Book of the Week: "Quiet" by Susan Cain

I give “Quiet” a loud recommendation as a Must-Read for parents of an introvert

The full title of this week’s book by author Susan Cain is: “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.” This book delves deeply into the various traits, characteristics, behaviors, successes and anything else you can imagine about introverts, and introversion more generally. The author proclaims: "today introversion and extroversion are two of the most exhaustively researched subjects in personality psychology, arousing the curiosity of hundreds of scientists.” 

Reading this book reminded me of my undergraduate classes in social psychology at UC Berkeley, and I thoroughly enjoyed how Susan Cain has brought the academics of introversion/extroversion to real-life experiences focusing her attention on many of the ways introverts succeed in all walks of life (even when extroversion became the “cultural ideal” of modern America).

The author relates how Dale Carnegie, the author of the book “Public Speaking: How to Win Friends and Influence Others” had a “metamorphosis from farmboy to salesman to public-speaking icon is also the story of the rise of the Extrovert Ideal.” Essentially, the industrial revolution that started in the early 1900’s and continued through much of the century created this American culture of the “Extrovert Ideal,” whereby “Americans responded to these pressures by trying to become salesman who could sell not only their company’s latest gizmo but also themselves.” 

The author found that at Harvard Business School, extroversion is almost at the base or foundation of the institution. Where one Harvard Business School Grad terms the school the “Spiritual Capital of Extroversion” and another student saying to the author: “Good luck finding an introvert around here…” and yet another saying “This school is predicated on extroversion…Your grades and social status depends on it. It’s just the norm here.”

Without spending too much time on this part of the book, suffice it to say that “Contrary to the Harvard Business School model of vocal leadership, the ranks of effective CEOs turn out to be filled with introverts: including Charles Schwab; Brenda Barnes, CEO of Sara Lee; and James Copeland, former CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.” She continues on this theme by discussing Jim Collin’s “Level 5 Leaders” from the book “Good to Great”—another book I highly recommend and plan to read again later this year.

Without giving away everything, I will just say that I was intrigued at why “introverts are uniquely good at leading initiative takers” whereas extroverted leaders may need to adopt a style that is more reserved—to achieve the best results with employees that are initiative takers.

There are so many great stories in this book, and I believe it is especially good for parents, regardless of whether they believe their child/children may be introverted or extroverted—and I would say a MUST READ for parents that know they have a child (or children) that are introverted. Some researchers have an “Orchid Child” hypothesis whereby they believe introvert children may require a somewhat more complex and supportive family environment (think the delicate nature of the orchid), but the results of this upbringing may create a caring, compassionate and “Thinking” person (and sometimes more immune to colds and respiratory illnesses) that is nothing short of an amazing person (think the exotic beauty that is the orchid).

Initially I was a bit skeptical when I downloaded this book. I didn’t know anything about it—I thought I could be in for a real boring read—introverts and “Quiet”! However I found this book to be a fascinating read. Now a quick disclaimer: I don’t know if extroverts will really enjoy it as much as an introvert (remember that introversion/extroversion is really just a spectrum of behavior on a single continuum), but given its broad range of topics (including the ability of Introverts to “act” like Extroverts under the terminology of “Free Trait” behavior)—I believe that anyone, regardless of where they are on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, will learn something from this book, and hopefully truly enjoy reading it, too.

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Maja - March 5, 2012 2:01 PM

Great book

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