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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
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614 of 631 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 17, 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is hardly an impartial review. 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.

In "Quiet," Ms. Cain explains the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the 1920s and how it is that today we associate talkative, risk-taking, and action-oriented people with intelligence, beauty, power and success. The Extrovert Ideal is so pervasive that influences our work performance, educational policies, political choices, and even the country's financial health. But the focus of "Quiet" is on exposing the myths and misunderstandings that were born when we as a culture embraced the Extrovert Ideal and turned introversion into a malady to be avoided.

To dispel the misconception that introversion is some kind of sickness or "weirdness", Ms. Cain traces both the biological and cultural basis for introversion and extroversion and their role as evolutionary survival strategies in animals and humans. She interviews scientists who have conducted hundreds of studies to test different theories in an effort to determine how much of our temperament is a result of genetics and/or of our free will.

The best part of "Quiet" is that the insights gleaned from these studies can help introverts take advantage of their special traits and thrive on their own terms in an extroverted world. Since introversion and extroversion are preferences for a certain level of outside stimulation, Ms. Cain advises introverts to find their "sweet spot" --or what scientists call the optimal level of arousal. Scientists also notice that introverts engage in "deliberate practice" or working alone so for those looking for a job, Ms. Cain encourages them to pay attention to the layout of working spaces to determine how much interruption they may have to deal with at work. For those still deciding on a career, the author reminds readers that research shows that introverts are not reward-seeking like extroverts, but rather motivated by the enjoyment they find in pursuing an activity; in other words, by being in what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls the "flow". Ms. Cain offers encouragement to introverts to venture in the extrovert world because we all have the ability to stretch our limits but the optimal way for introverts to do it is in the service of their "core projects," the things they are passionate about. And for those with children, the author dedicates an entire chapter for helping introvert children become confident and comfortable in extroverted environments and situations.

Amid the research and the advice, Ms. Cain calls the readers' attention to those introverts who have made a difference in the world like Rosa Parks and Ghandi. They showed that empathy, thoughtfulness, persistence, compassion, focus and conscientiousness, all characteristics ascribed to introversion, are leadership attributes too.

"Quiet" has not only given me a better understanding of introversion but also of the opposite trait. The same person, who labeled me as "anti-social" also boasted on how easily he could befriend people and in the same breath, complained about how my quietness and solitary pursuits would be hell for him. After reading Ms. Cain's book, now I realize why somebody who can make 100 friends would be so bothered by the one solitude-seeking friend in the group and why introverts and extroverts attract each other. And so, I think, introverts and extroverts will both benefit from reading "Quiet". But for those of us, innies who find joy in doing our own thing, prefer a book than join a party or think monastic silence is bliss, there is no longer any need to feel guilty or like we are oddballs because of our preferences. The message from "Quiet" is clear. Introversion has never been an aberration but a variant of the norm.
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1,444 of 1,546 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 9, 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
First, look at this list from pg 5 in the introduction to this book:

"Without introverts, the world would be devoid of

the theory of gravity
the theory of relativity
W.B. Yeats's 'The Second Coming'
Chopin's nocturnes
Proust's 'In Search of Lost Time'
Peter Pan
Orwell's '1984' and 'Animal Farm'
The Cat in the Hat
Charlie Brown
'Schindler's List,' 'E.T.,' and 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind'
Harry Potter"

Of course, that is only a tiny list of the accomplishments of introverts, and she forgot to put the Theory of Evolution in that list. Let's face it. One cannot expect people handicapped with extroversion to be able to think deeply or meditate over the serious philosophical, scientific, or supremely artistic subjects which move the deeper among us.

Okay, maybe extroversion is not a handicap, but it is important to realize that introversion is no more a handicap than extroversion. So, the extroverts deserve a retaliatory jab once in a while for treating introverts as though we are mentally and socially challenged.

This book by Susan Cain is the ultimate jab, though she is sometimes overnice toward the ones that have promoted "The Extrovert Ideal" for more than a century in the U.S. I do not believe I have read any better work dealing with the issue of personality than "Quiet."

