Quiet by Susan Cain

The great author Harper Lee once said “The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think“. She was originally referring to the Bible, but the premise sums up the power of reading great books. Books are great for so many personal reasons. Some books entertain you, some books transplant you into other worlds and yet others help you to find yourself. Quiet by Susan Cain completely rocked the foundation of my personal identity. It’s what I call a “bedrock book”. That book that gets so deep into your soul that it becomes a part of your DNA. It causes such a revolution in your mind, that you seem to reference it all the time, if only in your thoughts. That’s a power read.

I saw this book on a table in my local Barnes and Noble and walked around it for weeks. Just the subtitle was intriguing “The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking”. Inevitably, curiosity got the best of me and I handed over my cash. I had always assumed that I was an introvert, but I thought I might be a weird hybrid. Was I a pensive and quiet extrovert or a loud and exuberant introvert? I would not characterize myself as shy: I do enjoy social activities and people. But I knew deep in my core that if given the choice, I always preferred my own company. I love reverting into the silence of my own mind and being alone to think my quiet, undisturbed thoughts. But is it possible to be an introvert if you extrovert well?

My original black and white belief is the common misconception of the introverted personality. As the bestselling books tells you- there are at many shades of gray, at least 50 (just checking to see if you are paying attention), even when diagnosing your temperament. Shyness is not an indication of introversion, but it is on the spectrum. Realizing that temperament is a spectrum, not a box, is a huge shift in perspective. Susan Cain starts at the beginning when the intellectual man was considered ideal. She them moves into a history lesson of how the Extrovert Ideal became the new archetype of the strong, forward-charging American. As we moved from an agrarian country to an industrial superpower, we shifted from the Culture of Character to the Culture of Personality. Slowly and distinctly Cain proves that voice and bravado became more revered than the man of introspection and ideas. That paradigm has come to form the basis of our education system, our workplace hierarchies and even presents a very compelling case that the prevalence of “big talkers” are a root cause to the latest financial recession.

Susan Cain, obviously an introvert, presents a richly researched and technically brilliant dissection of a large part of the population. And an important part at that. Without introverts the world would lack depth and be much less rich. She wisely quotes science journalist Winifred Gallagher: ‘”The glory of the disposition that stops to consider stimuli rather than rushing to engage with them is its long association with intellectual and artistic achievement. Neither E=mc2 nor Paradise Lost was dashed off by a party animal.” With that quote, I was off to the races. It was as if the puzzle pieces suddenly fell into place. It is not that I hated cocktail parties (I love a great cocktail dress): what I really I hate is inane small talk. It wasn’t that I hated brainstorming meetings, I just couldn’t keep my own thoughts straight within the mélange of noise. Actually, I think I do hate brainstorming. It feels so violent to me: rushing winds and thoughts through my brain? Must be the introvert in me…

This book is a wonderful mix of the scientific and the humane. It’s complex and caring as well. It ends with a cheat sheet of how to raise an introverted child, how to teach introverted students and how to be married to an introverted spouse. I think it should be required reading for college classes that focus on interpersonal relationships and is a great resource guide for teachers and business leaders. When we recognize the assets of those that think, then speak, we can unharness a great spirit in our universities, in our workplaces and in our family dynamics. With this newfound knowledge, I have a better understanding of myself as well as my children. Our house is split evenly: one introverted parent and child team, one extroverted parent and child team (things can get psychologically hectic at the Wilson house). But therein lies the strength of a bedrock: it is the heart and the backbone and it can’t be moved by chaos. So, sometimes the extroverts and the introverts clash a little, but understanding one another better makes our differences funny instead of frustrating. Vive la difference!

                                                                        Recommended Reading: The Power of Introverts By Susan Cain          Introvert Power            Solitude A Return to the Self Click to Order it NOW!                               Click to Order it NOW!                        Click to Order it NOW!