Book Review – Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
I’ve taken quite a few communication style surveys over the last 10 years, and every one pegs me as an extrovert. I’ll confess that I procrastinated reading Quiet for several weeks even though it was strongly recommended to me by a co-worker who had read it (and who self identifies as an introvert) because I wasn’t sure what a book about introverts had to offer me personally.
I was wrong.
Susan Cain draws you in slowly but inexorably. Her writing is quite dense and the book is not a quick read. But it’s also not as heavily academic as it could be. She succeeds in holding your interest and then begins to bring in increasingly complex topics in neuropsychology, somehow carrying it off in a way that keeps you from getting completely lost. She suckered me in with endearing anecdotes about Steve Wozniak and before I knew it I was knee deep in details of longitudinal studies and rat behavior. And just went it all started to get bogged down, Susan tied the whole theory back to why some people get nervous at cocktail parties.
I found myself stopping to ponder various points, and even putting the book down and considering myself and all my friends in light of some of the ideas that Susan proposes. As a manager I found some of the insights into how to arrange workspaces to support both introverts and extroverts incredibly useful and applicable. I did occasionally feel like the author drifted into pejoratives when describing traits of extroverts in comparison to introverts. I completely understand that the book seeks to show the unsung value of introverts, but I felt like she was using unnecessarily negative language here and there in her comparisons.
The most interesting and thought provoking parts of Quiet came in Chapter 8 when the author started to pull the theory together with practical applications. The idea of the “sweet spot” – the ideal amount of noise/stimulation (which is different for everyone) and the idea of “flow” where you feel totally engaged with a task for its own sake. These two concepts have tremendous value both for individuals and managers. Is your work environment setup to keep you in your sweet spot or is it too noisy or too boring? Are the people on your team able to work in the way they need? Are there aspects of their working environment that could be changed to dramatically increase their happiness? Definitely great things for managers and companies to be considering when they think about office setup.
Overall I found Quiet to be very good and I’d strongly recommend it. It provides excellent insights into what motivates introverts and extroverts alike which is valuable information for anyone who works with people, in other words all of us.
Did you read Quiet? What did you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments or share them on the Survive Your Promotion LinkedIn Group!
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