Book Review: Quiet by Susan Cain

July 21, 2015

By Jennifer Kennedy

quiet-coverSeveral years ago, as I was looking for content to share on IEA’s social networks one day, I stumbled across a TEDTalk by Susan Cain. I found myself captivated by everything she was saying. She discussed introverts in an extraverted world, and I felt like she was speaking directly to me. I knew that a higher percentage of gifted kids are introverted than is the case for the general population, and it made me think about how many of our kids – and their parents – would feel the same sense of relief, self-understanding, and self-acceptance that I felt after hearing what Susan Cain had to say in that talk.

From that moment, I knew I needed to learn more about introversion, and most of the articles I casually came across on the subject referenced Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Upon reading that book, I realized why: Cain discusses introversion in relatable, understandable ways that bring value to a wide variety of audiences.

I continue to find myself thinking about and referencing Quiet, even though years have passed since I read the book, so I wanted to share its value with those of you who have not had the pleasure of reading it yet.

What Is In the Book

Quiet explores many aspects of introversion and extroversion from scientific, historic, cultural and social standpoints. Cain discusses:

  • Both introversion and extroversion, explaining that one is not better than the other, but rather different.
  • The difference between introversion and shyness, helping to dispel the myth that all introverts are shy.
  • Famous introverts and how they harnessed their “power” as introverts to become successful.
  • The science and history behind introversion.
  • Other traits associated with introversion.
  • The cultural context of how introversion and extroversion are viewed.
  • How we deal with these traits.
  • To what these traits translate.

The book is not trying to prove that introverts are better. Instead, it discusses that introversion is valuable – that introverts and extroverts each bring important dynamics that are valuable together – but that right now introverts are being squelched, so she is speaking up for them.

Why I Recommend It, Even for Extroverts

I highly recommend this book to introverts as well as extroverts who love and/or work with introverts. This book is a great one for parents of gifted children who are introverts, which is a great many of you. It is also good for teachers, who are charged with shaping young minds in an environment most often suited for extroverts.

Cain is extremely informative about the science and history behind her arguments while still keeping the tone of the book fairly conversational most of the time. Cain references a great deal of academic research that helps lend credibility to her perspective but often relies on stories to truly illustrate her points. I know she’s credible because she proves she’s done her research, and I understand her points easily because she makes them human and relatable. This is a difficult balance to strike, but Cain does it extremely well.

Additionally, you can put as little or as much thought into this book as you want. You can simply read what Cain writes and get a fairly good understanding of introversion. If you want to learn more, Cain references many studies throughout the book that you can explore. You might also use the book as a jumping off point for a great deal of inner reflection, which is what I did a great deal; I thought quite a bit about how I do or don’t fit into the picture Cain paints of introverts, resulting in a lot of underlining and notes in the margins.

The book is primarily written for introverts – to empower them to be themselves, to help them learn about themselves, and to teach them how introversion, a trait not traditionally embraced in our culture, can be used positively in many situations. However, as Cain points out, we do live in a society with an “Extrovert Ideal”. Clearly understanding the difference between introverts and extroverts as well as knowing what introverts can bring to the table is useful for everyone, regardless of where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. The book also addresses introvert-extrovert relationships, which makes the book valuable for those extroverts who have close relationships with introverts, including significant others, parents, children, and close friends.

It is so important for us to teach our kids that they should be themselves, but our culture values extroversion so highly that it is difficult for our introverts to understand the value of this trait. Let’s understand introversion and extroversion better so we can help our children embrace who they are and the strengths they bring to the table.

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