Books / Non-Fiction

Quiet: Finding a Healthy Balance Between Introversion and Extroversion in American Society

quiet smallSince its January 2012 publication, Quiet has been spreading like wildfire, gracing bestseller lists right and left and featuring in the author Susan Cain’s TED and Leading@Google talks. Quiet even inspired a Time cover story in February 2012 right after its release. It has sparked discussions about American society and its values, how offices run and what makes effective leaders, and how we should parent children and choose our better halves.

Considering all the hype and attention Quiet has been given, I was happy to find that it lived up to my expectations to the very last page. Not only does it have a clear, well-researched, and elegantly argued message about finding a healthy balance between introversion and extroversion, but it also shines in the delivery, with insightful, simple examples and crisp, colloquial prose.

While dramatic (consider the bold red type treatment), Quiet is less about introversion than one would expect given the title and subtitle (The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking). Rather, it’s a call to action for American society as a whole, to be more cognizant of the strengths and weaknesses inherent in both introverts and extroverts, and those in-between.

Although Cain perhaps over-emphasizes the fact that America functions on an “extrovert ideal,” she does, however, make a valid point that introverts are often expected to function like extroverts in the workplace and in relationships. When they fail to live up this ideal, they are then labeled as anti-social as opposed to differently social. Rather than pressing introverts to “pretend” extroversion, Cain makes a passionate case for re-thinking how we learn, work, and play to ensure that society functions in a way that benefits both introverts and extroverts equally–and, ultimately, the productivity and ingenuity of society as a whole.

Split into four sections–The Extrovert Ideal; Your Biology, Your Self?; Do All Cultures Have An Extrovert Ideal?; and How To Love, How To Work–Quiet blends cutting-edge psychology and neuroscience research with history, insightful examples of historical and present-day figures, and self-help.

While it is true that introverts reading this book will likely breathe a sigh of relief and say “finally,” Quiet was not written solely as a self-help book for the introverted among us. It aims, and succeeds, at being a book for everyone.

I cannot recommend Quiet highly enough. It was meant to be a book for every American, and I believe firmly that each and every one of us can genuinely benefit from thinking about Cain’s arguments. Whether you are interested in parenting and compatible couples, the science and psychology of personality, or management and workplace dynamics, Quiet touches all the essential aspects of life.

I look forward to seeing what kind of lasting impact Cain and her ideas will produce.

 

~ Michelle

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3 thoughts on “Quiet: Finding a Healthy Balance Between Introversion and Extroversion in American Society

  1. I find that her ideas have massive implications, especially in the field of education. As a teacher (and former student) I know that extroverts are easy to reward. They bring more attention to themselves. It can be a difficult thing to recognize the talents of the quieter ones who are less inclined to broadcast themselves but to give them voice in a way they find comfortable is incredibly important I think. Culture seems to be very much built around extroverts, which in many ways in unfortunate.

    • It will be interesting to see if American culture changes to accommodate her ideas. I really hope it does, but it seems like things won’t change overnight! It is concerning how education–at least early education–seems to be leaning more and more to favor extroverts these days.

      • From what I can tell, you’re right. And it’s unfortunate in many ways but a big one is that’s it’s disenfranchising to those whose minds are put together in ways that could really have a positive effect on the world. The way education is often structured, it’ll take those people who are longer than it should to realize it.

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