In Quiet Susan Cain explores the different ways introverts and extroverts relate to the world. She distinguishes shyness from introversion and demonstrates how both introverts and extroverts can be leaders. Most importantly, she de-stigmatizes and legitimizes introversion. In a time when children are criticized for not being outgoing enough and we are all told that we must continually sell ourselves, Ms. Cain reminds us that wanting a bit of time to one’s self is not a pathology that needs treatment. She explains that introverts are not necessarily shy. Shyness, according to Ms. Cain is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, and both introverts and extroverts can be shy. Introversion and extroversion is more about how one draws energy. Extroverts are energized by and crave stimulation from others. They thrive in environments where there are lots of other people to talk to, even if it is just small talk. Introverts can be social to, but too many people for too long can be overwhelming. Introverts tend to have rich inner lives and recharge their batteries by taking some quiet time to themselves when they can let their thoughts and imaginations flow. They tend to think, really think, before they speak. It is not that one or the other is better; both types of people are needed in the world. And introversion does not mean one is destined to be always be a follower instead of a leader. Ms. Cain gives several examples of introverted leaders, like Gandhi and Rosa Parks, whose understated style inspired the masses. She notes that a bold and aggressive stances can come across as reasonable when presented by a mild mannered, understated personality. Closer to (my) home, she tells the story of an attorney, who contrary to the stereotypes was not prone to making grandiose speeches and yelling. In negotiations over a loan, this attorney sat across a table facing bankers and their more stereotypical aggressive lawyers across the table. Instead of responding their speech making in kind, she took the time to listen and respond thoughtfully to the points posed by the opposing attorney and their clients. In the end, she not only successfully renegotiated a loan for her client, but received praise for keeping her cool throughout the negotiations and received job offers from both opposing counsel and their client!
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you are an introvert, read this book and you’ll realize, if you haven’t already, that there is nothing wrong about wanting and needing quiet time. If you are an extrovert, read this book and you’ll understand that quiet people are not being rude or standoffish, they simply relate to the world in a different way. If you’re a parent, particularly a parent of a quieter child, please read this book. One of the most touching stories Ms. Cain tells is about an outgoing mother and her introverted daughter. The mother was worried when she saw her daughter playing alone at the end of the school day, but it turned out that the daughter was just fine. She had friends and generally enjoyed school, but at the end of day was a bit tired of the constant social stimulation and that alone time at the end of school was her way of de-stressing. The daughter did not perceive being alone at the end of the school day as a problem but looked forward to that time. As an introvert myself, I can totally relate.