Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain is a popular science look at the differences in personality type. She argues that introverts are just as necessary in leadership as the more outspoken extroverted power types.
First, I should make clear that Ms. Cain does acknowledge the fact that most people are a blend of personality types. In studies she cites, it seems that about 20% of people are full extroverts, 20% are full introverts, and the rest are a mix of personality types. Nevertheless, it was fascinating to read about both the culture in America of extroversion and the science behind our chemistry.
Ms. Cain begins by examining the whys behind the extroverted American culture and its development 100 years ago, followed by the reasons why groups of all extroverts do not succeed as well as we may suspect they might. Then she examines the science in our bodies. Why are some people more introverted and others extroverted? How does an introvert become a public figure at all, given their personality type? This last point was particularly interesting to me, as I have always considered myself introverted and “shy,” and yet I’ve frequently been perceived as outgoing.
Next, the book examines other cultures in the world and the ways that extroversion and introversion are accepted (or not) among these other cultures. Finally, the last section of the book talks about how to nurture your own introverted personality type. How does one nurture his or her own temperament or his or her child’s temperament in order to succeed?
I believe Quiet is an important book for those who must frequently relate to people of the opposite personality type. If we all thought alike, there would be no conflict. Ms. Cain shows that there are ways to balance an introvert-extrovert relationship so all will be happy. Further, as one does so, there are tremendous intrinsic rewards by doing so.
I found it very beneficial to myself as well. I have always considered myself an introvert, I married an introvert, and my oldest child is also of the same type of personality: we get energy from being by ourselves, we need downtime to recharge, and, while I do enjoy socializing with friends, I do not like superficial conversations but prefer more meaningful conversation. Reading the book gave me some ideas for continuing to nurture my outspoken self, despite my quiet side.
Further, my youngest child is clearly of a different personality type. Even at one-month-old, she thrived among other people. Now that she’s more than a year old, she gets restless when she’s alone with me, often looking for her brother or something interesting to see. She loves people and is not phased or startled by new situations. I really appreciated the section about how I can relate to her and nurture her. Growing up in a “quiet” and introverted family may be difficult for her as she’ll be itching to talk and get out all the time (I suspect). But if I nurture her need for discussion, maybe we’ll all be okay. I’m grateful for the chance to see that truly, we all come with our own personalities!
Quiet is a good book. It was not perfect. The chapter on dopamine was particularly boring for me. But in general, I really enjoyed getting to know my quieter side a little more.