Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Book Review: Quiet, by Susan Cain

Update:  please see the end of this post for a Q&A with the author provided by WaterBrook Multnomah, as well as a link to a reading group guide. 

I received a copy of Quiet by Susan Cain for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review, as part of their "Blogging for Books" program.  

It was hard to read this entire book, because I wanted to give it a 5 star review after only reading the introduction.  It was that good, and both introverts and extroverts would benefit from reading it.  

I've known for a long time that I am an introvert, but I also felt as though there was something "wrong" about it.  This book educated me on various studies regarding introversion and extroversion, and convinced me that introversion is not only how I was made, but made me feel good about being made this way.  Being introverted is not something that anyone needs to apologize for.

In Quiet, Cain writes about various studies conducted by psychologists along with examples of real-life people in order to understand introversion in our culture.  People range from Asian college students who have difficulty with the American bias toward extroversion to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt to Ghandi.  She explores introversion in academia, the church, and businesses.  She also gives some tips for parents who are raising introverted children.  

I don't think enough good things could be said about this book.  It should be a must-read for any introvert who wants to know themselves a bit better as well as any employer/manager who cares about his or her employees and wants to see them thrive.  

I'll leave you with a couple of quotations from the book:

"Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man's world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are." (Introduction, page 4)

"Without introverts, the world would be devoid of:

  • the theory of gravity
  • the theory of relativity
  • Yeats's 'The Second Coming'
  • Chopin's nocturnes
  • Proust's In Search of Lost Time
  • Peter Pan
  • Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm
  • The Cat in the Hat
  • Charlie Brown
  • Schindler's List, E.T., and Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Google
  • Harry Potter   (introduction, page 5)

Perhaps, with this book, we can all understand each other a little better, and work better together to accomplish our purposes in this world.  

Q&A with Susan Cain, provided by Waterbrook Multnomah

What would be your advice for living with a spouse who is an introvert? Particularly ways to solve disputes when only one side is willing to do any talking!

This is such an important question (and I address it at length in the chapter in QUIET on introvert-extrovert relationships). Introverts and extroverts are often attracted to each other as marriage partners (for good reason), but they have dramatically different approaches to conflict. Extroverts are what psychologists call “confrontive copers,” while introverts tend to seek to defuse conflict. The problem is that the more extroverts confront their introverted partners, the more aggressed the introverts feel – and the more they withdraw, leaving their extroverted partners feeling shut out in the cold. On the other hand, the more that introverts try to defuse conflict with quiet talk, the more vehement their extroverted partners grow in response – causing introverts to feel insulted or attacked.

The only way out of this impasse is for each partner to truly understand where the other is coming from, and to borrow the other’s coping style. For an extrovert, this means airing grievances as quietly, mildly, and respectfully as you can. And for introverts, this means engaging head on with problems, even when this feels threatening and unpleasant. Good luck, it’s worth it!

How do you classify someone who prefers their own company and activities they can do by themselves, but has forced themselves to act in a more extroverted way? I enjoy being alone and love reading and creative writing. However, in order to promote and build my dental practice, I have made myself participate in community activities, and in order to be a more active part of my childrens' lives I am part of a group of parents that work and play together. I even enjoy these activities, all the while thinking that I'd rather be home alone with my husband and kids, curled up by a toasty fire with a good book or sharing a movie with them. Have I remade myself into an extrovert or just putting on an act?

It sounds like you’re an introvert who’s gotten really good at acting like a pseduo-extrovert – and nothing wrong with that, if it serves goals that matter to you (your dental practice, your kids’ social life.) Just make sure to get the quiet time you need – and that your family probably needs, too.

What do extraverts need to understand most about introverts?

When they don’t engage animatedly with you, this doesn’t mean that they don’t like or love you! They just need to recharge their batteries frequently, and might be less demonstrative than you are. Look for signs of quiet passion!

As an extrovert married to an introvert, how can I make his social experiences more satisfying and less stressful?

What a great and caring question. Well, for one thing, make sure there aren’t too many of them. No introvert enjoys going out night after night…but they might really enjoy the right social events in measured doses. The best experiences tend to be with close friends, or based on events that are of intrinsic interest – eg a movie, a concert, etc.

How do you see introverts having any type of an impact on our predominately extrovert society?

They already do! Many of our finest leaders and artists have been introverts. It’s usually a matter of making your own natural strengths work for you (for example, the Campbell Soup CEO Doug Conant was famous for writing 30,000 personal notes of thanks to high-performing employees) while gaining the skills you need to fake extroversion when you need to.

Also, social media is an introvert’s friend – it’s a way of connecting with tens, hundreds, thousands of people from the comfort of your own home or office.


Jim Fisher said...

I covet this book. Thanks, Kelly.

Kelly J Youngblood said...

You definitely should get it! Also, make sure to check out the other resources I posted in my "Worth Reading Wednesday" post today too!