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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking Hardcover – January 24, 2012
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2012: How many introverts do you know? The real answer will probably surprise you. In our culture, which emphasizes group work from elementary school through the business world, everything seems geared toward extroverts. Luckily, introverts everywhere have a new spokesperson: Susan Cain, a self-proclaimed introvert who’s taken it upon herself to better understand the place of introverts in culture and society. With Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Cain explores introversion through psychological research old and new, personal experiences, and even brain chemistry, in an engaging and highly-readable fashion. By delving into introversion, Cain also seeks to find ways for introverts and extroverts to better understand one another--and for introverts to understand their own contradictions, such as the ability to act like extroverts in certain situations. Highly accessible and uplifting for any introvert--and any extrovert who knows an introvert (and over one-third of us are introverts)--Quiet has the potential to revolutionize the “extrovert ideal.” –Malissa Kent
Amazon Exclusive: Q & A with Author Susan Cain
Q: Why did you write the book?
A: For the same reason that Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique in 1963. Introverts are to extroverts what women were to men at that time--second-class citizens with gigantic amounts of untapped talent. Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts, and many introverts believe that there is something wrong with them and that they should try to “pass” as extroverts. The bias against introversion leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and, ultimately, happiness.
Q: What personal significance does the subject have for you?
A: When I was in my twenties, I started practicing corporate law on Wall Street. At first I thought I was taking on an enormous challenge, because in my mind, the successful lawyer was comfortable in the spotlight, whereas I was introverted and occasionally shy. But I soon realized that my nature had a lot of advantages: I was good at building loyal alliances, one-on-one, behind the scenes; I could close my door, concentrate, and get the work done well; and like many introverts, I tended to ask a lot of questions and listen intently to the answers, which is an invaluable tool in negotiation. I started to realize that there’s a lot more going on here than the cultural stereotype of the introvert-as-unfortunate would have you believe. I had to know more, so I spent the past five years researching the powers of introversion.
Q: Was there ever a time when American society valued introverts more highly?
A: In the nation’s earlier years it was easier for introverts to earn respect. America once embodied what the cultural historian Warren Susman called a “Culture of Character,” which valued inner strength, integrity, and the good deeds you performed when no one was looking. You could cut an impressive figure by being quiet, reserved, and dignified. Abraham Lincoln was revered as a man who did not “offend by superiority,” as Emerson put it.
Q: You discuss how we can better embrace introverts in the workplace. Can you explain?
A: Introverts thrive in environments that are not overstimulating—surroundings in which they can think (deeply) before they speak. This has many implications. Here are two to consider: (1) Introverts perform best in quiet, private workspaces—but unfortunately we’re trending in precisely the opposite direction, toward open-plan offices. (2) If you want to get the best of all your employees’ brains, don’t simply throw them into a meeting and assume you’re hearing everyone’s ideas. You’re not; you’re hearing from the most vocally assertive people. Ask people to put their ideas in writing before the meeting, and make sure you give everyone time to speak.
Q: Quiet offers some terrific insights for the parents of introverted children. What environment do introverted kids need in order to thrive, whether it’s at home or at school?
A: The best thing parents and teachers can do for introverted kids is to treasure them for who they are, and encourage their passions. This means: (1) Giving them the space they need. If they need to recharge alone in their room after school instead of plunging into extracurricular activities, that’s okay. (2) Letting them master new skills at their own pace. If they’re not learning to swim in group settings, for example, teach them privately. (3) Not calling them “shy”--they’ll believe the label and experience their nervousness as a fixed trait rather than an emotion they can learn to control.
Q: What are the advantages to being an introvert?
A: There are too many to list in this short space, but here are two seemingly contradictory qualities that benefit introverts: introverts like to be alone--and introverts enjoy being cooperative. Studies suggest that many of the most creative people are introverts, and this is partly because of their capacity for quiet. Introverts are careful, reflective thinkers who can tolerate the solitude that idea-generation requires. On the other hand, implementing good ideas requires cooperation, and introverts are more likely to prefer cooperative environments, while extroverts favor competitive ones.
A Reader’s Guide for Quiet:The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking
By Susan Cain
At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled "quiet," it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society-from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.
Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. This extraordinary book has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how introverts see themselves.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Based on the quiz in the book, do you think you’re an introvert, an extrovert, or an ambivert? Are you an introvert in some situations and an extrovert in others?
2. What about the important people in your lives—your partner, your friends, your kids?
3. Which parts of QUIET resonated most strongly with you? Were there parts you disagreed with—and if so, why?
4. Can you think of a time in your life when being an introvert proved to be an advantage?
5. Who are your favorite introverted role models?
6. Do you agree with the author that introverts can be good leaders? What role do you think charisma plays in leadership? Can introverts be charismatic?
