Review: Quiet by Susan Cain

I picked this book up knowing full well I am an introvert. My Myers-Briggs is INTJ; I've taken the test twice five years apart and it was the same both times. But even before this test and reading Quiet, I knew I don’t do as well in group exercises, I hate presentations, and I need hours of alone time each week in order to recharge.

I knew all this, but Quiet taught me even more.

Summary:

One third to one half of people in the world are introverts. Quiet is a wonderfully researched look into an introvert’s mind and life in this extroverted society. Cain cited dozens of scientific studies and researched as many people and books in her quest to explain why quiet people are the way that they are, and how they can thrive in today’s loud world.

My Thoughts:

Ah, Quiet. A well-written, factual confirmation of my innermost self. It’s great. A couple quotes stood out to me in the beginning:

“Introverts...prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.”

Preach girl.

“Nor are introverts necessarily shy. Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Shyness is inherently painful, introversion is not.”

I may have done the praise hands at this. Being called shy is one of my biggest pet peeves. PSA: I’m not afraid of you. I just have to physically and mentally adjust to new surroundings and people slowly. (Cain shares many great studies and facts concerning the science for this.) I'm not interested in the small talk process of getting to know someone - I’d rather discuss my views on abortion with a stranger than the weather. That's not shyness; that's a desire for meaningful interactions while also adjusting to the sudden changes. I mean, I’m definitely awkward, but not shy!

A large section of the book focused on introversion in the work place. I was glad Cain talked at length about open office plans and how studies have proven they're not that effective. The thought of an open office makes me want to cry. I would literally walk out of an interview if it was an open office - after explaining why, of course. “You are all crazy and I will go crazy here. Put up some cubicle walls.” Something like that. Otherwise, the book did a good job of explaining how important it is to use your quiet skills, even while presenting or working in groups. It's something I'm continually working on in my own career. 

I appreciated the real life examples of introverts Cain used. Rosa Parks, Ghandhi, Lewis Carroll, and so many more - what would the world be like without its introverted leaders? It’s hard to imagine a world without such people.

One of my favorites quotes came from the end of the book:

“We often marvel at how introverted, geeky kids 'blossom' into secure and happy adults… However, maybe it’s not the children who change but their environments. As adults, they get to select the careers, spouses, and social circles that suit them.”

This is beyond true. I've never ever understood people who wish for their childhood or (horror of horrors) high school back. I can set my own schedule now. I exercise in a gym I chose, not in team sports I didn't want to play. My husband balances me perfectly, unlike all the strangers I was forced to do homework with over the years. (No offense to the strangers, that's just how it is!) I'm very grateful I went to public school and learned to interact with all kinds of people. It's an important skill to learn and now I get along with pretty much everyone. The difference is that now I'm empowered to live my life how I see fit. And yes, this involves at least one hour a day in my bed with a book or Netflix.

At no point did Cain make this book into one glorifying the introverted person over the extroverted. She repeatedly emphasized the need for all types of people in order to create healthy environments and often compared the two. So often, I see memes or articles on the internet dissing extroverts for being loud and rude and I think that's a problem. I would happily read the extrovert version of this book. I love my extroverted friends - especially my husband!

Rating:

I'm giving Quiet four out of five stars. I loved the content and the careful research - that part really could not have been better - but some parts read rather slowly. I actually had to check it out of the library twice to finish it because I kept getting distracted by other books.

If you're a teacher, manager, or married to an introvert, I highly recommend this. It'll give you great insight into the people who depend on you. I recommend this just as strongly if you yourself are an introvert. It's a great confidence booster to have validation for the very core of your personality.