Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Reviewed by Gabrielle Spiers
Introverts walk among us—perhaps you have a friend, a co-worker, or a classmate who is an introvert? It might be you and it is definitely true of me. Generally, the difference between introverts and extroverts is the way they respond to outward stimulation (11). Introverts are happy with less, whereas extroverts want more.
Cain divides the book into four main sections: 1) The Extrovert Ideal 2) Your Biology, Your Self? 3) Do All Cultures Have an Extrovert Ideal? and 4) How to Love, How to Work. Each section has chapters on various topics including, the myth of charismatic leadership, the issues arising from Groupthink and the negatives of collaboration, nature versus nurture, free will, the differences in the ways that introverts and extroverts process things, how things are different in Asia, when people should act more extroverted than they are, talking with the opposite type, and tips for dealing with introverted children.
Cain is a former attorney, which is obvious by the way she presents her ideas in the book. She was able to speak with many leaders in the scientific and business world who shared their insights with her.
The chapters that touched on cultural differences and the differing notions of teamwork are interesting because teamwork is central to so many jobs today. Although teamwork is an integral part of our work culture, and not an entirely negative thing, Cain does point out that a lot of great artists in the past were able to be creative because they worked alone.
My favorite part of the book touched on the notion of Free Trait Theory, invented by Professor Brian Little, "in other words, introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love or anything they value highly" (209). At this point the book challenges and dispels the notion that all introverts are shy and unable to be social. It suggests introverts can be passionate, sociable and friendly, which sounds like something that shouldn't come as a surprise, but stereotypes are pervasive.
This book is useful in helping understand co-workers. While the stereotype of librarians as shy, introverted bookworms persists in the mind of the public, librarians themselves know this is not an accurate representation of our profession. Both introverts and extroverts exist in every workplace and being able to understand the other is important. The real takeaway message from the book is that even though we live in an extroverted world, there is nothing wrong with being an introvert. It is not bad, it is not wrong and there is no need to correct it. The last section offers practical coping strategies if one person in a relationship is an introvert and the other is an extrovert.
Gabrielle Spiers received her MLIS from Wayne State University and works as a Research Archivist at SoldierSource.