7. If you’re an introvert, what do you find most challenging about working with extroverts?
8. If you’re an extrovert, what do you find most challenging about working with introverts?
9. QUIET explains how Western society evolved from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality. Are there enclaves in our society where a Culture of Character still holds sway? What would a twenty-first-century Culture of Character look like?
10. QUIET talks about the New Groupthink, the value system holding that creativity and productivity emerge from group work rather than individual thought. Have you experienced this in your own workplace?
11. Do you think your job suits your temperament? If not, what could you do to change things?
12. If you have children, how does your temperament compare to theirs? How do you handle areas in which you’re not temperamentally compatible?
13. If you’re in a relationship, how does your temperament compare to that of your partner? How do you handle areas in which you’re not compatible?
14. Do you enjoy social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and do you think this has something to do with your temperament?
15. QUIET talks about “restorative niches,” the places introverts go or the things they do to recharge their batteries. What are your favorite restorative niches?
16. Susan Cain calls for a Quiet Revolution. Would you like to see this kind of a movement take place, and if so, what is the number-one change you’d like to see happen?
People Top 10 Book of 2012
O, The Oprah Magazine 10 Favorite Books of 2012
Christian Science Monitor Best Books of 2012
2012 Goodreads Choice Award, Best Nonfiction
Fast Company #1 Business Book of 2012
Inc Magazine Best Books for Entrepreneurs in 2012
Library Journal Best Books of 2012
Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2012
"An important book that should embolden anyone who's ever been told, 'Speak up!'"
"Cain offers a wealth of useful advice for teachers and parents of introverts…Quiet should interest anyone who cares about how people think, work, and get along, or wonders why the guy in the next cubicle acts that way. It should be required reading for introverts (or their parents) who could use a boost to their self-esteem."
--Wall Street Journal
"An intriguing and potentially life-altering examination of the human psyche that is sure to benefit both introverts and extroverts alike."
--Kirkus, Starred Review
"Cain gives excellent portraits of a number of introverts and shatters misconceptions. Cain consistently holds the reader’s interest by presenting individual profiles, looking at places dominated by extroverts (Harvard Business School) and introverts (a West Coast retreat center), and reporting on the latest studies. Her diligence, research, and passion for this important topic has richly paid off."
"This book is a pleasure to read and will make introverts and extroverts alike think twice about the best ways to be themselves and interact with differing personality types."
"An intelligent and often surprising look at what makes us who we are."
"In this well-written, unusually thoughtful book, Cain encourages solitude seekers to see themselves anew: not as wallflowers but as powerful forces to be reckoned with."
"Those who value a quiet, reflective life will feel a burden lifting from their shoulders as they read Susan Cain's eloquent and well documented paean to introversion--and will no longer feel guilty or inferior for having made the better choice!"
--MIHALY CSIKSZENTMIHALYI, author of Flow and Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Management, Claremont Graduate University
"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
"Quiet is a book of liberation from old ideas about the value of introverts. Cain’s intelligence, respect for research, and vibrant prose put Quiet in an elite class with the best books from Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Pink, and other masters of psychological non-fiction."
--TERESA AMABILE, Professor, Harvard Business School, and coauthor, The Progress Principle
"As an introvert often called upon to behave like an extrovert, I found the information in this book revealing and helpful. Drawing on neuroscientific research and many case reports, Susan Cain explains the advantages and potentials of introversion and of being quiet in a noisy world."
--ANDREW WEIL, author of Healthy Aging and Spontaneous Happiness
"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
"Susan Cain is the definer of a new and valuable paradigm. In this moving and original argument, she makes the case that we are losing immense reserves of talent and vision because of our culture's overvaluation of extroversion. A startling, important, and readable page-turner that will make quiet people see themselves in a whole new light."
--NAOMI WOLF, author of The Beauty Myth
"Superb…A compelling reflection on how the Extrovert Ideal shapes our lives and why this is deeply unsettling. Based on meticulous research, it will open up a new and different conversation on how the personal is political and how we need to empower the legions of people who are disposed to be quiet, reflective, and sensitive."
--BRIAN R. LITTLE, PH.D., Distinguished Scholar, Department of Social and Developmental Psychology, Cambridge University
"Quiet elevates the conversation about introverts in our outwardly-oriented society to new heights. I think that many introverts will discover that, even though they didn't know it, they have been waiting for this book all their lives."
