Friday, July 6, 2012

Quiet by Susan Cain

Are you an introvert? Studies show that at least one third and possibly one half of people in America are introverts. In our extrovert happy culture many pretend to be extroverts when they are not. There is a stigma attached to being an introvert so they pretend to be the ideal gregarious and outgoing person. Most of the institutions of contemporary life are designed for extroverts. So it may be difficult to accept that introversion is an essential part of who you are.
Susan looks at our extroverted society and how we got here. She visits three examples of our Extrovert Ideal: a Tony Robbins seminar, a class at Harvard Business School, an influential mega-church. She examines introverts and creative thinking, lone workers and expertise, and “groupthink.” She also looks at brainstorming (it's ineffective), jury trials, and elections. She explains the biological difference between introverts and extroverts. She looks at other cultures to see if all prefer extroversion.
She ends her book with some practical skill for extroverts and introverts alike. She encourages her readers to stay true to their personality, no matter what type they are.

What a great book. I realized I am a “pseudo-extrovert.” I am an introvert who learned to act as an extrovert because of my career and because of what I considered important. I found that pretend extroversion can be learned – even in grade school – growing into the role so that it becomes natural.
I liked her comments on the state of evangelical Christianity. “If you don't love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love.” (70) She appreciates worship services that leave time for silence and contemplation.
I was encouraged by her discussion of solitude leading to exceptional performance. She quotes studies showing that group brainstorming doesn't work. (87) No wonder I like to work alone! Multitasking is a myth. “Scientists now know that the brain is incapable of paying attention to two things at the same time.” (85) No wonder I like it quiet when I study!
Susan's message is, “So stay true to your own nature.” (173) Honor your own style and don't get swept up in the prevailing culture.

Susan Cain is a writer and has taught negotiation skills at corporations and universities. She practiced corporate law for seven years. She lives in the Hudson River Valley with her husband and two sons. Visit her website at

Susan Cain bio and video on TED.

Read an excerpt here.

Crown Publishers (a division of Random House), 333 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for the purpose of this review.

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