Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. ~ Susan Cain

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on Mar 30, 2013
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Quiet the power of introverts by susan cain

Excerpt from the book QUIET: The Power Of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, published by Crown, a division of Random House, Inc.  Reprinted with permission. Copyright © 2012 by Susan Cain. 

Today we make room for a remarkably narrow range of personality styles.

We’re told that to be great is to be bold, to be happy is to be sociable.

We see ourselves as a nation of extroverts—which means that we’ve lost sight of who we really are.

Depending on which study you consult, one third to one half of Americans are introverts—in other words, one out of every two or three people you know.

(Given that the United States is among the most extroverted of nations, the number must be at least as high in other parts of the world.) If you’re not an introvert yourself, you are surely raising, managing, married to, or coupled with one.

If these statistics surprise you, that’s probably because so many people pretend to be extroverts. Closet introverts pass undetected on playgrounds, in high school locker rooms, and in the corridors of corporate America. Some fool even themselves, until some life event—a layoff, an empty nest, an inheritance that frees them to spend time as they like— jolts them into taking stock of their true natures. You have only to raise the subject of this book with your friends and acquaintances to find that the most unlikely people consider themselves introverts.

It makes sense that so many introverts hide even from themselves.

We live with a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal—the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight. The archetypal extrovert prefers action to contemplation, risk- taking to heed-taking, certainty to doubt. He favors quick decisions, even at the risk of being wrong. She works well in teams and socializes in groups.

introvertedWe like to think that we value individuality, but all too often we admire one type of individual—the kind who’s comfortable “putting himself out there.” Sure, we allow technologically gifted loners who launch companies in garages to have any personality they please, but they are the exceptions, not the rule, and our tolerance extends mainly to those who get fabulously wealthy or hold the promise of doing so.

Introversion—along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness—is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.

The Extrovert Ideal has been documented in many studies, though this research has never been grouped under a single name. Talkative people, for example, are rated as smarter, better- looking, more interesting, and more desirable as friends. Velocity of speech counts as well as volume: we rank fast talkers as more competent and likable than slow ones. The same dynamics apply in groups, where research shows that the voluble are considered smarter than the reticent—even though there’s zero correlation between the gift of gab and good ideas.

Even the word introvert is stigmatized—one informal study, by psychologist Laurie Helgoe, found that introverts described their own physical appearance in vivid language ( “green- blue eyes,” “exotic,” “high cheekbones”), but when asked to describe generic introverts they drew a bland and distasteful picture (“ungainly,” “neutral colors,” “skin problems”).

But we make a grave mistake to embrace the Extrovert Ideal so unthinkingly. Some of our greatest ideas, art, and inventions—from the theory of evolution to van Gogh’s sunflowers to the personal computer—came from quiet and cerebral people who knew how to tune in to their inner worlds and the treasures to be found there.

Susan Cain Author Photo Credit Aaron Fedor (250x241)
Susan Cain is the New York Times bestselling author of the book, QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. She lives on the banks of the Hudson River in an 1822 captain’s cottage with her beloved husband, sons, and magnolia trees.

Photo: Aaron Fedor

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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger



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11 Responses to “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. ~ Susan Cain”

  1. Monica says:

    I don't usually like to speak in public…but LOVE this article! Thank you 🙂

  2. So glad you love it, Monica!

  3. Nicole Weinberger says:

    It's nice to see this book about this subject. I think you can be a mixture, though. I spend a lot of time alone and feel comfortable in solitude, but in social situations and at work I'm very talkative and outgoing. I think many people are a mixture of personality types. I heard that what defines the two is how you recharge. Extroverts tend to recharge externally, by doing social things and gaining energy from others. Introverts recharge by themselves and need quiet time to access internal energy.

  4. Sharon says:

    THANKS!!!! For this……omg!

  5. @patweber says:

    Embarrassingly I have not read her book yet. Maybe that is because I blog almost everything introvert since 2007! I hear good things about it, including your review here. Thanks.

  6. Linda V. Lewis says:

    I too think one can be both, really enjoying being out in the world, working as a team, and then–ah, to come home to peace and quiet at night! There are also at least 2 sides to quiet–privacy and contemplation. The desire for privacy can be a cocoon of self centeredness. But the contemplative, meditative aspect is pure gold. One involves hiding; the other penetrating, discovering, creating.

  7. Lindsay says:

    I just started this book and loving it. I'm 37 years old and it's taken me a very long time to come to terms with being an introvert. Like many others, I used to think there was something wrong with me or that I was just shy and needed to get over it. I realize now that I'm really not shy at all, I'm very friendly and love being around people…for certain periods of time. I treasure my solitude and I need quiet space in my day just as much as I need social interaction. I look forward to being alone when I'm in a loud, bright and crowded place for too long. I find all of this fascinating because I realize I've always been this way, as a child I could entertain myself for hours and always had a book in my hand. It's liberating to be where I am now, celebrating my qualities and being proud of who I am and what I have to offer the world. Thank you!

  8. @patweber says:

    Many of us can be both – it's called Ambivert! LOL. Just no test for it.

  9. Elena Ray says:

    This was a cathartic book for me. I'm a people loving introvert. Not beige at all. I'm bold and cheerful and friendly. I just spend 8/10ths of my time in necessary introversion. I used to feel guilty about it until I read "Quiet". I realize it's one of my super powers now. But it's true-it has a shadow side. I wilt during long gatherings of any kind. It's a challenge to find and maintain the intimate friendships I treasure so greatly. I've discovered that extreme extroverts are very compatible since they are so busy they don't even notice my absence!

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  11. Quiet is a fascinating book about the prejudice that our society faces against introverts, and why it's unfounded, and how, as an introvert, you can overcome that, as well as just KNOW yourself better. I never really classified myself as such before, but reading this, I understand why, if I'm exhausted, all I want to be is alone, and how I'm extroverted only when I can control my environment and how that's a THING! If you're shy or are unsure, this is a great read. I think you'll discover something about yourself, that's why I've recommended to a lot of people lately!