the only accomplishments of value are those that bring fame; the more everyday examples are actually more compelling. But if you fall anywhere on the more introverted end of the spectrum, or if you are the parent or spouse of someone who does, you will find this book (or at least parts of it) to be very meaningful, and quite possibly illuminating.
I was delighted to receive a complimentary copy of Quiet from the publisher for review. I highly recommend Susan Cain's TED talk and have embedded it below. You can learn more about the author and Quiet on Susan Cain's website.