Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking
Author: Susan Kain
Reviewer: Merryn Corcoran
Written in 2012 this non-fiction book by Susan Cain argues that modern Western culture misunderstands and undervalues the traits and capabilities of introverted people, leading to "a colossal waste of talent, energy, and happiness"
The book presents a history of how Western culture transformed from a culture of character to a culture of personality in which an "extrovert ideal" dominates and introversion is viewed as inferior or even pathological. Adopting scientific definitions of introversion and extroversion as preferences for different levels of stimulation, Quiet outlines the advantages and disadvantages of each temperament, emphasizing the myth of the extrovert ideal that has dominated in the West since the early twentieth century. Asserting that temperament is a core element of human identity, Cain cites research in biology, psychology, neuroscience and evolution to demonstrate that introversion is both common and normal, noting that many of humankind's most creative individuals and distinguished leaders were introverts. Cain urges changes at the workplace, in schools, and in parenting; offers advice to introverts for functioning in an extrovert-dominated culture; and offers advice in communication, work, and relationships between people of differing temperament.
The above paragraph is the Wikipedia definition of this great book.
This was my first visit to the New Zealand Business Women’s Book Club and it didn’t disappoint. We had a lively and diverse discussion at the Ozone Cafe over an impressive brunch served with excellent coffee.
It is also my first NZBWN Book Club review, and not having the intellectual reach that we find in Wikipedia, I have attempted to outline this book with my take from general comments and conversation from our session.
Early in the piece a show of hands was asked for as to who believed they were introverts or extroverts. As a group of 20, we were fairly well evenly matched...
We were informed (a first for me) that there is also a group called ‘ambiverts’ which is somewhere in between.
It was mooted that there is a distinct difference between being shy and being introverted.
It was noteworthy to hear on reading this book that members of the group had begun reflecting on work colleagues and work situations with fresh eyes.
Several of the group spoke about how it helped to see they may need to bring the voice of their ‘quieter’ colleagues out via a different approach. How as leaders and managers we perhaps need to learn to ‘listen’ in a different way.
The discussion led on to the subject of ‘open plan’ work space and how this effected the introverts in relation to the extroverts. The need for a dedicated space/office, where quiet solutions could be facilitated.
‘Quiet’ is passionately presented but without being patronising. It is full of ‘real’ stories. In some places one could feel that author is repeating herself, but we discussed that American writers often have a different style to English writers Sometimes it is important to get past the Americanisim’s (if there is such a word) and benefit from the passion, commitment and research of the author.
The introvert/extrovert divide is the most fundamental dimension of personality. And at least a third of us are on the introverted side. A lot of the world's most talented people are introverts. Without them we wouldn't have the Apple computer, the theory of relativity and Van Gogh's sunflowers.
Quiet is a very relevant book for our time, and Cain's voice and research is bright, fresh and important. Perhaps the extrovert superlative is no longer as powerful as it was; maybe it is time we all stopped to listen to the still, small voice of serenity and ‘quiet’.