Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
In “Quiet” Susan Cain leads us into a fascinating discussion of introversion and its place in a world that is dominated by extroversion. She describes introverts as those remarkable individuals who have innovated, built and led movements, quietly, humbly, sometimes single-handedly, leaving an indelible mark on the world. Famous examples listed in the book including Rosa Parks, Steven Spielberg, and Bill Gates, all of whom dramatically altered the world, each in their own way.
The Rise of the Extrovert
Susan Cain takes us on a journey through time, as she elucidates the rise of the extrovert in western society and demonstrates how people who identify with this personality-defining trait have become the preferred and most valued role models in our culture. She describes how western society transitioned from one that primarily respects ‘character’ to one that worships ‘personality’. Today, she laments, not only does the extrovert dominate, but the introvert is belittled, frowned upon and considered to have some sort of psychological disorder or weakness.
A World Designed for Extroverts
Cain examines the American business culture, where introverts are often overlooked for leadership roles. She observes how office settings work against the introvert, where brainstorming sessions tend to be controlled by extroverts, leaving little room for the introvert to interject, thus giving the impression that he or she has nothing substantive to offer to the conversation. The same problem exists in the classroom, where students who are the most vocal or interactive are rewarded and quiet students are often overlooked.
Seeking A Quiet Revolution
“Quiet,” which has been featured in the New York Times Bestseller list for the last three years, is more than just a study of the introvert temperament. Cain seeks to change the way schools, offices, parents and other forums that are central in our everyday lives think about introversion and label introverts. She seeks to make a case for introversion, for those of us who have been quietly navigating a world dominated by an extrovert culture. She advocates for systemic changes in each of these environments. “Quiet” has the power to completely transform our impression of the introvert through true stories, sociological studies and psychological research.
For Introverts by an Introvert
Cain, herself an introvert, is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, two challenging environments for an introvert. She became a lawyer on Wall Street, an experience she likened to being stationed in a foreign land. Preferring home and family, she turned to writing. She was inspired to write “Quiet” by her own life and the challenges she has faced. She describes the experience of living in a world that is not designed for the likes of her, where praise for extroversion is so present, most don’t even notice it. For example, we are drawn to books like, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, suggesting that we should all aspire to be most visible and most social because that is the only road to success.
The Quiet Voice Deserves to be Heard
Ultimately, Cain is not suggesting that everyone should become an introvert, an impossible task as her book points out. Rather she promotes a “balance of power” between those who quietly and deeply reflect upon a subject before speaking and those who jump out of the starting gate, already armed with words and action. She believes that we all have something to learn from one another and only through healthy respect and equal opportunities will the world fully benefit from all its people.