Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain is the single most striking book I’ve read this year. I really want to talk about it with someone else who has read it, but I don’t know anyone else who has. GoodReads says that none of my friends there have read it or marked it to-read, so I’m hoping to convince someone else to read it by raving about it.
To be honest, I fell upon it purely by chance. I was looking through the library’s selection of non-fiction audiobooks that were currently available for check-out, wanting something to listen to while I stitched. I checked it out along with Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100, and just happened to click on Quiet first when I was ready to start stitching. Nothing against Kaku’s book (which I’m listening to when I stitch now), but I’m glad of my chance click.
I’m an introvert. America is one of the most extroverted countries in the world, and my family is a typically extroverted one. I’m the only introvert in the family, so my preference for reflection and need for quiet time in order to recharge is markedly different from the rest of the clan’s outward-directed ways.
Introverts in general are less valued than extroverts, seen as being too quiet, as somehow failing, as being less social or even labeled as anti-social. But we are, as Cain points out, just differently social. Introverts tend to feel things deeply, often seeking out the company of those who others belittle or ostracize in order to comfort them. We don’t necessarily have poor social skills, but we don’t always choose to use our social skills in the same ways that an extrovert would. We do not seek the same goals, necessarily. Introverts aren’t necessarily shy at all, although there are some shy introverts, of course.
Introverts can also be excellent leaders. In fact, research shows that they are better leaders for groups of proactive people than extroverts are. Extroverts, in contrast, excel at leading more passive people.
Cain interviews many experts, including Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person, for the book. Aron says that about 70% of HSPs are introverts, which I found interesting.
Of course, most people have a mix of introverted and extroverted traits, and even the most introverted people can put on an extrovert mask for short periods of time when necessary. I know that I can, but it is extremely draining.
I’ve barely touched the surface of the points the book makes, skipping around a lot without presenting the research or arguments behind the points, of course. Please, if you’re an introvert, read or listen to this book. If you manage or love an introvert, at least give a listen to the abridged version. If you parent an introverted child, take time to read the entire thing, as there is an entire chapter devoted to the care of introverted children.