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

A friend gave me the book Quiet a couple of years ago. This past year, it finally rose to the top of my nightstand stack. It’s a dense read, but worth it.

Cain, an introvert herself, braved crazy conferences (I had anxiety just reading her description of the Tony Robbins conference she attended), interviewed dozens of researchers, and hunted down other introverts on college campuses, businesses, and organizations. She compiled it all into four parts: The Extrovert Ideal; Your Biology, Your Self?; Do all cultures have an Extrovert Ideal?; How to love, How to work.

If you’re not sure whether or not you’re an introvert, Cain provides a quick assessment to see where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. (I scored 18 out of 20 on the introvert scale. No surprise to me, however.)

The first chapter debunks the myth that everyone should aspire to be extroverted. If you’re an introvert, you know what I mean. You’ve probably heard: “You should get out more”, “Smile, you look so sad”, “You’re too quiet”, “you need to assert yourself to get ahead”, and so on. Cain gives a brief walk through our culture’s history and when/where the idea of the extrovert ideal emerged.

She then goes on to talk about the strength and capabilities of an introvert as compared to the much coveted extrovert. She also points out that introverts aren’t always as quiet as they seem. We (introverts) just don’t like small talk. Instead, we want to delve into deeper, meaningful topics. And when we are in a comfortable and familiar environment, we can actually talk quite a bit.

Cain also touches on the balance both introverts and extroverts provide one another, when each recognize what the other has to offer (it’s not all extrovert bashing). She cites numerous studies explaining the disposition of both, addresses their strengths and weakness, and discusses the benefits of having both in our families, organizations and businesses.

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, I highly recommend this book. I find freedom in understanding who I am and who others are because when I do, I can extend grace both to myself and others and truly appreciate who we are and what we have to offer. I hope you can, too.

Quotes:

We all write our life stories as if we were novelists… with beginnings, conflicts, turning points, and endings. And the way we characterize our past setbacks profoundly influences how satisfied we are with our current lives. Unhappy people tend to see setbacks as contaminants that ruined an otherwise good thing, while generative adults see them as blessings in disguise.

Physcologist Dan McAdams
  • How did we go from Character to Personality without realizing that we had sacrificed something meaningful along the way?
  • Does it always make sense to equate leadership with hyper-extroversion?
  • We tend to overestimate how outgoing leaders need to be.
  • We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.
  • Evangelicalism has taken the Extrovert Ideal to its logical extreme. If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love. It’s not enough to forge your own spiritual connection to the divine, it must be displayed publicly. Is it any wonder that introverts…start to question their own hearts?
  • One of the most interesting findings, echoed by later studies, was that the more creative people tended to be socially poised introverts.
  • introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation.
  • …not everyone aspires to be a leader in the conventional sense of the word–that some people wish to fit harmoniously into the group, and others to be independent of it.
  • …it’s only when you’re alone that you can engage in Deliberate Practice…identified as the key to exceptional achievement.
  • …the single-minded focus…is typical for highly creative people.
  • Indeed, excessive stimulation seems to impede learning: a recent study found that people learn better after a quiet stroll through the woods than after a noisy walk down a city street.
  • Peer pressure, in other words, is not only unpleasant, but can actually change your view of a problem.
  • …we should actively seek out symbiotic introvert-extrovert relationships, in which leadership and other tasks are divided according to people’s natural strengths and temperaments.
  • We can stretch our personalities, but only up to a point. Our inborn temperaments influence us, regardless of the lives we lead.
  • …highly sensitive people tend to be keen observers who look before they leap. They arrange their lives in a ways that limit surprises… they have difficulty when being observed or judged for general worthiness.
  • The highly sensitive tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk.
  • They love music, nature, art physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions…
  • Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments–both physical and emotional–unusually deeply.
  • IN short, introverts just don’t buzz as easily.
  • “People with certain personality types got control of capital and institutions and power. And people who are congenitally more cautious and introverted and statistic in their thinking became discredited and pushed aside.”
  • Introverts seem to be specifically wired or trained so when they catch themselves getting excited and focused on a goal, their vigilance increases.
  • Introverts’ disinclination to charge ahead is not only a hedge against risk, it also pays off on intellectual task.
  • Extroverts are better than introverts at handling information overload.
  • But introverts seem to think more carefully than extroverts.
  • Persistence isn’t very glamorous. If genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-one percent perspiration, then as a culture we tend to lionize the one percent. We love its flash and dazzle But great power lies in the other ninety-nine percent.
  • Flow is an optimal state in which you feel totally engaged in an activity… In a state of flow, you’re neither bored nor anxious, and you don’t question your own adequacy. Hours pass without your noticing.
  • 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.
  • The point is not that one (culture) is superior to the other, but that a profound difference in cultural values has a powerful impact on the personality styles favoredly each culture.
  • …that each way of being–quiet and talkative, careful and audacious, inhibited and unrestrained–is characteristic of its own mighty civilization.
  • Gandhi’s passivity was not weakness at all. It meant focusing on an ultimate goal and refusing to divert energy to unnecessary skirmishes along the way. Restraint…one of his greatest assets.
  • I don’t really like being the guest at someone else’s part, because then I have to be entertaining. But I’ll host parties because it puts you at the center of things without actually being a social person.
  • “Restorative niche” the place you go when you want to return to your true self.
  • Will this job allow me to spend time on in-character activities like, for example, reading, strategizing, writing and researching?
  • …acknowledges that we’ll each act out of character some of the time–in exchange for being ourselves the rest of the time.
  • studies suggest that the former (introverts) tend to be conflict-avoiders, while the later (extroverts) are confrontative copers, at ease with an up-front, even argumentative style of disagreement.
  • …introverts like people they meet in friendly contexts; extroverts prefer those they compete with.
  • the number one this is they’ve got to really listen well.
  • my passion overcomes my shyness once I get started on a speech. If you find something that arouses your passion or provides a welcome challenge, you forget yourself for a while. It’s like an emotional vacation.
  • Figure out what you are to meant to contribute to the world and make sure you contribute it.
  • The trick is not to amass all the different types of available power, but to use well the kind you’ve been granted.

One side note, a personal observation, however. Based on the studies Cain cites, introversion and extroversion are not limited by gender. Unfortunately, some of the more conservative circles I have belonged to hold up a “quiet” ideal for women and the “bolder” ideal for men. Both of which are shortsighted and misguided. They place unhealthy, limiting boxes on both sexes and tell them how they “should” act. In doing so, they miss and waste the gifts, abilities, and potential of bold women and quiet men.

Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again.

Anais Nin

We are each created amazingly, wonderfully, uniquely. To know our strengths and be able to live, lead, and serve is to truly be all we are created to be. Abundantly.

About Jill English Johnston

God writes His story on every heart, if we only pause to read it. My heart has lived in a fantasy world since early childhood and am delighted that God has finally brought me to the place where I can bring the fantasies to life through story. I am currently working on a fantasy trilogy (of course) but I also post thoughts, reflections and (hopefully) inspiration to my website: tabletsofhumanhearts.wordpress.com I am a follower of the Rabbi Jesus, married to my best friend and inspiration, and the mother of three incredible children, one daughter and two sons, a son-in-love, a daughter-in-love and two adorable granddaughters. When not writing, I passionately pursue prayer, reading (never enough time to read them all!), and the outdoors. My husband and I both served in the US Navy and have lived/travelled through many states and all over Asia. We both still enjoy travelling, but we really love our home in New Braunfels, located at the Texas Hill Country.
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