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


Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking Cover




Today we make room for a remarkably narrow range of personality styles. We’re told that to be great is to be bold, to be happy is to be sociable. We see ourselves as a nation of extroverts—which means that we’ve lost sight of who we really are. Depending on which study you consult, one third to one half of Americans are introverts—in other words, one out of every two or three people you know. (Given that the United States is among the most extroverted of nations, the number must be at least as high in other parts of the world.) If you’re not an introvert yourself, you are surely raising, managing, married to, or coupled with one.

If these statistics surprise you, that’s probably because so many people pretend to be extroverts. Closet introverts pass undetected on playgrounds, in high school locker rooms, and in the corridors of corporate America. Some fool even themselves, until some life event—a layoff, an empty nest, an inheritance that frees them to spend time as they like— jolts them into taking stock of their true natures. You have only to raise the subject of this book with your friends and acquaintances to find that the most unlikely people consider themselves introverts.

It makes sense that so many introverts hide even from themselves. We live with a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal—the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight. The archetypal extrovert prefers action to contemplation, risk- taking to heed-taking, certainty to doubt. He favors quick decisions, even at the risk of being wrong. She works well in teams and socializes in groups. We like to think that we value individuality, but all too often we admire one type of individual—the kind who’s comfortable “putting himself out there.” Sure, we allow technologically gifted loners who launch companies in garages to have any personality they please, but they are the exceptions, not the rule, and our tolerance extends mainly to those who get fabulously wealthy or hold the promise of doing so.

Introversion—along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness—is now a second- class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. 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. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.

The Extrovert Ideal has been documented in many studies, though this research has never been grouped under a single name. Talkative people, for example, are rated as smarter, better- looking, more interesting, and more desirable as friends. Velocity of speech counts as well as volume: we rank fast talkers as more competent and likable than slow ones. The same dynamics apply in groups, where research shows that the voluble are considered smarter than the reticent—even though there’s zero correlation between the gift of gab and good ideas. Even the word introvert is stigmatized—one informal study, by psychologist Laurie Helgoe, found that introverts described their own physical appearance in vivid language ( “green- blue eyes,” “exotic,” “high cheekbones”), but when asked to describe generic introverts they drew a bland and distasteful picture (“ungainly,” “neutral colors,” “skin problems”).

But we make a grave mistake to embrace the Extrovert Ideal so unthinkingly. Some of our greatest ideas, art, and inventions—from the theory of evolution to van Gogh’s sunflowers to the personal computer— came from quiet and cerebral people who knew how to tune in to their inner worlds and the treasures to be found there.

Copyright © 2012 by Susan Cain. From the book QUIET: The Power Of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, published by Crown, a division of Random House, Inc.  Reprinted with permission.

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Karen Sampson, February 8, 2014 (view all comments by Karen Sampson)
I was immediately taken with this book as I am one of those introverts for whom the world seems too full of chatter. Wonderful discussion about the contributions that introverts give, and have given in the past, to our evolution and societal structure. Highly recommend!
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Sean Hayes, October 14, 2013 (view all comments by Sean Hayes)
I have been waiting for a book like this for many years, and read it as a sort of manifesto. It could be a companion piece to Barbara Ehrenreich's Bright Sided, in which brain dead optimism is connected with recent social failures.

In this book, we see how the world is stacked in favor of a singular personality trait - the extroverted 'hail fellow well met' with a smile and firm handshake for everyone - to the point where any contrasting personality type is considered a mental disorder, or totally shunted off into social abnormality. Cain explores how this can cause conflict in classrooms (which are now increasingly oriented toward group learning, a subject that could have been explored at more length), workplaces (in which open plans meant to foster creativity actually promote distractions), cultural interactions (differences in Eastern and Western modes of communication), and parenting. She explores existential differences between the two personality types, which strikes me as far more significant than books like "Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus," which identify similar problems as part of a divide between genders or races.

Along with scientific analysis of personality types, Cain uses her own experience (as an introverted business consultant) to show others how they can use their introverted personalities to help them in positions - social, work, relationships - which would seem to favor the extroverted.

I did see a flaw in the self help aspect of the book in the same area I normally see flaws in the genre: Most of her examples were of business leaders, lawyers, yuppie parents, etc. It is no coincidence that self help books target the very people who can afford to attend lectures and seminars which typically arise as corollaries to any best selling book of this type.

There are definite problems faced by anyone (no longer merely the disadvantaged or uneducated) who seeks work in customer service, retail, or other areas where want ads sometimes read "now hiring smiling faces," with no mention of actual qualifications. Cain does go into this at one point with call center employees, but it could have been better explored. Ditto job interviewing, and isometric tests measuring personality that are sometimes conducted before an interview even takes place.

But I am mainly criticizing the book for what it leaves out. What is here should be read by anyone who felt that there was something wrong with them for hating small talk and breezy interaction and valuing thought, solitude and meaningful discourse.
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mudcatmls, September 5, 2013 (view all comments by mudcatmls)
I have recently finished reading this great book on some very important personality types, the introvert. I am an introvert, but can, at times, be out of my box. This is a book that I highly recommend to introverts that will help you to better understand who you are as a person, how important you are, and how to not let extroverts tell you that you need to change for the better in their way of thinking. I like how the author tells us that it was introverts that changed the world in many ways. Introverts are scientist that make great discoveries, business people, artist, and great thinkers who have changed the world for the better. I like how the book helps the introvert how to make it in a very extroverted society. Kudos to the author of this great book that I whished had come out many years ago!
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Product Details

The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
Cain, Susan
Psychology : General
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Trade-only material
7.99 x 5.19 x 1.06 in 0.68 lb

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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
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Product details 368 pages Broadway - English 9780307352156 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

One-third of the world's population are introverts, and we are quietly going to take over the world while you extroverts are busy yapping it up and not paying attention. Don't say you haven't been warned.

"Review" by , “A superbly researched, deeply insightful, and fascinating book that will change forever the way society views introverts.”
"Review" by , "An intriguing and potentially life-altering examination of the human psyche that is sure to benefit both introverts and extroverts alike."
"Review" by , “Susan Cain is the definer of a new and valuable paradigm. In this moving and original argument, she makes the case that we are losing immense reserves of talent and vision because of our culture's overvaluation of extroversion. A startling, important and readable page-turner that will make quiet people see themselves in a whole new light.”
"Review" by , Quiet legitimizes and even celebrates the 'niche' that represents half the people in the world. Mark my words, this book will be a bestseller.”
"Review" by , “Susan Cain has done a superb job of sifting through decades of complex research....This book will be a boon for the many highly sensitive people who are also introverts.”
"Review" by , "Cain offers a wealth of useful advice for teachers and parents of introverts…Quiet should interest anyone who cares about how people think, work, and get along, or wonders why the guy in the next cubicle acts that way. It should be required reading for introverts (or their parents) who could use a boost to their self-esteem."
"Review" by , "Rich, intelligent...enlightening."
"Review" by , "This book is a pleasure to read and will make introverts and extroverts alike think twice about the best ways to be themselves and interact with differing personality types."
"Review" by , "An intelligent and often surprising look at what makes us who we are."
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