The full title of Susan Cain’s book is “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” It’s a fascinating defense of introverts.
Cain begins by talking about what divides introverts and extroverts. Introverts are people who feel a need to recharge after spending time in a group, whereas extroverts derive energy from groups and feel tired when they get too little social stimulation.
She goes on to talk about how the values of our country have shifted over time. Before the 20th century, society tended to value traits like duty, hard work, and integrity. As people moved into cities and our economy began to revolve around sales and entertainment, traits like humor and energy became favored. Cain is careful to say that neither introversion nor extroversion is superior, but a culture that leans too far in either direction can be problematic.
Our favoring of extroversion means that group learning dominates in schools even when some children don’t learn well that way. We work in offices with open layouts and hold frequent meetings. And both in school and at work, the people who speak most frequently and forcefully are seen as having the best ideas even when that isn’t the case. Cain later provides ways that introverts can learn to succeed in these environments, from seeking permission to do some work outside the office to choosing careers that follow their passion rather than their desire for money or prestige.
The middle portion of the book most intrigued me. Cain goes over research that explains the physiological basis for introversion. Introverts are literally more sensitive than extroverts. I found this comforting. I’ve heard many times over the years that I should show more leadership or speak up more. I’ve always had the sense that I should be able to change my personality and that I just haven’t tried hard enough to be an extrovert. Not so! I definitely am trying to be more assertive, and that becomes easier as I age, but I will never be an extrovert.
I’m curious to hear what others think. Have you found that extroverts are favored? Do you work better in a noisy office or at home late at night? I’ve always loved writing early in the morning, though there isn’t much of that at the moment because of Henry’s multiple nightly wake-ups. Maybe he’s an extrovert! Do you have an introverted child? Eleanor seems to be, and I think this book provided good tips for teaching her to hold onto her true self while navigating this crazy world. So, talk away — you know, if you’re so inclined.