Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking
by Susan Cain
Published by Crown Publishers 2012
Review by Andrea Kihlstedt
I’ve thought a lot about the difference between introverts and extroverts. I’m an extrovert. Though I’m not one for big parties and loud noise, I get jazzed–seriously jazzed–from talking with other people about ideas. The lively exchange of energy gets me tingling and helps me formulate my thinking in new ways.
For the last 45 years, I’ve been married to a strong introvert. A man who never says anything unless he’s thought it through in advance. He takes his time–sometimes lots of time–before responding to a question. And honestly, now and again, by the time he’s gathered his thoughts to respond to a question I’ve asked him, my brain has moved on and I’ve forgotten the question he’s so diligently and deliberately answering. He’s energized by the process of figuring out the answer quietly and internally. I’m jazzed by the collaborative experience of exploring ideas. (In case you are wondering, it did take some figuring out, but we’ve come to appreciate our differences much more often than we are irritated by them!)
The concept of Asking Styles that my Asking Matters co-founder Brian Saber and I have developed grew out of my experience of living with someone so different.
So when Susan Cain’s book about the power of introverts came out, I jumped on it. I’ve now read it not once but twice–no small feat, as in this day of easy 60-minute-reads, Cain’s book is long–a whopping 271 hard-cover pages, not including footnotes. Yes, 200+ Footnotes. By the way, that’s a clue that this remarkable, well-researched and detailed book was written by an introvert. To use the Asking Matters lexicon, she’s probably a Mission Controller!
Is it impossible for an extrovert to write a thorough, detailed, fully researched book? Of course not, but it’s perhaps not as likely. In fact, Cain talks about the fact that the halls of academe are populated with a disproportionate number of introverts. And yes, my husband was a college professor!
But the book Quiet is not an academic treatise. It’s lively and rich with ideas and concepts and stories. Stories from Ms Cain’s experience as a strong introvert. She describes about how she dealt with her fear of public speaking and her experience in one of Tony Robbins’ hot-coal-walking workshops. She talks about putting lemon juice on her tongue to prove she’s an introvert! (More saliva, more introverted!)
Cain has taken the time to interview researchers who have spent their lives learning about introversion and extroversion and she answers the question of whether these differences are merely stylistic or a matter of in-born temperament.
She has talked with introverted Asian students to find out about their experience in the extroverted world of America’s blue ribbon business schools. And she even speculates on the downside of our Congress being full of extroverts.
She includes a remarkable chapter on raising introverted children! When I read that chapter, I immediately sent a copy to my daughter, whose daughter, Ava, is a strong introvert. Reading this chapter on kids, I wondered if Ms. Cain had based it on Ava!
Why did I read this book twice? Why do I think it’s so important? Why is an extrovert–a Go-Getter–like me such a fan? Because this book helps me understand not only the importance and power of the quieter people around me, but it also helps me understand my own temperament and how I might do a better job of observing and appreciating and benefiting from their strength.
The more I understand these styles, the more I can appreciate the rich tapestry that comes from working with and living with people whose way of being in the world is different than my own.
Susan Cain’s book Quiet takes the concept of Asking Styles that we have put forth in Asking Matters as a simple, useful system and provides a solid and effective base of understanding that roots much of our thinking at Asking Matters in fact.
Thank you very much, Susan Cain, for writing this book. I will go back to it again and again.
You can purchase Quiet in hardcover, Kindle and Audio on Amazon.