It has taken me weeks to read this book. This is very unlike me. While on a long flight a week or so ago, I read two books on the plane, and another on a train the following day. But I read this book so carefully, and highlighted and noted so much, it was a very slow read. A very slow, very enjoyable, completely dumbfounding, poleaxing, holy carp illuminating read. This book is amazing.
Quiet was recommended to be my two people who I do not believe know each other, or, if they do, they probably don't know that they were both reading this book at the same time. But in both cases, each said that the information within this book taught them so much about themselves as introverts, it was a revelatory experience. They are 100% right about that.
Quiet is nonfiction, and excellent nonfiction at that. It's a thorough mix of analysis and research, explanations of varying fields within psychology, plus personal anecdotes about social situations, all focused on the idea of introversion. It addresses questions such as:
What is an introvert? How is introversion defined? Short answer: not easily, because there isn't one definition that easily applies to all introverts, though more definitions exist that explain what introversion is, as opposed to defining it by what skills or traits introverts lack.
What are the differences between extroverts, introverts, and omniverts? (That's a word – for reals.)
How does being highly sensitive affect an introvert, or an extrovert? Both can be highly sensitive – which I didn't realize.
I know I'm an introvert, and many people who know me have rolled their eyes when I've said as much, but it's true. I remember taking the Meyers-Briggs type indicator as a freshman in college, and scoring so decidedly far towards the introvert scale I should have been given a quiet room and a case of books as a parting gift. I also remember the other students thinking that I'd somehow done the test wrong because I was (and still am) pretty talkative.
Quiet helped me understand how that duality exists, and how introverts can learn to function as extroverts, especially in social or professional situations, and most especially in America, which, culturally, is extremely extroverted. Moreover, American culture lauds and admires those who exemplify an Extroverted Ideal. (Finland, according to research cited in the book, is among the most introverted countries, so I totally want to visit.) The book also explains how individuals from other cultures often struggle with the value systems in American culture, especially in school systems where outspokenness and assertiveness are frequently the most rewarded traits.
Another valuable aspect of the narrative was the situations profiled in different chapters, such as the conflict between an extroverted husband who wanted to host informal dinner parties with many of his friends every Friday night, and his introverted wife who thought that was about the worst idea she'd ever heard. Not only did the book follow the reasons for their conflict and decipher them from an introvert/extrovert point of view, but it also examined how each person's argument style (loud and energetic vs quiet and very reserved) further exacerbated the problem they were having.
Cain also takes into account how the internet and specifically social media has reformed the venues in which introverts interact, and why communications within online communities are often completely unique from the interactions one might have in person. She also examines various leadership styles and how introverted leaders in business often achieve very different results, sometimes exceeding the financial success rates of extroverted leaders and CEOs.
But most of all, though, I can't tell you how stunning it was to read a book which was about a major facet of my personality, and which was able to explain things about myself that I knew were true, but didn't always know why they were true. Moveover, I recognized some introverted traits in my children, and the examples of parenting methods and strategies were enormously helpful, too.
Right now this book is $2.99 digitally, and, if you're an introvert or close to someone who is, I can't recommend this book more effusively. It's thorough, clear, thoughtful, and easy to read, with a balanced composition of scientific data and research, individual stories and accounts, and examples and suggestions. It does not suffer that obnoxious self-help writing habit of constantly teasing the reader with the solution while still outlining the various problems – e.g. “In a future chapter, I'm going to teach you how to solve this problem! But now, we're going to take a look at this other thing that has nothing to do with what we're talking about right now.” I hate that.
Here are some of the passages I highlighted while I read. Some – not all. If I shared all of them, this would be a 60k word review, and, yeah. No one wants that.
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.
This has absolutely been true in my experience. If you've met me in person, I am pretty friendly and sometimes gregarious. I like to talk to people and I'm very curious (or nosy, depending on your point of view). I love listening to people talk about things they're passionate about, and I genuinely like people. (This is why meeting romance readers is SO much fun. We're passionate about so many similar things.) But I have a limit in my ability to talk with people in groups larger than about 3 or 4 people, and for a long time got really mad at myself for being unable to keep up and keep going when at conferences or with larger groups of people. I'd internalized that ideal, and had perceived my lack of social endurance as a failing.
Because of their inclination to listen to others and lack of interest in dominating social situations, introverts are more likely to hear and implement suggestions. Having benefited from the talents of their followers, they are then likely to motivate them to be even more proactive. Introverted leaders create a virtuous circle of proactivity, in other words.
Having worked with and for many different introverted and extroverted people, the ways in which extroversion and leadership combine were fascinating for me.
Many introverts are also “highly sensitive,” which sounds poetic, but is actually a technical term in psychology. If you are a sensitive sort, then you’re more apt than the average person to feel pleasantly overwhelmed by Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” or a well-turned phrase or an act of extraordinary kindness. You may be quicker than others to feel sickened by violence and ugliness, and you likely have a very strong conscience.
Well, damn. This book even understand why I don't like romantic suspense and romantic thrillers. I mean…dude.
I haven't felt so completely understood by a book in… ever.
This is a bit outside the romance genre, to say the least, but this book was deeply fascinating for me. If you're an introvert, and have sometimes wondered what was wrong with you that you feel or experience things so differently, I think your experience might be similar to my own, and the experience of the people who recommended this book to me. I hope you'll share what you think of the book if you read it.