In “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” Susan Cain has captured the American attitude about introversion well- in a fast paced and personality driven culture, it is easy to overlook those who are more reflective than loquacious. Considering how quickly our culture has changed in the past one hundred years, there seems to be little time for deep thinking since everyone risks not keeping up with the rate of change in business, entertainment, and means of communication. We have become so comfortable with this idea that Cain suggests “We tend to think that becoming more extroverted not only makes us more successful, but also makes us better people.” Is this really the case in the United States today? Is such an attitude an exaggerated claim about the benefits of extroversion?
Cain takes her readers on a cross country journey (and even overseas) to study this compelling observation. She places a significant emphasis on the transformation of American culture from a culture of character to a culture of personality in the past one hundred years, stating that this change has happened primarily because we have become less agrarian and more culturally centered around areas of dense populations. She studies and interviews thought leaders in academia, Evangelicalism, and business to find out their candid attitudes about spoken and unspoken personality expectations. Her findings and conclusions should surprise any reader- regardless of what you have thought about personality differences in the past, Cain will challenge your thinking.
People who are introverts will find Cain’s analysis penetrating, insightful, and perhaps redemptive. She demonstrates how unspoken rules about personality expectations affect a career, relationships, and expectations of others. The strengths of an introverted personality can be important assets. However, strengths are precarious assets when wielded effectively since they also expose weaknesses.
Her chapter entitled “When Should You Act More Extroverted Than You Really Are?” provides crucial application for managing a common weaknesses associated with introverts. The strengths of an internal fortitude are best revealed when they are publicly displayed- however, this is an exhausting exercise for introverts; knowing how to pace and recharge the energy needed for sustained social interaction is critical in order to communicate with and influence other people. Cain teaches the reader that public presentation of extroverted characteristics at key moments can be as rewarding as it is exhausting.
Those who are extroverted will find Cain’s analysis beneficial for understanding and relating to people with different personality types. Families, churches, businesses, and organizations are full of individuals spanning the spectrum of personality types; while it is easier for us to relate to those with a personality similar to our own, we will all be more effective when we can identify and make full use of all the strengths of each of our team members.
I highly recommend this book. If you are an introvert, be prepared for Cain’s words to cut a little too close to the heart- but continue to read to the end! Your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness; once you can learn to temper the rugged edges of your gift, you will learn to be even more effective in your career and relationships. Under the right light, a person’s strengths are more evident; knowing which light to shine under can be a tricky task for introverts, especially “…in a world that can’t stop talking.”
I received this book from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for review