I have recently finished reading Quiet… by Susan Cain, and I thought I would share a few thoughts on it.
The first thing to say is that I really enjoyed the book, which I borrowed from Bury Public Library. I consider myself quite introverted and shy person (different things as explained in the book) that has to put on an ‘extrovert mask’ sometimes. I thought it was brilliantly written and thoroughly researched. From reading it you get the sense that not only is the topic a passion of the author, but that they are an exceedingly clever person (both of these come out vividly both in the theories and personal anecdotes presented throughout the book). The research/evidence presented throughout the book is often complex and from different fields (psychology, biology, philosophy etc.) but is laid out in such a way that it is easy to understand without ever speaking down to the reader – just because something is complex it doesn’t need to complicated. I felt drawn into themes, seeing myself in similar situations and using personal experience to consider points such as introverts often ending conversations with small-talk after the main issue rather than starting a conversation with it.
One of the strongest points of the book was, by explaining and dissecting situations that many ‘introverts’ fear, dread or worry about, it made me realise actually what I feel before presenting, after a sharp words with someone, after ‘group-thinks’ is actually quite a normal way to feel and I am not alone in thinking that way. Quiet, quite frankly is a self-help book in disguise. This is not a bad thing, it is a wonderful thing. Anyone who knows me and has been around me before (or immediately after) I have to give a presentation knows I am agitated, nervous and often quite sweary. I hate it. I recently presented to a potential new workstream at their annual ‘CPD conference’ and I was shitting myself for days beforehand. I know all the techniques: I know my topic; I breathe properly beforehand; I visualise; plenty of water; not too much caffeine. Quiet doesn’t say ‘try technique X or Y’ it says ‘Yep. Sucks doesn’t it. Know exactly what you mean’.
The final chapters I would describe as ‘how to cope not conquer’ showing insight into how to ‘play extrovert’ and how to still stay true to yourself. You may find this grinds with the main body of the book, which looks at the validity of being introverted (I especially like the dismissal of ‘group-think’ and the promotion of working alone). As someone who works with evidence on a daily basis I also began to notice how the evidence used seemed to have been cherry-picked, which is a hallmark of a self-help book. I haven’t critically appraised any of the research weaved into the book but it all suited (as you would expect, but I am used to systematic reviews etc.) some of the anecdotes used (which I classified into 2 categories: ‘I have heard of them’ and ‘That could be me’) began to slightly chide. Steve Wozniak was one such example. He may, like me be introverted, but it wasn’t his alone-working that guided his successes. It is that he is an extremely gifted and clever person with a serious level of drive. Many of the ‘That could be me’ examples were still outstanding in their field, such as students from Harvard Business School or the author herself, Princeton and Harvard educated successful lawyer, consultant etc. The argument could be made, that these people didn’t get to where they were because they were introverted or not, but because cream rises to the top and they were very smart and individuals. But these are minor quibbles, and the book as a whole is an engaging read, that covers are multitude of topics that surround ‘introverted’.
Overall I would recommend reading this book. I could not possibly do it justice. Read it yourself. Although I describe it as a ‘self-help book in disguise’ it is not going to change your life dramatically and unlike the Dale Carnegie’s of the world, it won’t ever claim to. It won’t solve your problems or even present a road map on how to. However, It may help you understand why you are how you are, and how other people are just like you too. And why that isn’t a bad thing at all.