There are some scientific points to be made in the book, with mention of studies that show how introversion or extroversion are biologically, genetically ingrained in us, though some of the studies (particularly the one mentioning literal "thin skin") strike me as somewhat irrelevant if not pseudoscientific. Some of the best information has to do with twin studies, particularly notable for showing the error of "blank slate" theory. See also The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker. I am a little puzzled there was no mention of Pinker in this book, even in the footnotes.

I am tempted to go through all of the subjects covered in this book and give a summary, but better than that is the list of thoughts from Susan Cain's blog, which will give an idea of the thrust of the book:

1. There's a word for "people who are in their heads too much": thinkers.

2. Our culture rightly admires risk-takers, but we need our "heed-takers" more than ever.

3. Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.

4. Texting is popular because in an overly extroverted society, everyone craves asynchronyous, non-F2F communication.

5. We teach kids in group classrooms not because this is the best way to learn but because it's cost-efficient, and what else would we do with the children while all the grown-ups are at work? If your child prefers to work autonomously and socialize one-on-one, there's nothing wrong with her; she just happens not to fit the model.

6. The next generation of quiet kids can and should be raised to know their own strength.

7. Sometimes it helps to be a pretend-extrovert. There's always time to be quiet later.

8. But in the long run, staying true to your temperament is the key to finding work you love and work that matters.

9. Everyone shines, given the right lighting. For some, it's a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.

10. Rule of thumb for networking events: one genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards.

11. It's OK to cross the street to avoid making small talk.

12. "Quiet leadership" is not an oxymoron.

13. The universal longing for heaven is not about immortality so much as the wish for a world in which everyone is always kind.

14. If the task of the first half of life is to put yourself out there, the task of the second half is to make sense of where you've been.

15. Love is essential, gregariousness is optional.

16."In a gentle way, you can shake the world." - Gandhi

The last thing I would like to convey is that I am happy I read this book, because being an introvert all of one's life can be difficult in modern U.S. culture. Being treated as a freak because of the personality characteristics introversion entails is unfortunate. Extroverts have it good right now, and frequently get the best rewards, even when an introvert is the one that deserves those rewards, value being placed on personality rather than merit, but it helps introverts to know we have superior characteristics, and should not regret them.
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453 of 491 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I loved this book! It's all about introverts in a culture that celebrates extroversion. We have a personality worshiping culture and the new social media has only made it worse. Everyone on Facebook is a performer. Despite 1/3 to 1/2 of the population being introverts, everything in our culture from parenting to school to work to socializing celebrates and rewards extroversion. Some of the most creative and brilliant creators and thinkers in history were introverts. The theme of this work is that introverts have a great deal to offer the world and that we are making a mistake by not accommodating and encouraging this important personality type.

This is a compelling and very well-written book. I hope it will do very well. The author is raising very important points and has done so in a well researched and thoughtful work. I highly recommend this book and don't think you will be disappointed. Two very big thumbs up!

This book doesn't have the "look inside" feature so I offer the following TOC so you can get an idea what it contains.

Part One: The Extrovert Ideal

1. The Rise of the "Mighty Likeable Fellow": How Extroversion Became the Cultural Ideal
2. The Myth of Charismatic Leadership: The Culture of Personality, a Hundred Years Later
3. When Collaboration Kills Creativity: The Rise of the New Groupthink, and the Power of Working Alone

Part Two: Your Biology, Your Self?

4. Is Temperament Destiny?: Nature, Nurture, and the Orchid Hypothesis
5. Beyond Temperament: The Role of Free Will (and the Secret of Public Speaking for Introverts)
6. Franklin Was a Politician, But Eleanor Spoke out of Conscience: Why Cool Is Overrated
7. Why Did Wall Street Crash and Warren Buffet Prosper?: How Introverts and Extroverts Think (and Process Dopamine) Differently

Part Three: Do All Cultures Have an Extrovert Ideal?

8: Soft Power: The Wind Howls but the Mountain Remains Still

Part Four: How to Love, How to Work

9. When Should You Act More Extroverted Than You Really Are?
10. The Communication Gap: How to Talk to Members of the Opposite... Type
11. On Cobblers and Generals: How to Cultivate Quiet Kids in a World That Can't Hear Them

Conclusion: Wonderland
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797 of 873 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I very much enjoyed this book and thought it did a great job of presenting much research about introverts, but as an introvert myself I think it missed part of the whole picture. The author strongly emphasizes being QUIET when I just don't think all introverts are that way. Some, such as Steve Martin, can be quite talkative, dramatic, and gregarious in the right settings and don't have fears of public speaking such as the ones the author wrote so much about.