--ADAM S. MCHUGH, author of Introverts in the Church
"Gentle is powerful... Solitude is socially productive... These important counter-intuitive ideas are among the many reasons to take Quiet to a quiet corner and absorb its brilliant, thought-provoking message."
--ROSABETH MOSS KANTER, Harvard Business School professor, author of Confidence and SuperCorp
"Memo to all you glad-handing, back-slapping, brainstorming masters of the universe out there: Stop networking and talking for a minute and read this book. In Quiet, Susan Cain does an eloquent and powerful job of extolling the virtues of the listeners and the thinkers--the reflective introverts of the world who appreciate that hard problems demand careful thought and who understand that it's a good idea to know what you want to say before you open your mouth."
--BARRY SCHWARTZ, author of Practical Wisdom and The Paradox of Choice
“A smart, lively book about the value of silence and solitude that makes you want to shout from the rooftops. Quiet is an engaging and insightful look into the hearts and minds of those who change the world instead of tweeting about it.”
--DANIEL GILBERT, professor of psychology, Harvard University, author of Stumbling on Happiness
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I blamed myself - there must be something `wrong with me' because I can't handle the job. I wanted to leave, but thought, if I can't handle this job, how am I going to handle a new job? It'll probably be more of the same. I thought I was just getting soft because I was getting older (I'm in my late 40s).
I've always known I was introverted, but I didn't realize just what all that entailed - I thought it mostly meant `shy' or that I didn't like social settings.
This book taught me more about myself than I've ever known. It read like my biography. Almost every page had a new insight into why I think and feel the way I do. Throughout the book I saw my very own self described in new and empowering ways.
I learned that the job situation I'm currently in - the non-stop deadline demands, interruptions, never being able to work quietly or alone no matter how difficult a project was, phones ringing incessantly, people in my face all day long, etc. - especially when it's work that I actually don't care anything about personally - those are the exact circumstances that trip every one of a strong introvert's triggers. And I was subjecting myself to it 40 hours a week, for months.
It's no wonder I was so miserable and completely exhausted all the time. And as enlightening as it was to learn how many of the traits I've beat myself up for over the years are just a product of my introverted temperament (being highly sensitive, shutting down when subjected to stimulation overload, preferring to think a thing through before I speak - something I never get to do at work, as if it takes me more than 5 seconds to say something, I get interrupted and cut off), the most important thing I got from this book is that it's okay to be myself, it's okay to feel the way I do. There is not something `wrong with me' that I have to `fix.' I am not weak or a failure because I don't feel or behave like my extremely extroverted boss (who thrives in high-energy crisis mode, and is bored unless he's doing 10 things at once - and expects the rest of us to keep up).
And far from it being an age-related `going soft,' what's probably in fact going on is that as I get older, it is becoming increasingly vital to me to be truer to myself.
I also found the information on the history of the "rise of the Culture of Personality" completely fascinating, it really gave me a new insight as to just exactly how we 'grew' this tendency to value extroversion over introversion. It makes so much more sense now.
This book gave me the courage I needed to start taking the steps to fix my work situation. Not only the courage, but the `permission' and the understanding - because I now know there isn't something wrong with me, but instead this is what I need to do to be my best self, and stop killing myself with stress. That I probably can find a place of value in the world by being myself, not trying to force myself to be something I'm not. I know I will meet resistance from my boss (I'd love for him to read this book, but unfortunately I know he won't), and I know I won't instantly fix everything in one day, and that I'll probably always need to be able to stretch myself a bit to do things that are not ideal for me ... but this book taught me that there are ways to make that work, too, if you understand and honor the need for recharging around such tasks, instead of trying to force yourself to do them 8 hours a day with no break. It doesn't have to be all or nothing, in either direction. Basically, I'm not out of the woods yet, but I now see the path out, and I have hope.
I think every introvert should read this book, because it will help you understand why you are who you are, and why that's a beautiful thing, not a character flaw. And I think everyone who knows an introvert should read this book, and quit trying to "fix us."
Which means pretty much the entire country (or world) should read this book. The wealth of information and insights in this book cannot be overstated - especially if you are an introverted type of person who has always felt there was something not quite right about you, or that you somehow needed to change to fit in or succeed. This book will give you back yourself, and in my case, my life. Thank you, Susan Cain, from the bottom of my heart (which is finally beating at a more normal speed because I'm not panicked about going to work for the first time in months).
Edited 11-13-14: It worked! I'm now working half-days at the office and half-days at home, and in a few weeks will transition to working from home full time. I never imagined that could happen. It's amazing what becomes possible when you finally realize you deserve what you already knew you needed.
