Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain
Crown, 352 pages
Nineteenth century America admired the virtuous. Lincoln, for example, was widely respected for his honesty, integrity, and sense of social responsibility, and his example inspired others to develop similar qualities in themselves. To communicate the possession of such traits, people of various temperaments would cultivate a reserved manner, as it was often associated with a strong moral character. When North America industrialized in the early twentieth century, however, social expectations began to change. Many jobs required that people sell goods or services, and it soon became clear that the most effective way to sell a product was to sell yourself. Suddenly, it was a professional advantage to connect to others easily, to be perceived as likeable, and to promote your products with great enthusiasm. Dale Carnegie made his fortune by teaching such skills to the naturally restrained. The upright but taciturn Lincoln was too stuffy; much better to emulate the gregariousness of someone like Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
In Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain explores what it means to be introverted in an extraverted society. Her research takes her to high schools, retreat centres, universities, self-help workshops, church camps, and other venues to find out how introverts fare in a variety of settings, and she conducts countless interviews to obtain in-depth descriptions of introverts’ life experiences. Introverted readers will easily see themselves in her stories, and they may gain insight from some of her more detailed findings on introversion in children and on the role of introversion in work. Furthermore, they will be reassured by her positive attitude to the introverted temperament and the many examples of introverts who made a successful life in extraverted environments.
Cain’s book blends personal stories with meticulous research and will appeal to readers of personality psychology, social issues and creative non-fiction.