Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Cannot Stop Talking by Susan Cain reflects strongly on our Western ideals. It successfully challenges the assumption that extraversion equals success. In her bestselling book, Cain argues for a more reflective and thoughtful world. About a third to half of the people in the world are introverts but are often overlooked according to Cain. Although the book takes some time to really take of it, it should be the next on your list, both for introverts and extroverts alike.
Beginning this review, it should be stated that Cain takes a quite liberal view of introversion. She both combines definitions from the MBTI and OCEAN (FFM, Big Five) but also includes characteristics that are related to the concept of sensitivity. She argues that introverts are people who need less stimulation to be aroused, and are therefore uncomfortable in large groups and open-plan workspaces. Throughout the book, she uses many examples (both anecdotal and research papers) to demonstrate the effects she describes. In this particular case, she explains that most technical innovations have come forth at moments when introverted geniuses worked all night long, totally alone. Noted should be that she acknowledges that one should have a stimulating environment, but maybe not all the time.
A large part of the book is dedicated to disproving the extrovert ideal. Cain states that people who are the first to speak up, are in fact not the smartest (there is actually no correlation). In our culture we have come to respect people who speak up more and more. In a study into minorities in America, she finds that they find it hard to make promotion or to be taken seriously. Chinese Americans for instance, believe that you only should speak up when you definitively know something. Americans (and Dutch alike) are more prone to speak whatever comes to mind. As most psychology research finds, a careful combination of both worlds is probably the best. To maybe first think about what you know and report accordingly.
The introversion-extraversion spectrum is, according to Cain, as much a core of our identity as our gender. It affects the people we choose to be with, the kinds of environments we find ourselves in, and the way we resolve conflicts. As an integral part of our lives, it is useful to reflect on your own style. It is not that one is better than the other, it is just that they both require another way of expressing yourself. Maybe you love to have small talk with many people (extrovert) or you rather talk philosophy with one person (introvert), both are excellent ways of expressing the true you.
Cain ends with (or rather argues throughout the whole book) that we should take introversion more serious. We are to look more towards the true value of people, not how loudly they speak. The setup of the book may be a reflection of this style. In the beginning it takes some time to take of, it misses a certain catchiness to grab the reader. But when you have committed yourself to the book, you will be pleasantly surprised by the richness of its content.
More on Quiet:
http://www.thepowerofintroverts.com/about-the-book/ – About Quiet
http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html – TED Talk by Susan Cain
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/mar/22/quiet-power-introverts-susan-cain-review – Review by The Guardian
http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140218125055-69244073-5-myths-about-introverts-and-extraverts-at-work – Adam Grant on 5 Myths about Introversion