Quiet by Susan Cain

Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Published:  2012 by Crown Publishers

Source:  Purchased at my local independent bookstore

Quiet is a book I wish was available 20 years ago when I was in university.

I was in the Faculty of Commerce and many of my classes depended heavily on group projects and/or classroom participation for significant portions of the grades.  I hated it.  People would say something in class just to say something and get their participation points for the day and/or they would butt in without considering anyone else who was waiting; I felt like a mouse, waiting until I had something I considered meaningful to contribute to the discussion and – worst of all – waiting until I was recognized by the professor to say my piece.  I graduated with my degree and a decent grade point average, but I know that had I spoken up more I may have done better.

My name is Suzanne and I am an introvert.

It’s not that I didn’t know that; I’ve always been fairly quiet and keep to myself with only a few close friends.  But I’ve always felt – different, like something was wrong with me.  I have family and dear friends who lead active social and professional lives because they are able to comfortably insert themselves into any situation and strike up a conversation with whomever they meet – so why couldn’t I?

Well, Quiet has put my mind at ease about myself.   Introversion is not something to be ashamed of, according to Susan Cain; and in fact she provides many examples in history of introverts’ contributions:  Would the Civil Rights movement have been the same if Rosa Parks, a quiet woman just tired from a long day of work, was not the one who refused to give up her seat on the bus?  Would Einstein have been able to come up with his Theory of Relativity if he was forced to collaborate in a group?  As well, she uses examples from her own experience as an attorney and consultant to prove that the skills of introverts are important in all areas of life.  The world needs introverts as much as it needs extroverts; one isn’t better than the other, they are just different.  And whether in relationships, at school, or in the workplace, both can and must co-exist.

An interesting point Cain makes is that introverts are more likely than extroverts to reveal personal information online rather than in person.  I’m not sure if I completely believe that – sites like Facebook and Twitter could not exist solely because of introverts, could they? – but at the same time it makes sense.  Most online interactions involve writing and again in my example I find it much easier to write about things bothering me than to talk about them; and going back to the pre-computer days I had a lot of pen-pals around the world with whom I was more comfortable talking about my teenage angst.

It might seem like a self-help book for its reassurance to introverts that we aren’t social outcasts, but it is more than that.  It includes history, psychology, sociology, politics, business, education, and leisure.  It is smart and well-written, and easily accessible to everyone interested in reading it.

Highly recommended.

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11 Responses to Quiet by Susan Cain

  1. Judith says:

    Sounds like a good book. I guess there is a place for introverts as well as extroverts in the world, we just hear more from the extroverts for obvious reasons.

    I think I’m like you – I was quiet in class, too. I would think what I had to say was so obvious that I wouldn’t go an embarrass myself saying it. In groups of 5 or less I’d be fine, though.

    But I have been trying my best: like at 12, I realised that if you’d put up your hand often enough, the teacher wouldn’t call on you very often, but it would look like I knew the answer every time. So that’s what I did, to up my grade. Also, I would think “what would I say if so-and-so asked my opinion on a particular topic” (in a group of school friends) and I would practice my reply and then one day they DID ask, and I had something sensible to say! Wow, that was great.

    I’m getting older and better at approaching people – especially in situations where it would be strange NOT to introduce myself to a particular person (like if we already talked on Twitter/email and ignoring them would be odd). It’s scary but I do try! 🙂

    • bibliosue says:

      I still find it hard to approach people even if I’ve talked with them online, Judith, but I am getting braver after reading MWF Seeking BFF.
      I wish I as as smart as you when I was 12 — I rarely put up my hand even when I knew the answer because I didn’t want to appear smart. Yes I had issues 🙂

  2. I’ve seen this on a few blogs now and I definitely need to get my hands on a copy as soon as possible. Like you I’m an introvert and I’ve always felt like there’s something wrong with me for not wanting to go out all the time and for finding it difficult to talk to people. Interestingly enough I’m a teacher and have no problem giving an assembly to 400+ children but will struggle if there are other adults in the room.

    • bibliosue says:

      That’s one of the points this book mentions, Sam — that people can be both introverted and extroverted depending on the situation.

  3. Lisa says:

    I had pen pals, too! Mine were in: N.B. Canada, Sweden, France, Malta and Australia. I got their addresses via that old PBS show Big Blue Marble.

    Let’s hear it for introverts! We ARE important, darn it. All my life I’ve heard “You’re so quiet…” Really? So is it okay for me to say you talk so much?! Thanks, Mr. Obvious. If I had $1 for every time I heard that I’d have my kids’ college paid for…


    • bibliosue says:

      I think I got a few pen-pals from Big Blue Marble as well! I actually still keep in contact with a few pen-pals (in Finland and Australia) — the wonders of Facebook!

  4. Donna says:

    I was always the quiet one too. That’s what my mom heard at every parent-teacher conference. Then I went to law school and now you can’t get me to shut up! I should read this book. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  5. Of course, I’m an introvert too – we’re the ones who feel moved to comment on this book. And to read it – I’ve just moved it higher up ,my reading list.

    P.S. Lisa (or anybody else) – want a pen pal now? I’m in N.S. Canada

  6. Marie says:

    I have this somewhere in my piles and keep meaning to read it. As a lifelong introvert I’m fascinated to hear her thoughts & research!

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