‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking’ (Book Review)

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking  by Susan Cain.

Book by Susan CainI thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘Quiet’.  As a well socialized introvert and someone who naturally has a genuine interest in listening & helping others and in having positive relationships, I have worked exceptionally hard over the years to cultivate my ‘extrovert’ skills.

Leadership has always come somewhat naturally to me, as my values correlate highly with the servant leadership style. In this approach, the foundation is based on working to serve others and a higher purpose. Therefore, it is easier to place my personal fears and anxieties aside as the focus is on giving and the greater good – not me.  That said, interpersonal relationships have required more attention and education.

Practice taking risks, learning more about different types of communication styles and adopting a ‘Just Do It’ attitude around the more challenging areas of life have helped. Learning more about who I am, how I perceive the world, gather information and what I need to do to support my best self has, too.

One tool I have found beneficial to both me personally and in working with coaching clients is the MBTI.  For those of you who are not familiar with it, one area of evaluation is Introversion/Extroversion spectrum. ‘Quiet’ deepens and expands the conversation around this topic, and extends an extensive amount of scientific research to support  it’s biological and genetic basis. This is a significant step in validating the somewhat intangible subject of personality and moving it from a social or behavioral arena to a discussion that is more credible, measurable and scientifically validated.

In ‘Quiet’ Susan Cain discusses Dr. Jerome Kagan’s research at Harvard University in his lab for Child Development. It is absolutely fascinating! His studies strive to support his claim that after just a 45 minute evaluation, he can predict at age 4 months which children would turn out to be introverts or extroverts as adults. His findings center around the premise that ‘high reactivity’ in the activity of the amygdala (a portion of the brain related to the limbic system) is associated with introversion.  His more recent research furthers the understanding around how this area can be managed and impacted: ‘Recent fMRI studies show that when people use self talk to reassess upsetting situations, activity in the prefrontal cortex increases in an amount correlated with a decrease of activity in their amagdala.’

As a life coach who often works with clients around monitoring and shifting both self talk and underlying beliefs, this research supports the benefit of setting goals in these areas.  As a yogi, it strengthens my belief in the power of using mantras. As a personal trainer, I am even more grateful to NIKE® for their simple, purposeful & motivating brand tag line.

It was interesting to hear Susan Cain’s evaluation of Elaine Aaron’s work around Highly Sensitive People (HSP’s) and how sensitivity relates to introversion and extroversion.  Ms. Aaron’s books (‘The Highly Sensitive Person’, ‘The Highly Sensitive Person in Love’, ‘The Highly Sensitive Child’) are valuable resources in understanding more about what sensitivity is, the challenges of sensitivity in daily life and how it can impact relationships – most especially romantic partnerships & parenting – and includes practical tools for honoring and working with this gift.

Ms. Cain explores the field of leadership from multiple perspectives. I appreciated the education about Dale Carnergie (I am a fan) and his life. She notes that at the turn of the twentieth century his new approach to public speaking was the tipping point that seeded the roots of the Extrovert Ideal – which has become the prominent leadership style in the United States today.  She details how his style changed the ideal of what we look for in those we admire, who we are romantically involved with, what we look for in job interview candidates and how we raise our children.  She illustrates well that while many good things have come from his contribution it was also the start of the ‘Culture of Personality’ and downfall of our ethics.

She contrasts this westernized leadership view later in the book with the eastern approach in Asian cultures. Defined as a ‘soft power’, where ‘there is a subtle way to get what you want.  It’s not always aggressive, but it can be very determined and skillful.  In the end, much is achieved by it.  Aggressive power beats you up; soft power wins you over.”  I liked that.  It is followed with more… “In the long run, if the idea is good people shift.  If the cause is just and you put your heart into it, it’s almost a universal law: you will attract people who will want to share your cause. Soft power is quiet persistence.”  Mother Theresa, the Buddha and Gandhi were given as examples of leaders with soft power.

One third to one half of the population are introverts – whether they look like it or not.  ‘Quiet’ offers specific ways to identify and manage the challenges of introversion and extroversion in the workplace and in romantic relationships. ‘Quiet’ also provides a full chapter about children with specific ways both parents and educators can begin to understand and support the unique needs of the introverted child.

Crown Publishers, a division of Random House, has generously gifted our community with a copy of ‘Quiet’ to share with each other.  If you would like to read it, please email me and I will mail it out to you.  The first 8 people who receive it will also get a bag of special ‘Quiet’ tea, to enjoy while you are reading.  It’s delicious!  I know we are a community with a large population of introverts (so no expectation of public sharing…), and I invite you to post any of your thoughts & feedback about the book here at any time.  ~ Debra