Books I Read: Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain

(For those of you wondering how our daughter is doing, here is the latest update. Now back to our regularly scheduled blog post.)

Title: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Con't Stop Talking
Author: Susan Cain
Genre: Non-Fiction
Published: 2012
My Content Rating: G

If you are an introvert who grew up in America, you very likely felt like there was something wrong with you. Like you should speak up more in class, make more friends, be more popular, assert yourself to get what you want.

I know this is how I've always felt. What I love about this book is that it points out that introverts are not wrong -- with a ridiculous amount of psychological studies to back it up -- but we feel that way because American culture subscribes to the idea that extroverts are where it's at.

The thing is (according to the book, though I found very little in the book that I disagreed with) extroverts and introverts have different strengths, and different weaknesses. Studies show that, in general,* extroverts are better under pressure and better at motivating the unmotivated (for example), but they're not always good at sticking with problems or treating warning signs with caution.

Introverts, on the other hand, are pretty terrible under pressure, but excel when given the chance to observe and contemplate. They have a tendency to focus on things they're passionate about, stubbornly following it through to the end (sound familiar?).

This book did an amazing thing for me. On the one hand, it helped me realize that I'm not stuck being who I am. Introverts can be every bit as friendly, social, and even extroverted about subjects they're passionate about, especially when given the chance to observe and prepare (and provided they carve out spaces to recharge themselves).

At the same time, it helped me realize that, hey, this is who I am. There's nothing wrong with introversion. It's just a different style. And it comes with its own strengths (focus, preparedness, higher immunity to groupthink) to make up for our weaknesses (small talk, public speaking, overstimulation).

The numerous statistics and psychological studies might be too much for some (though I loved them). But I'd recommend this book to almost everybody: introverts for sure, but also the extroverts who love them, and especially the extroverts who think we need to be fixed.

Where do you fall on the spectrum? I'm a ridiculous introvert (if you haven't figured that out), though it didn't stop me from being a worship pastor for two years. I'm still trying to find that strength in me again.

* This "in general" is very important. Everybody's different, and introversion/extroversion is a spectrum, rather than two sides of a coin. Susan repeatedly points this out in the book.


Matthew MacNish said...

I'm probably somewhere in between. In general, I'm pretty shy, but I can get gregarious in the right setting, with the right people.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I love that you found this book. Do you know my kids actually get graded on how much they speak up in class? Which I'm not entirely sure is wrong, but it tells you how entrenched this is in American culture.

I'm definitely an extrovert, but I married an introvert, so this rings very true for me. It reminds me of a study of optimists and pessimists that gave me a lot of insight, and increased respect for, the plus/minuses of being optimistic and pessimistic (even though we are all exhorted to be "positive thinkers" all the time). The key for me was discovering how it was all about managing anxiety, and understanding that about yourself is tremendously important if you actually want to accomplish your goals in life.

I just might get this for my husband for father's day! :)

Steph Sessa said...

I am a big introvert. But that doesn't mean I'm not friendly or engage in conversations. (Though I wasn't/didn't for a long time in my life.) I think a lot of times people confuse shyness and introversion and there is a difference. Shyness is the fear of social disapproval, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. (I also blogged about this a month or so ago if you're interested:

Laurel Garver said...

What I find interesting about these categories (and the other sets in Myers-Briggs temperament studies) is how far our understanding has drifted from Jung's original personality theories upon which they are based. He felt every person should make it a life goal to find BALANCE between the two extremes. Jung would probably say that finding one's current state on the introvert/extrovert spectrum is the first step, not where one should strive to stay stuck. That means extroverts especially should be encouraged to develop the ability to be comfortable alone and quietly mull thoughts deeply. (Because, like you say, introverts are pressured too much as it is to conform to an extrovert mold). :-) Valuing both sets of strengths surely would be a great change culturally!

Cap'n Heine said...

I am definitely an introvert. Although, I try to have enough (scheduled) social activities to not be a full-blown hermit. :)

Myrna Foster said...

I'm an introvert, but I try to spend a lot of time outside my comfort zone.

Nancy Thompson said...

I've evolved from an extreme introvert to a hardcore extrovert. Guess that head injury I sustained at 14 had something to do with it.

Angela Brown said...

This sounds like a pretty good book for introverts and extroverts alike to check out. Introverts can gain the understanding that there isn't anything wrong with them at all. Extroverts can learn how better to see introverts for who they are and respect it.

Steve MC said...

So glad Sarah has her own room, complete with little sisters. Great that she's walking around, too.

I always score 100% on the introvert part of those Myers-Briggs tests. No question about what camp I'm in (or rather, what hut in the mountains).

Just added that book to my wishlist, for when the paperback comes out, and since you enjoy reading about it, here's a couple articles I found really helpful when I needed to feel a bit more reassured of how I am.

See also the interview link in the sidebar.

linda said...

Definitely introvert -- hanging out with people is fun, but it's extremely draining for me. Before I completely shut down due to exhaustion, though, I can (and have) fooled people into thinking I'm an extrovert. :P

Jack said...

Very informative!

How is your daughter doing?