Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Book Description

January 24, 2012

This title will be released on January 24, 2012.
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At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled "quiet," it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society--from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.

Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects. She talks to Asian-American students who feel alienated from the brash, backslapping atmosphere of American schools. She questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. And she draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the surprising differences between extroverts and introverts.

Perhaps most inspiring, she introduces us to successful introverts--from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Finally, she offers invaluable advice on everything from how to better negotiate differences in introvert-extrovert relationships to how to empower an introverted child to when it makes sense to be a "pretend extrovert."

Amazon Exclusive: Q & A with Author Susan Cain

Q: Why did you write the book?
A: For the same reason that Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystiquein 1963. Introverts are to extroverts what women were to men at that time--second-class citizens with gigantic amounts of untapped talent. Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts, and many introverts believe that there is something wrong with them and that they should try to “pass” as extroverts. The bias against introversion leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and, ultimately, happiness.

Q: What personal significance does the subject have for you?
A: When I was in my twenties, I started practicing corporate law on Wall Street. At first I thought I was taking on an enormous challenge, because in my mind, the successful lawyer was comfortable in the spotlight, whereas I was introverted and occasionally shy. But I soon realized that my nature had a lot of advantages: I was good at building loyal alliances, one-on-one, behind the scenes; I could close my door, concentrate, and get the work done well; and like many introverts, I tended to ask a lot of questions and listen intently to the answers, which is an invaluable tool in negotiation. I started to realize that there’s a lot more going on here than the cultural stereotype of the introvert-as-unfortunate would have you believe. I had to know more, so I spent the past five years researching the powers of introversion.

Q: Was there ever a time when American society valued introverts more highly?
A: In the nation’s earlier years it was easier for introverts to earn respect. America once embodied what the cultural historian Warren Susman called a “Culture of Character,” which valued inner strength, integrity, and the good deeds you performed when no one was looking. You could cut an impressive figure by being quiet, reserved, and dignified. Abraham Lincoln was revered as a man who did not “offend by superiority,” as Emerson put it.

Q: You discuss how we can better embrace introverts in the workplace. Can you explain?
A: Introverts thrive in environments that are not overstimulating—surroundings in which they can think (deeply) before they speak. This has many implications. Here are two to consider: (1) Introverts perform best in quiet, private workspaces—but unfortunately we’re trending in precisely the opposite direction, toward open-plan offices. (2) If you want to get the best of all your employees’ brains, don’t simply throw them into a meeting and assume you’re hearing everyone’s ideas. You’re not; you’re hearing from the most vocally assertive people. Ask people to put their ideas in writing before the meeting, and make sure you give everyone time to speak.

Q: Quiet offers some terrific insights for the parents of introverted children. What environment do introverted kids need in order to thrive, whether it’s at home or at school?
A: The best thing parents and teachers can do for introverted kids is to treasure them for who they are, and encourage their passions. This means: (1) Giving them the space they need. If they need to recharge alone in their room after school instead of plunging into extracurricular activities, that’s okay. (2) Letting them master new skills at their own pace. If they’re not learning to swim in group settings, for example, teach them privately. (3) Not calling them “shy”--they’ll believe the label and experience their nervousness as a fixed trait rather than an emotion they can learn to control.

Q: What are the advantages to being an introvert?
A: There are too many to list in this short space, but here are two seemingly contradictory qualities that benefit introverts: introverts like to be alone--and introverts enjoy being cooperative. Studies suggest that many of the most creative people are introverts, and this is partly because of their capacity for quiet. Introverts are careful, reflective thinkers who can tolerate the solitude that idea-generation requires. On the other hand, implementing good ideas requires cooperation, and introverts are more likely to prefer cooperative environments, while extroverts favor competitive ones.

Review

"An intriguing and potentially life-altering examination of the human psyche that is sure to benefit both introverts and extroverts alike."
--Kirkus, Starred Review

"Cain gives excellent portraits of a number of introverts and shatters misconceptions.  Cain consistently holds the reader’s interest by presenting individual profiles, looking at places dominated by extroverts (Harvard Business School) and introverts (a West Coast retreat center), and reporting on the latest studies. Her diligence, research, and passion for this important topic has richly paid off."
--Publishers Weekly

"An intelligent and often surprising look at what makes us who we are."
--Booklist

"Those who value a quiet, reflective life will feel a burden lifting from their shoulders as they read Susan Cain's eloquent and well documented paean to introversion--and will no longer feel guilty or inferior for having made the better choice!"
--MIHALY CSIKSZENTMIHALYI, author of Flow and Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Management, Claremont Graduate University
 
"Superbly researched, deeply insightful, and a fascinating read, Quiet is an indispensable resource for anyone who wants to understand the gifts of the introverted half of the population."
--GRETCHEN RUBIN, author of The Happiness Project

"Quiet is a book of liberation from old ideas about the value of introverts. Cain’s intelligence, respect for research, and vibrant prose put Quiet in an elite class with the best books from Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Pink, and other masters of psychological non-fiction."
--TERESA AMABILE, Professor, Harvard Business School, and coauthor, The Progress Principle

