Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain, is certainly not the only book about introversion, nor was it the first. Nevertheless, Quiet sparked a discussion that was bigger than anything we'd seen before.
Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.
The book that started the Quiet Revolution.
Are you an Introvert? Do you know what that means?
If you think an Introvert is a shy person, someone who just needs to "break out of their shell", or someone who dislikes people, think again. Introversion isn't a disorder (although it came perilously close to being listed as one as recently as 2012).
Approximately half of the population is introverted. Introversion is normal. And, with the publication of "Quiet", introversion has become, ironically, a lot more popular.
Much of the popularity is no doubt due to Susan Cain's willingness to step way outside of her comfort zone to promote the book -- in bookshop signings and interviews (in print and on air), from her TED talk to an invited presentation at Google. Yes, Introverts can do self-promotion.
Read the comments on the videos, articles, posted interviews and reviews and you'll see responses from many people who say "Now I understand."
I'm hoping Susan Cain's book will be the start of better recognition for introverts and better protection of our rights.
I feel that in today's society, there is a great emphasis on putting your mark on the world by putting yourself out there on so many different outlets.
As somebody who has been called at some point or another the gamut of terms associated with introversion, from "shy" (which I don't object) to "anti-social" (which I most certainly consider unfair), I found in Susan Cain's "Quiet," the validation and appreciation many introverts have been searching for.
You know that feeling when someone `gets' you? Well that's how it is for an introvert to read this book. I couldn't stop nodding `yes' as I turned the pages.
It’s a relief to know that there are so many others that feel the same and I’m not “broken.”
After they understand, they share. So, there are more blogs, more articles, more videos, and more interviews. We have momentum.
Quiet sparked a movement.
I've read Quiet twice now, cover to cover. I got more out of it the second time. (I tend to mark passages in books that interest me. From the number of tape flags I've used, I can say that Quiet was very interesting.)
One of the things I especially like about it is that this is not just a "Dear Introverts: We're wonderful! Here are things you can do!" book. Quiet's audience is anyone -- Introverts and Extroverts, parents or partners of Introverts, and people who don't know what they are.
Susan Cain is not a psychologist. This has occasionally been pointed out as a criticism of the book. Personally, I think Susan's background (or lack of background) is in her favor here.
Susan Cain is a former lawyer, a writer, and a researcher. She's also an Introvert who wanted to understand what that meant. Because she didn't have an educational background that "told her" what introversion was, she went out and asked. She interviewed people. She gathered her own data and drew conclusions.
The result is a book that contains much more than just "feel good" advice. It helps to explain the "why" of introversion and extroversion in our extro-valuing society.
In researching the book, Susan Cain spoke to hundreds of people, read books and articles, attended workshops and seminars. She interviewed Introverts and Extroverts, professionally and "ordinary" people. She drew her own conclusions. The Acknowledgements and Bibliography take up 50 pages.
I've read and heard criticisms of the book. A woman on a list I read found it to be too scientific. A man in a group I belong to was unhappy that the book referred only briefly to Carl Jung and barely mentioned the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (which Susan refers to as a personality test). Some self-identified Extroverts have been offended by the conclusions drawn in the book. (Many self-identified Introverts have replied, snippily, that it's about time.)
If you read only part of Quiet, read "A Note on the Words Introvert and Extrovert".
As Susan points out, Quiet is a book "about introversion as seen from a cultural point of view".
It focuses on the person who recognizes him- or herself somewhere in the following constellation of attributes: reflective, cerebral, bookish, unassuming, sensitive, thoughtful, serious, contemplative, subtle... Quiet is also about this person's opposite number: the "man of action" who is ebullient, expansive, sociable, gregarious, excitable, dominant... and comfortable in the spotlight.
These are broad categories, of course. Few individuals identify fully with nay one or the other. But most of us recognize these types immediately, because they play meaningful roles in our culture."
From my reading of some of the criticism of the book, I could wish that this "note" was at the front, rather than the end. I think a large number of the critics missed it.
I've read every book by, about, and for introverts that I can find. One of the things I especially liked about "Quiet" is that it's different from the rest. It's by an introvert and it's about introverts, but it's _for_ everyone.
There's nothing wrong with a lot of "this is who you are, be who you are" information. It has its place and I welcome it. But "Quiet" is full of research. Why are Introverts the way they are, why are Extroverts the way they are, why do we hate certain situations, why do they hate others, how can we compromise.
I can't really recommend most "Books on Introverts" to anyone but other Innies. I can recommend Quiet to anyone -- to Introverts, Extroverts, and anyone who isn't sure. If you've only heard of the book, please give it a try before you form an opinion. It may surprise you. You may learn something.
Praise from people whose opinions I value
"Superbly researched, deeply insightful, and a fascinating read, Quiet is an indispensable resource for anyone who wants to understand the gifts of the introverted half of the population."
—Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project
"Susan Cain has done a superb job of sifting through decades of complex research on introversion, extroversion, and sensitivity--this book will be a boon for the many highly sensitive people who are also introverts."
—Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person
"Quiet legitimizes and even celebrates the ‘niche’ that represents half the people in the world."
—Guy Kawasaki, author of Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions
“Re-reading Susan Cain’s masterpiece book QUIET. If you take it seriously, it could transform your project team or entire company/agency.”
- Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence
Susan Cain's TED Talk (VIDEO)
Susan's presentation at Google (VIDEO)
A Summary from New Books in Brief.
thepowerofintroverts.com - the website for the book
Table of Contents and publisher's information for "Quiet".
"The Power of (Shyness)" and High Sensitivity, Elain Aron's comments on "Quiet".