Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

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Cain does an amazing job getting to the nitty gritty of what makes introverts tick. I enjoyed her down-to-earth style and stories which helped bring it all-together for me.

She starts off with who are introverts, what does that mean, and who came up with this? We get a little background into some psychology history.

She then goes into why we live in such and extroverted culture and what that means. And how are basic assumptions like brainstorming and groupthink actually aren't effective. She gives us business example of where these ideals are failing and where the introvert ideals are succeeding.

The second part focuses on biology, our genes. Are we born this way? What can we do about it?

Most of what I've read (while not a ton) seems to agree that about 40-50% of our personality comes from our genes. But the biology examples and studies she threw out didn't convince me. Too many of the psychologists had a theory and then used the data to confirm said pet theory. Her psychologist was Kagan and he had some out there pseudoscience she was he thought maybe men were attracted to fair eyes and fair skin and hair because that made the other person seem more trustworthy and yeah so the rest of the majority of the population are just evil shmucks, right? It was a weird thing to add and she never talked about it again and just kind of left it hanging there. Weird.

Then there's the loaded term of 'free will' that she uses. She didn't really define what she meant by it. Dualism? Soul? Philosophical free will? She could've used a more descriptive term.

The other thing about this section that bothered me was how much she threw extroverts under the bus. Introverts are more compassionate, better critical thinkers, less impulsive, basically why would anyone ever want to be an extrovert? This is her book and she is an introvert so it's a rah-rah book for all of us introverts. But I could still feel the empathetic pangs for those extroverts.

The third section focused on cultural ideal for extroversion or introversion. The stereotype is for Asians to be more introverted culturally, which is also true. She goes a bit into why and how the cultures clash once Asian-Americans and white Americans come together whether it's in high school or college.

This is one area where I think the extrovert ideal is a bit better when it comes to higher education. Once you defer to authority and don't ask questions or take a stand for another/possibly better idea you aren't innovative. Granted, the youth in more introverted cultures have memorized more and overall they are going to have better knowledge about how the world works and their place in it, but from an innovative perspective on overall who's going to be leading the new sciences and techs, it's going to be the loud mouthed extroverted cultures because they aren't going to just defer to their professors and the authority. Let's combine both somehow so we can ask questions and make mistakes and learn from those while still having the basic population know a lot about the basics of science and math. (off soapbox).

Part four focuses on how to put the masks on and off successfully as an introvert. And how to accommodate introverts when you are a business/employer that usually focuses on the extrovert ideal.

I liked Cain's self-help stories that illustrate this. How does an introvert/extrovert couple work it out? How do they compromise their opposite tendencies? How do you help your introverted child succeed in a school system that highly favors extroverted styles?

This was the self-help portion of the book. Questions to ask, points to ponder, other books and articles to read.

Cain does mention at the end why she uses such a dichotomous system to talk about this. She knows it's not just black and white, you either are an introvert or you're not. But culturally people know what it's supposed to mean. It's a way to talk about it and see where we lie and our loved ones, along the introvert/extrovert scale.

Overall, I think it's an important book, one that should be read by anyone.

*I read this for my Skeptic book club. And it was a part of my Nonfiction Reading Challenge.


  1. A very detailed review, Heather! I hadn't read some of these criticisms before. I do want to read this one, knowing I'm somewhere in the middle (I am a Libra after all, haha) ;)

    1. I probably should have edited this long review! lol. Oh well. It's a good one overall!

  2. Hopping over from the Nonfiction Reading Challenge.

    I read this as a read along last year and, mostly, liked it but found some trouble spots as well.

    Joy's Book Blog


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