I gave it four stars only because it is extremely long, and I found a lot of it tedious to read. I am an excellent reader, and it has taken me most of my summer break to get through the book. I was never bored exactly, but it does have a lot of information. It requires a lot of attention while you read it. I'm so glad that I did, but this should not be approached as light reading.
In the Culture of Character, the ideal self was serious, disciplined and honorable. What counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved in private. When we embraced the Culture of Personality, Americans started to focus on how others perceived them. They became captivated by people who were bold and entertaining. - Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
I grew up around farmers who barely spoke three words strung together - they were gruff and tough - but you just knew, deep down, that you could trust them with your life, they were straight shooters, no B.S., hard-working, God-fearing folks. People shook your hand and it was the truth, it was a done deal.
In a small town, the Culture of Character still exists. Where you are not judged based on your first impression, or your most recent comments, or if you said the "right thing" or if you said anything at all. People know you. They know what you're about. They know if you are honest, or not. They know about your parents, grand parents, siblings - the good the bad and the ugly. Once you're in, you're in - for life. Who you are matters, not the "show" you put on to convince people of who you want them to think you are.
That's the Culture of Personality, this sausage maker we have all been forced into, this world that thrives on first impressions, Facebook status, resume building and a winning smile. No one knows US - the real us - because we are not allowed to be real. We are selling ourselves in every moment of everyday - whatever "role" we have created for ourselves must be maintained - at any cost. We cannot be complex, multifaceted human beings with a wide range of emotions, opinions, interests and needs. This is too difficult to regulate, control and market.
You must choose a box, usually during college, crawl inside and remain their permanently. Deviation could result in missed promotions, lost status and diminished prospects. So we all dream of "retirement," the time when we believe we can really be ourselves - do what we really want to do and stop cowering before the powers that be.
Not likely. After a lifetime of submission, freedom cannot be resurrected. Freedom must be practiced. The Culture of Personality will persist in new ways. Our craving to belong, to fit in - those needs we have incubated since preschool - remain intact, stronger than ever and drive ever onward.
"Americans found [find] themselves working no longer with neighbors but with strangers. "Citizens" morphed into "employees," facing the question of how to make a good impression on people to whom they have no civic or family ties. Americans have responded to these pressures by trying to become salesmen who could sell not only their company's latest gizmo but also themselves."
- Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
I know what you're thinking: "That's just the way it is bub, get over it already." Right you are. I am not so much longing for a return to my imagined utopia of small town U.S.A. as I am pointing out what has been lost. Americans tend to be "all in" kind of people - we do everything to the extreme - moderation and balance are not our strong suits. When a " new, latest, greatest solution" to any problem emerges, we go all in, tear down our existing structures, re-create our selves and our organizations in this "new image" wait five years, get frustrated with the lack of results and do it all over again. (Think about "school reform" which has been occurring since the very first school was established).
Our problem is that we throw everything "old" out and accept everything "new" as better. We throw out many good ideas, practices and people in the process. The Culture of Personality is shallow, temporary, insecure and trendy. We need to "get rich quick" because we expect to be thrown out on our butts as soon as we get too "old," start to wrinkle or lose our "network of connections" to retirement.
Who we are ceases to matter - who we appear to be is the driver of our destiny. Social media, anyone? This becomes a 24/7 responsibility, to decorate our box to attract others, never showing our real selves for fear of rejection.
So yes, I do miss being "known." I miss knowing others - being able to dismiss a comment or act because I know the person at the core and could put every other interaction into that context. When people become "connections" they stop being people. People are complex. They fail. They screw up. They say inappropriate things. They age. None of which is allowed in the Culture of Personality, where your value is on what you can do, for me, today - yesterday is dead and gone.
Unfortunately, it is only in hindsight that we can see what we missed, how we screwed up and realize what we should have fought harder to preserve. As social media rages on - and we all sink deeper and deeper into the cocoons of our own design - I am desperately trying to see it before I lose it. See what? To see my life from the end, to value what will matter in hindsight, not what trends, ego or insecurity tell me to value today.
In the end, what really matters?
That is the ultimate question that every individual must ask and answer for themselves. When you take your last breath - a day that will arrive despite your futile efforts against "aging" - will you update your Facebook status ("dying, just taking last breath, not what I expected, SCARED!!! BTW, where is my family?") or will you hug your spouse and children, share tears of joy and gratitude for a life well lived?
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."
- Matthew 7:24-27
Is a good life lived built on a foundation of character or of personality. Which is the rock and which is the sand? I think I know.
What you would choose at your last breath is what you should do now.