Saturday, July 13, 2013

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking - Susan Cain

Title: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking
Author: Susan Cain
Publisher: Crown Publishers, 2012 (Hardcover)
Length: 333 pages
Genre: Adult; Nonfiction
Started: July 2, 2013
Finished: July 11, 2013

From the inside cover:

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 favour 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 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."

I'm an introvert, but I never knew it until a few years ago when I heard it explained that introverts need to "recharge their batteries"after they socialize. I thought back to the times when I would sneak off to get 5 minutes to myself in the midst of get-togethers (even company I liked and looked forward to socializing with) as if that gave me a boost to continue the evening. People would accuse me of being anti-social and unwelcoming simply because I didn't want to be all up in their business for hours upon hours (granted these specific people are not the norm and most wouldn't even bring up noticing a 5-minute absence). I hated group work in school, never liked huge parties or going clubbing, loathe small talk to this day, yearn to have deep conversations with people, and my ideal relaxation routine is to curl up with a good book. So yeah, I meet all the criteria for being an introvert according to the author...and thanks to this book, I couldn't be happier.

The author begins by outlining the differences between extroverts and introverts, how introverts do indeed enjoy socializing (they're just drained by it as opposed to energized), and how the ideal personality before the 1920s or so was an introverted one. Over time the ideal changed to value being charming, outspoken, and in-your-face. She discusses studies that can identify introverts as early as infancy, and what introverts are more or least likely to do over their lifetime. I especially like the chapters on introverts in the business world and how we wouldn't have our beloved Apple computers if Steve Wozniak had been forced to do group collaboration at work, and the hypothesis that introverts could've prevented the 2008 recession (I stretched this connection on my own but the author hints at it when she talks about being motivated by rewards or criticism).

As a teacher, I really appreciated the chapters on introverts in schools. It really is true that our schools are set up to benefit extroverts, from the desks grouped in pods of 4-6 to the movement from lecture style to group learning. As a kid myself, I hated it when we were forced to do group work, especially in large groups. Now I always give my students a choice if they want to do certain activities individually or in a group, and if an activity has to be group work I let the kids pick their groups so the like-minded kids (introverts) can at least work with each other. There's lots of good tips for parents of introverted kids, which was enlightening to read because I can't tell which personality my daughter has yet; and due to my teacher training and how introvert behaviours are still seen as anti-social, my natural inclination is to push kids to even just fake the extrovert ideal. Now I know it's perfectly okay and necessary for these kids (and me) to be themselves and to integrate ways for them to shine just as much as the extrovert kids.

A must-read if you're an introvert or interact with introverted people on a regular basis; so by the authors estimation that means pretty much everyone.

Thoughts on the cover:
Very subtle overall, yet the red font is eye-catching.

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