It’s quite the accomplishment for a book to remain on the bestseller’s list for an entire year, but Susan Cain’s nonfiction masterpiece “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” has surpassed that feat by seven years. Originally published in January of 2012, Cain’s self-help book has remained powerful and thought-provoking.
Through a years-long study, Cain delves into why some of us show up to parties with our friends, only to end up in the bathroom feeling self-conscious and overstimulated; how we agree to hang out with others only to realize too late that we actually would rather be alone with a book or a movie.
Cain’s thesis is a rather provoking one—the world we live in too often caters towards extroverts—the people who love to socialize and are really good at it, too. Cain suggests that this overly-emphasized ideal that extroverts are the ones who get ahead, the ones who become the most successful, is a wildly misguided claim.
Introverts, she says, are just as likely to become successful—and the traits that make introverts the way they are characteristics everyone could benefit from. We as a society model our school and workplace environments on group brainstorming with open floor plans that stimulate group thinking. Cain argues the highly analytical and quiet approach of the introvert is sometimes the better route. Extroverts who are narcissistic and unable to take time to really think are the ones who take over the group dynamic and lead the way, leaving all the introverts who can’t adapt behind.
Cain’s writing style certainly adds to the content of the book. She is not too wordy, but takes her time in persuading you. She uses example after example of real people—wildly successful people—who use an introverted style of leading and working to create great things.
Perhaps Cain’s greatest feat is to make people feel understood. For introverts (me included) who have struggled their whole lives with the tragic truth that they can’t be extroverted no matter how hard they try, the book is a life-saver. It takes all those personality traits that introverts have come to hate and paints them in a new, brighter light. After reading this book, I never felt more understood and empowered in my life.
But the book wouldn’t be such a hit if it didn’t help the extroverts, too. Instead of calling out extroverts as attention-seeking, Fitzgerald-esque socialites, Cain addresses the personality majority with the notion that they can become better leaders and thinkers by incorporating introvertism into their daily lives. She proposes daily time for reflection and relaxation, like writing in a journal or taking a walk.
She implies that extroverts shouldn’t change their fundamental identities, but should rather learn to find the benefits of being both social and quiet.
I, as an introvert, found the book really interesting. Perhaps I am a little biased in this regard, but I sincerely think the book has intrigue for a wider audience as well–for people looking to learn to be a bit more introverted. I believe we all have our strengths and our weaknesses, and sometimes one person’s power is someone else’s detriment. I think Cain expertly shows us that more often than not, the best thinkers are the ones who use both to their advantage.