"As an introvert often called upon to behave like an extrovert, I found the information in this book revealing and helpful. Drawing on neuroscientific research and many case reports, Susan Cain explains the advantages and potentials of introversion and of being quiet in a noisy world."
--ANDREW WEIL, author of Healthy Aging and Spontaneous Happiness
 
"Susan Cain has done a superb job of sifting through decades of complex research on introversion, extroversion, and sensitivity--this book will be a boon for the many highly sensitive people who are also introverts."
--ELAINE ARON, author of The Highly Sensitive Person

"Quiet legitimizes and even celebrates the ‘niche’ that represents half the people in the world."
--GUY KAWASAKI, author of Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions
 
"Susan Cain is the definer of a new and valuable paradigm. In this moving and original argument, she makes the case that we are losing immense reserves of talent and vision because of our culture's overvaluation of extroversion. A startling, important, and readable page-turner that will make quiet people see themselves in a whole new light."
--NAOMI WOLF, author of The Beauty Myth
 
"Superb…A compelling reflection on how the Extrovert Ideal shapes our lives and why this is deeply unsettling. Based on meticulous research, it will open up a new and different conversation on how the personal is political and how we need to empower the legions of people who are disposed to be quiet, reflective, and sensitive."
--BRIAN R. LITTLE, PH.D., Distinguished Scholar, Department of Social and Developmental Psychology, Cambridge University  
 
"Quiet elevates the conversation about introverts in our outwardly-oriented society to new heights. I think that many introverts will discover that, even though they didn't know it, they have been waiting for this book all their lives."
--ADAM S. MCHUGH, author of Introverts in the Church
 
"Gentle is powerful... Solitude is socially productive... These important counter-intuitive ideas are among the many reasons to take Quiet to a quiet corner and absorb its brilliant, thought-provoking message."
--ROSABETH MOSS KANTER, Harvard Business School professor, author of Confidence and SuperCorp
 
"Memo to all you glad-handing, back-slapping, brainstorming masters of the universe out there: Stop networking and talking for a minute and read this book. In Quiet, Susan Cain does an eloquent and powerful job of extolling the virtues of the listeners and the thinkers--the reflective introverts of the world who appreciate that hard problems demand careful thought and who understand that it's a good idea to know what you want to say before you open your mouth."
--BARRY SCHWARTZ, author of Practical Wisdom and The Paradox of Choice

Book is available on Amazon -- I already have it in my wishlist.

Views: 271

Replies to This Discussion

"a colossal waste of talent, energy, and, ultimately, happiness." Yeah, that's my life in a nutshell.

 

So this is very interesting to me. Now (at the age of 34) I finally have some sort of an explanation for why I feel so out-of-place, why I feel like I am shouting and nobody is listening, why I know that cooperation is often the best strategy but everyone else seems intent on competing with each other, and with me, and to what end? It seems to me the world has had far too much competition in it, and what we need now is to come together as a country and as a species. We desperately need cooperation! We need to get organized, which to me means separate organisms coming together and functioning as a superorganism towards overarching goals, goals which transcend our often petty individual differences. Maybe there needs to be an Introvert Occupy Movement. Heh.

 

This sounds like a really terrific book. Thanks so much for sharing this one and the other one, too!

Thanks! I can't wait to buy it myself. We have things in common! : )

Yeah we need a Introvert Occupy Movement.

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled "quiet," it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society--from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.

I'm reading this book right now and it seriously feels like Susan Cain wrote this book especially for me. Some of the stories she describes are taken almost verbatim from my own life. Like Tiffany Liao, I loved to read all the time and even preferred it to talking to the other students at my school. Reading for hours on end is one of the pastimes I really miss now that I'm an adult (I just don't have that kind of time anymore T_T). 

I feel like I have finally been vindicated: I was always proud of the way I am (proud of my love of reading, proud of my quiet thoughtfulness) but I am the only introvert in my family...or at least the only strong introvert...and for years I have been made to feel that I am inadequate. I need to "speak up more" and "be a part of the group" and "honestly, have more fun with your(my) life!" No one would believe me when I told them that reading a book from cover to cover is fun for me. No, I had to go to clubs and stay there until 2am, where the music is so loud I couldn't talk to anyone even if I wanted to, drunk people keep elbowing me, and there's broken glass and garbage all over the floor. This, apparently, is fun according to most of my friends. when I first went to college I allowed myself to be dragged to clubs because I thought "this is what a young, cool person does; this is fun and cool," and always felt like a freak wondering why I hated it so much. But reading Quiet makes me feel less alone and that I am, in fact, just fine the way I am.

Sorry that turned into a rant in the middle...in my life I am surrounded by extroverts @_@

No problem -- rant away. Right I feel the same way. I occasionally will go to a club to see a band perform -- but then I leave quickly after the performance. So I am not there for a long length of time.

I'm so glad you like the book.

Haha, thanks. I do like some clubs, but they are the more laid back ones. A friend of mine plays in a local band and I go to their gigs whenever I have the chance. But, yeah, I usually don't stay that long...the longer I stay the drunker people get and that's usually when it stops being fun.

I just got the book the Introvert Advantage from Amazon. Now I can't wait to read it. Then this one.

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