In Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain explores introversion in some depth, looking at psychology, brain studies, and anecdotal examples of people she has worked with to illuminate the ways in which introverts have their own power and strengths that just happen to differ from the Western ideal of extroversion.
Nothing in the book was especially surprising or a brand new idea to me, but there were many interesting tidbits and I found it affirming and inspiring. I have previously thought of the term “quiet leader” for myself and it was encouraging to read so many examples of people who are just that. As just one example of the many things I could relate to in the book, Cain has many references to introverted individuals who do not speak up in groups until they are quite confident and clear in what they want to say, which reflects my experience exactly. I appreciate her emphasis that introverts and extroverts have different ways of relating to the world and that introverts have an important perspective to provide: a deep-thinking, risk-averse, careful approach to problems and activities.
I found her exploration of how the Western ideal of extroversion developed quite fascinating, as I had never really thought about this ideal so concretely before. I also appreciated and found interesting her comparison to other cultures, especially Asian, that have an introvert ideal.
She has various helpful tips for introverts on how to function effectively in the world, including a whole chapter on children. A couple things I found useful were: when introverts are working on a core personal project, they are able to act like extroverts as needed, because the end goal holds enough meaning for them that behaving outside their comfort zone is tolerable; and that introverts need to be sure to make time in their lives for “restorative niches” – times when they allow themselves to act as an introvert in their comfort zone, thus restoring their inner strength.
I think that introvert and extrovert are useful categories for understanding people’s behavior, but I am not convinced that they are actually completely valid distinctions. Much of what she discussed is very similar to the concept of a “highly sensitive person”, developed by Elaine Aron, which is based on a biological difference in sensory processing. According to Aron, only 70% of highly sensitive people are also introverts, but I am not really clear on where the distinctions lie between the two. I would enjoy seeing a deeper exploration of the overlap and differences between introvert and highly sensitive person. Overall, however, I do find that thinking of myself as an introvert, into addition to an HSP, does help me understand myself even better, so it seems useful for that if nothing else.
I definitely recommend Quiet whether or not you consider yourself an introvert. I think it is important for extroverts to read this book as well so that they can understand a large percentage of the population better.