It's very possible to have a rich inner life, not want over-stimulation from the environment, and desire plenty of self (or down) time and privacy and yet often be quite outwardly stimulating oneself--i.e. dynamic, dramatic, expressive--as opposed to shy, inhibited, and quiet in many personal and public settings. I think many writers, actors, and artists can be very talkative with intimates and in their work--i.e. talking about their ideas and feelings long into the night with trusted others or putting on quite a 'show' for others--but the author, who focuses so much on examples from the business world, never really delves into this very expressive and yet introverted type.

Though this book is interesting, encouraging, and well-written, I think I would prefer one less informed by so many personal experiences in the world of Wall Street and Harvard business and more based on the scientific study of introversion with analysis and examples of various subtypes and their presence in various walks of life.
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303 of 332 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Background: I'm an INFP (very strong on I and N, weak F, middling P) on the Myers-Briggs typology; I first took the test almost 25 years ago, and have done much further reading on personality, motivation and behavior since. The last two books I read before this one were Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us and The Sociopath Next Door (I mention this because this book touches on psychopathy).

This book has the most to offer if you're new to the research into personality types and its many sub-genres (evolutionary biology, psychology etc). The author is NOT a scientist; she is a lawyer by training, a self-confessed introvert (though I would judge a weak one), and, I have to say, a pretty good journalist. The book's various chapters are lay-person overviews of various types of personality research, and therefore a good resource for finding further reading; for example, the author briefly discusses Myer's-Briggs typing, the book Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life (itself a summary of other research) and popular books on the nature of pscyhopathy. She also attends a Tony Robbins seminar (my own personal vision of Hell), speaks to an introverted leader of a popular evangelical church who struggles with the conflict between his introversion and the extroversion demanded by his church, discusses the extroverted ideal of American culture and business (including something that helped drive me into self-employment as a creative professional, the dreaded "open plan" workspace model), and speaks to a variety of other researchers to get primary-source material.

My main problem with the book is that it tries to divide introverts and extroverts a little too cleanly, imputing personality traits into one side or the other that are commonly found in both types or explained by aspects of personality other than the introversion/ extroversion scale. For example, introverts are presented as more empathetic than extroverts, when this is simply untrue; I know many introverts who are highly sensitive emotionally, but this sensitivity is entirely inwardly-focused and does not extend to strong empathy for the well-being of others (in other words, they are self-absorbed though highly emotional), and I know many extroverts who would make great personal sacrifices to help someone in need because they have a high degree of empathy for their fellow man, and do not engage in constant navel-gazing. And vice-versa. There is much more to empathy than the introversion / extroversion divide, and if you just read this book, pat yourself on the back for being such a good introvert and then never do further reading, you're going to walk away with a much simplified (and frequently incorrect) view of the nature of introversion.

Summary: worth a read, but be sure to do follow-up reading using the primary sources.
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87 of 92 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This book finally provided the validation I've needed for my feelings of frustration and anxiety I have about the way we live. I have never felt like I fit in, and this book finally explained why. I was always the kid who hated group work, loud parties, and crowded concerts, and thus was labeled "weird" and "anti-social." I always thought there was something wrong with me...until I read this book. The author explains how American society has shifted from valuing the kind of person you are to the kind of person you portray...and along the way the "extrovert ideal" developed in which the talkative, gregarious, outgoing types became valued over the quiet, introspective, thoughtful types. The history of all of this blew my mind, from the schools in the 50s sending letters home to parents stating that their child was a "problem case" if they didn't constantly speak up and socialize in class, to the shift of being quiet, reserved, and shy from personality traits to actual pathologies like social anxiety disorder. It also talked about how other countries/cultures have the complete opposite perspective in that they value introversion over extroversion. This book helped me realize that I am perfectly justified if I prefer to stay in and read a book as opposed to go out to a party, and that being introverted is normal and not something that needs to be "fixed." Every page I read hit home, as if this book was written about me personally. If you have ever felt alienated for being an introvert, READ THIS BOOK.
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92 of 100 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The first time I was discriminated against because I was an introvert was when I was in high school and was not inducted into the National Honor Society, in spite of good grades, I was not in enough extracurricular activities. (I participated in some... but not enough!) Later in life I ended up loosing a job because I could not concentrate in an overly stimulating workplace. I was able to do all of my work but I had a hard time concentrating in a world where the boss thought it was fun to have all of the lab technicians have a desk in a central lab where there was constant coming and going by everyone. There was always a radio playing in every lab where I had to work. I hated every job I ever had and now say I hate working.

