Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Book Review: Quiet by Susan Cain

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop TalkingQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm generally not the type to read "self-help" books, and I suspect that to some extent Susan Cain's Quiet is probably quite often mistaken as such, when in actual fact it is nothing of the sort.

Personality, generally speaking, falls into two categories. Either a person is an extrovert, or they are an introvert. There are more extroverts in the world than there are introverts and, as such, it may be of little surprise to learn that the extrovert personality tends to dominate - just about everything. Outgoing, sociable and comfortable around large groups of people, the extrovert has been promoted as the "ideal" personality type in schools, universities, and the workplace. So, what does this mean for the introvert?

In Quiet Susan Cain takes an in-depth look at the impact that this extroverted ideal has had on the introvert. Quiet, thoughtful and sometimes a little shy, the introvert is often mistaken as a loner, a bit mysteries, or just plain weird. However, there are significant psychological and physiological factors at play that make it impossible for an introvert to "become" an extrovert in the same way that an extrovert could never hope to be an introvert. Quiet is all about understanding the differences between the two personality types, whilst at the same time teaching others to appreciate the benefits that both personalities have to offer the world.

I am an introvert. In fact, according to the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, I belong to the 1% of people who are an INFJ personality type. In may mean nothing to you (particularly if you are an extrovert), but it means the world to me. Knowing why I think the way I think and do the things I do is of major importance to an introvert trying to survive in an extroverted world. Quiet was written to be read by people just like me.

Despite its claims, however, Quiet will not necessarily provide an introvert with the "tools" needed to thrive in a world where extroverts dominate. I found that although it provided me with a greater understanding of my introversion, at the same time it made me all the more aware of it, which is of absolutely no benefit whatsoever when in a public setting.

Having said that, however, where Quiet does succeed is in its championing of the introvert in a society where they are too often under-appreciated and ignored. For that reason, it's a book that should be read not only by the introverts of the world, but also by the extroverts. In that sense, Quiet has a lot to teach us all.

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