Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book Review

"Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking"
   by Susan Cain

Almost all my life, people have said, "You’re so quiet." My teachers commented that I didn’t speak up in class. My parents tried to push me to be more outgoing. My least favorite words in church are, "Turn around and greet someone near you." (On second thought, there is something worse: "Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know.") I am an introvert, and I grew up thinking that was a bad thing. I always wanted to be the outgoing girl that everybody noticed, but I just wasn’t made that way. And contrary to what my mother tried to convince me, I couldn’t fake it, either.

In her bestseller, Susan Cain says that at least one third of the people we know are introverts. We are often overlooked by our American culture that values extroverts. Teachers pay more attention to their extroverted students. Parents worry about their children who are quiet and introverted. Introverts are passed by for jobs and promotions. Even in the church, pastors are encouraged to adopt an extroverted, exuberant persona.

Cain points out that introverts aren’t necessary shy or socially challenged. She provides fascinating stories of introverts who have made important contributions to our world, from Rosa Parks to Steve Wozniak to Dr. Seuss. She highlights the benefits of listening and taking time to think things through.

She shows how the trend of working in teams rather than individually is not necessarily better for education and business. Some of the most interesting stories in the book are about top-notch Asian students who come to the U.S. to study, are overwhelmed by boisterous American college life, and then face difficulty getting jobs with companies that seek to hire candidates who score high on the extrovert scale on personality tests.
This book helped me to better understand myself. One of the true-false questions in an informal quiz is, "I often let calls go through to voice mail." I hadn’t realized how often I do that, especially on my business line. Now I understand that I’m hoping the caller will leave a message and tell me why they are calling, so I can be prepared for the conversation, rather than being forced to speak off the cuff – something introverts aren’t good at.

Cain offers suggestions on how introverts can be more extroverted when they have to be, and tells stories of individuals who have successful careers in fields such as entertainment and teaching. She talks about how extroverts and introverts can communicate with each other. I think one of the most important chapters addresses how parents can nurture introverted kids rather than trying to change them.

I highly recommend this book to those of you who are introverts, who live with introverts, and especially parents of introverts. It’s a well-researched and fascinating book that will help you appreciate your own strengths as well as those of other people who are "Quiet."

June Hoover



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