Here is what I learned about myself from reading Quiet (The power of introvert in a world that can't stop talking). The modern workplace is designed for maximum chaos and noise. Two thirds of the people around me are extroverts who thrive in the chaotic environments of work and shopping.

Cain also discusses in detail what it means to be a very sensitive person. She quotes the research of Grazyna Kochanska who noted that babies who were more sensitive to all experiences, both positive and negative seemed to feel greater sensitivity as infants. Apparently these same children are less likely than their peers to cheat or break rules even when they think they can't be caught. By age 6 or 7 these children are more likely to be described by their parents as having high levels of moral traits such as empathy. Functional moderate guilt Kochanska wrote may promote altruism, personal responsibility, and adaptive behavio.

A study of University of Michigan students shows that today's students are 40 less sympathetic than they were 30 years ago with much of the drop having occurred since 2000. Whatever the reason it is interesting to note that empathy is declining just as rates of extroversion are rising among college students.

This is a wonderful book for both introverts and the extroverts who love or work with them. It is quite well researched and documented. My only quibble is that she refers to introverts as quiet, while I am not a particularly quiet person. I speak my mind in public and private, participate in group discussions and don't mind public speaking. Also she goes on and on about one subject for far too long. She could have said everything in this book in about three fourths of the words and made the book far more readable.
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67 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Susan Cain's new book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, has the power to change the way we think about ourselves, each other, and our world. Cain sheds new light on creativity and success by showing that, even in business, many acts of creation have sprung from solitude, not collaboration. As a card-carrying introvert in a workplace - Harvard Business School - that Cain aptly calls the "Spiritual Capital of Extroversion," I recognized the daily challenges that "quiet people" face, as well as the value they can bring, to a world that prizes socializing and fast judgment. This quietly audacious book gives all of us - introverts and extroverts alike - tools that we need to be happier, more effective, and more appreciative of different ways of being.

Quiet deserves to be read by the one-third of us who are introverts, and by everyone who may underestimate introverts at work, in school, and in society. Why? Three reasons:

First, it is a wonderful read. Each chapter springs to life with a story that sparkles with fascinating detail - how the first Apple computer got invented, for example; how Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt fell in love; or how it feels to be welcomed into a Tony Robbins seminar. Even the tales of the research on introversion and extroversion are compelling, bringing the researchers, their subjects, and their scientific quests to life.

The second reason is all that research. Cain marshals evidence to back up every claim. Much of the research was done by others - psychologists, organizational behavior scholars, educational researchers - with Cain reporting, synthesizing, and interpreting. I'm familiar with much of the original research and, as far as I can tell, Cain gets the story right, from Jerome Kagan's studies of temperament in infants to Adam Grant's studies of introversion and extroversion in leaders. And Cain has done a great deal of research herself, including history (like the extreme introversion of Mahatma Gandhi and Rosa Parks) and literature (even the Bible), extensive interviews, and observations in a variety of settings. Cain humanizes all of this not only by making each person real, but also by sprinkling her own personal history throughout. The book is, essentially, a string of great stories woven together by a strong underlying theme: introversion is vastly underrated.

Finally, Quiet is enormously practical. Take, for example, the self-quiz in the opening pages, which helps readers orient themselves toward their own degree of introversion or extroversion. Or the final chapters, which include a great deal of useful advice on how introverts can comfortably behave more like extroverts when they need to; how extroverts and introverts can understand, benefit from, and even love one another; and how parents and teachers can raise introverted children to be comfortable, competent, and happy adults.

