Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain shows how introverts—between a third and a half of the world’s population—are underappreciated by businesses and schools. She discusses the rise of the “Extrovert Ideal” in U.S. society in the early twentieth century, and how this led to introverts’ contributions being undervalued. Cain discusses the biological bases for introversion, saying that introverts, even at the age of four months, are more sensitive to stimuli than extroverts. But as a result of their greater sensitivity, introverts sense danger more easily. Cain says that the financial crisis of 2008 could have been prevented if there had been more introverts on Wall Street. In fact, there were some introverts who warned of danger, but the extroverts ignored their advice. Cain also tells the stories of famous introverts such as Gandhi and Eleanor Roosevelt, and says that introverts make just as good leaders as extroverts. It’s just that their leadership styles are different. Cain is highly critical of certain management techniques that favor extroverts. In one chapter, she gives excellent advice to parents of introverted children on how to make their children’s school experience more rewarding, since school can often be a nightmare for introverts. Above all, Cain reassures introverts that it’s all right to be the way they are. In some situations, they can act like extroverts, but even that can be exhausting—introverts always need time to themselves, to recharge their batteries. And acting like an extrovert comes more easily to some introverts than others.
I think Quiet is an extremely important book. I think managers and teachers need to read this book in order to see that there is nothing wrong with being introverted. And extroverts need to read the book, too, to help them understand their introverted colleagues, spouses, partners, and children. On a personal note, I recently heard Cain give a lecture. She is an excellent speaker, and she is an introvert herself, so she admits that public speaking is difficult for her. But you would never know it when you hear her speak. She also does consulting with businesses, and I think her advice would be of great value.
Quiet can be checked out from the Hatcher Graduate Library or the Shapiro Undergraduate Library.