Overall Impression: An accessible look at introversion – its strengths and its weaknesses.
To make this review a little more fun and interesting, it’s going to be a bit different from normal! Don’t worry, I’ll still going into the basics of writing style etc. (let’s not get crazy here) but I feel like this will be more interesting if I also share with you some interesting facts I learnt from reading Quiet. 🙂 So let’s start off with a little story: Once upon a time there was a young girl with blonde hair. She loved to learn, to follow the rules and do the best she could at school but every time parent teacher night came around or reports were drawn up she would come across the same critique again and again – ‘Student is kind and conscientious, she works hard and always helps others but she needs to speak up and participate more in class.’ This cropped up again and again and the girl soon learnt it was considered a bad thing to be quiet, that it was a fundamentally negative trait that needed to be fixed. It would put her at a disadvantage in the work place, in relationships and in life. But no matter how much she tried, she couldn’t change her nature.
That young girl was yours truly.
And a lot of the ideas expressed above are what introverts are taught to believe when living in a world that has an extrovert ideal. This is one of the many topics that Cain tackles in her non-fiction personality psychology book, Quiet.
That’s the sound of your thoughts.
If you are happy with what you hear, you may be an introvert.
For too long, those who are naturally quiet, serious or sensitive have been overlooked.
The loudest have taken over – even if they have nothing to say.
It’s time for everyone to listen. It’s time to harness the power of introverts.
It’s time for quiet.
My reasons for reading this book were twofold, firstly was dissertation research and second was my general interest in finding out more about introversion, a label I had always loosely associated myself with. So what exactly is introversion? Most of us (like myself) have heard of the term but know little about it, or have misconceptions about it. (For example that all introverts are shy, which is a completely different personality trait that introverts may or may not have.) Introverted individuals tend to be more interested in the internal world rather than the external, they’re deep thinkers and like to observe rather than jump right into a situation, they tend to prefer small gatherings and have a tight-knit group of friends. They often feel the need to recharge in solitude if they have to do anything heavily social. Extroverts are at the opposite side of the spectrum, they thrive on socialising and feel at their best when surrounded by a huge group of people, they like to be the centre of attention, are talkative, impulsive and instantly appear friendly. And if you feel you have a mixture of these traits? You could be an ambivert which is somewhere in the middle!
In life, and remarkably in psychological research as well, introverts tend to get a pretty bad rep. When I was sifting though journals on it almost all the articles I came across were negative and talked about how extroverts were statistically happier and more successful. It started to present a very bleak picture. That’s why I decided to pick up Quiet, which has become a pretty famous book for putting a positive spin on introversion, and arguing that it is just as valid and important to society as extroversion. The book takes you on a journey defining what introversion is, how the world has shifted to favour the extrovert ideal, how personality differs between cultures and how you can use your introversion to your advantage in the workplace.
Cain writes in an accessible, friendly and descriptive style that is easy to understand and enjoy. While her knowledge is based on academic research she weaves in lots of real life examples by focusing on individuals who have struggled with their introversion in certain situations and how they have overcome it. By doing it this way (and not adding in too much technical jargon) she makes the topic approachable to those with little or no knowledge whatsoever about personality psychology. The book also touches on a few other topics such as high sensitivity, leadership and group work. I was also glad that Quiet didn’t fall into the trap of self-help, or the ‘introverts are totes better than extroverts, na, naaa, na, naa, naaaa’ bracket.
For me, the downsides of this book mainly come from an academic standpoint, and I have a feeling many of my dislikes are probably also all the things that explain why this book has become so popular. There wasn’t quite as much research as I was hoping for, and Cain doesn’t really go into any criticisms of the studies she mentions or show any contradicting studies (and I know from experience that psychology is rarely that straight forward!) I kind of didn’t like that this made everything she said seem concrete, which is rarely the case with psychology when your dealing with individual differences in something as complex as personality, it made me a bit uncomfortable. Additionally, this book doesn’t really deal with the extroverted side in any depth, if you were interested in that aspect or wanted more of a rounded understanding, you would definitely want to pick a different book. I didn’t mind that too much however because SO much of the literature focuses on extroversion. That’s one of the reasons she wrote the book! Otherwise, a big thumbs up. 🙂
So, here are 10 interesting things I learnt from reading Quiet! (I don’t want to call them facts because y’know, subjective depending on who you ask.)
1. Extroverts are often perceived as smarter because of their external demeanor of appearing bright and confident, when actually introverts and extroverts have equal IQ levels.
2. Introverts often feel they express themselves better in writing. (I’ve always said this about myself, I never considered it could be linked to personality in any way!)
3. Introverts love expressing themselves online and have no problem talking to thousands of people via internet.
4. Even introverts are unknowingly prejudiced about introverts! Yikes. When a study asked introverts to describe themselves they used bright and vivid language such as ‘green-blue eyes’ and ‘exotic’ but when asked to describe a generic introvert they used bland uninspiring words such as ‘neutral colours’ and ‘skin problems’.
5. Temperament and personality are not the same thing. Temperament is the base or genetics, but personality is when genetics, culture and history are all taken into consideration as well.
6. It’s official, Harvard Business school sounds like my worst nightmare, it’s full of non-stop extroverted activities and expectations. The stuff they have to do sounds EXCTUTIATING AND INTENSE. NO THANK YOUUUUUUU.
7. Introverts can be just as effective leaders as extroverts – extroverts are better at leading people who are passive because they inspire them into doing more work, whereas introverts working with active employees way outperform extrovert leaders because they listen to other people’s ideas which benefit the group.
8. Group work sucks. People actually becomes less productive the bigger a group is. Any more than 2 and your going downhill unless it’s group work via the internet. (How are researchers ONLY just realising this? Everyone hates group work!)
9. According to one study, extroverts get better grades during elementary school, but introverts outperform extroverts at high school and university/college level (again, not because they are smarter but because they work on a tasks longer and in solitude).
10. There are two different ways of spelling extroversion/extraversion. Who knew!
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So overall, Quiet had a bit too much personal and not quite enough scientific shizz, but any introvert will love reading this. They’ll see themselves in many of the case studies and realise that there are more introverts out there than they think. They will see that others suffer with the same struggles and that they can be overcome (and will pick up a few tips on how as they go along). You might even turn the last page feeling a little bit empowered. 🙂 Recommended to introverts 15+.
If you’re interested in finding out more, you may also want to try the online personality test attached to the book or this test which is much more interesting, in depth and freakishly accurate! Susan Cain also did TED talk on Youtube.
So I’ll leave my fellow introverts with an uplifting quote that sums up most of Cain’s points pretty well:
If you’re an introvert, find your flow by using your gifts. You have the power of persistence, the tenacity to solve complex problems, and the clear-sightedness to avoid pitfalls that trip others up. You enjoy relative freedom from the temptations of superficial prizes like money and status. Indeed, your biggest challenge may be to fully harness your strengths. You may be so busy trying to appear like a zestful, reward-sensitive extrovert that you undervalue your own talents, or feel underestimated by those around you. So stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don’t force yourself to seek breadth. If you prefer single-tasking to multi-tasking, stick to your guns. Being relatively unmoved by rewards give you the incalculable power to go your own way. It’s up to you to use that independence to good effect. – Pg 173
Do you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert? Have you ever felt judged for being one or the other? I would love to hear your stories. 🙂
Writing Style: 4/5
Would I recommend this book? Yes.