I read a pre-publication version of this book, and endorsed it. Having re-read it just now, I remain enthusiastic. I predict that we will soon be hearing a lot of noise about Quiet, for good reason.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Susan Cain's "Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" puts the spotlight on sensitive, serious, and thoughtful people. Using data from numerous sources and citing studies and experiments conducted by a variety of researchers, Cain explores the history of extroversion/introversion, discusses the nature vs. nurture controversy, and clearly explains how the cult of personality evolved over time. Introverts, Cain asserts, are sometimes overshadowed and/or intimidated by their flashier counterparts who enjoy being the center of attention, are outspoken, and often act impulsively. In fact, the author states that "introversion ... is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology."

Why should we care whether or not extroversion has become "an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform"? Cain insists that this issue matters, for a variety of reasons. First of all, if they are not stifled, introverts can make important contributions from which we may all profit. Cain lists a number of luminaries (Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Gandhi, among others) who achieved great things in spite (or because of) their tendency "to consider stimuli rather than rushing to engage with them." Talented women like Susan Cain herself, a self-described introvert, have struggled when competing with their more gregarious counterparts. We must be especially careful to nurture subdued boys and girls who may be left behind, or even bullied, by their classmates. Teachers may be tempted to criticize these students for not speaking up more in class. Parents of an introvert should ask their child's teacher to give her the support and encouragement that she needs. Cain suggests that, with careful planning and by making certain adjustments, reticent people can remain true to themselves yet also succeed personally and professionally.

"Quiet" is a wake-up call for all of us. In her lucidly written, well-organized, and compassionate book, Cain eloquently states that we should respect, honor, and buoy up the introverts among us, instead of ignoring and marginalizing them. Introverts are found everywhere; they may be doctors, artists, composers, plumbers, teachers, accountants, or administrators. We should try to empathize with people who prefers their own company, eschew small talk, avoid loud and crowded gatherings, and think before they speak. Where do introverts fit in and what role do they play in a world that appears to value expansive individuals? That is a question we should all ponder and discuss.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Susan Cain has done a really impressive job in arguing how important it is for introverts to value themselves even though American culture is so skewed towards the extrovert ideal. She lists all the things we would not have in our world were it not for an introvert: the Internet, Apple, or even (perhaps) the Civil Rights movement. So passionate is Susan Cain about the power o introversion that sometimes she seems to be almost apologizing to that half of the world (and presumably her readers) who are extroverts. That, I admit, made me (a self-confessed introvert) smile. After all, most of the time, I read books that say there is nothing (much) wrong with being an introvert (which those books equate with being shy). It was therefore quite nice to read a book that so systematically demolished the many myths about introverts, beginning with the definition.

Introverts are not shy people; they are people who prefer low levels of stimulation. They draw their energy from quiet me-time whereas extroverts draw their energy from other people. Introverts are the leaders you need when you're trying to create something new because they allow (indeed encourage) everyone to have their own idea while the extrovert is the leader you need to keep something routine going because extroverts are the cheerleaders who can be counted on to make a routine task more fun.

And if, like me, you're an introvert who has been criticized for not liking small talk or socializing activities or been told that you think too much, this book will come as a great relief. Reading it is almost an affirmation; a kind of I am not alone moment. It really is great to know that my introversion is inherited and that it is wholly normal. That it's OK to not be able to think in groups (that, in fact, most people don't think well in groups), that innovation really does happen when you work alone, and that many of the most famous people (from Warren Buffet to Rosa Parks to Darwin) are or were introverts.

Quiet has little good to say about our culture's extrovert ideal which has created a world where introverts must struggle so hard to carve out a niche for themselves. In our world, even the office space (with its open floor plan) is tailor made for the extrovert. And that's not even counting the frequent presentations and meetings people are expected to give and attend. In our world, there doesn't seem to be room for thought; only for talking. And yet, the introvert's power lies in solitary thought and quiet persuasion.

That's the first part of the book, anyway. The second half reads a lot like many of the other self-help manuals out there. The advice to identify our core passions (which Susan Cain provides in the second half of the book) for example, is advice that's good for anyone--and advice I at least have heard many times before. So, my personal advice is to read the first half of the book several times. It can really change the way you see the world and yourself and maybe skim over the second part.
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