Quiet by Susan Cain (2012)

I wanted to like this book, and I tried to like it along the way, but ultimately, I was turned off by the author’s tone. She seemed t8520610o have a chip on her shoulder that permeated her voice, and though the premise of the book is to open our eyes–and ears–to the power and promise of quiet people, I kept feeling like Cain was scolding me. Disclosure: I am an extrovert.  So is my daughter.  But my husband and son are introverts—quiet thinkers who often see far more than my daughter and I do.  I love how we complement one another and how we learn and grow from and with one another.  That’s the warm fuzzy feeling I thought she might convey in the book: hey world, let me invite you inside the mind of an introvert and show you that we need both types of people.  When we work together, we can be amazing.  Instead, Cain conveyed a feeling of desperation and constant criticism: hey world, too many extroverts are shallow loud mouths who have money and power and don’t listen to smart, quiet folks the way they should!  Surely, that’s often true.  I know plenty of extroverted “successful” people who are disingenuous schmoozers and not very smart, but I’m not willing to stuff everyone into a category with a label and make one out to be better than the other.  In her defense, Cain does often clarify that people don’t always “fit” the introvert or extrovert personality exclusively and that they don’t all have the same traits.  But even though she continually reminds us of this, I feel like she really does feel like making it an ‘us vs. them’ fight. My other problem with this book is that though it’s full of research studies (and almost 50 pages of end notes), I feel like so many of her conclusions are painfully obvious.  Examples: solitude is an important part of creativity, so employers and teachers should allow for this as well as group projects; the most successful musicians spend more time practicing their instrument alone than playing with other people; we should seek out symbiotic introvert/extrovert relationships when collaborating.  These things seem pretty much like common sense to me.  Do we really need hundreds of research studies and a 300 page book about it?

 

Yes, we live in a world where all too often loud mouth schmoozers come out on top because the general public is easily impressed (fooled?) and doesn’t much like to think about or  challenge their ideas.  And it’s probably getting more and more that way.  But smart folks–both introverts and extroverts–can see through this. I’m not sure we need a book about the power of introverts as much as we need a book (and a public service campaign) about the power of independent thinking.  We need more people to recognize high quality: high quality products, people, companies, and ideas. When everyone can recognize that, whether someone is an introvert or an extrovert is a moot point.  (nonfiction)

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