Monday, January 28, 2013

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

After watching Susan Cain’s passionate and funny TED talk, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her book Quiet: The Power ofIntroverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. 

I just had a discussion with friends over lunch about introvert/extrovert personalities and the Myers Briggs Type testing we've all endured as a part of the recruitment process. 

So I was all really quiet prepped and eager to dig into the issue of introverts. 

I found Quiet an interesting and thought provoking read. Cain makes some really good points about how our culture rewards and tends to overvalue extroverted behaviour.

I was cheering big time at her critique of open plan office and the fact that they are not conducive to actually thinking and working. 

Being at the introverted end of personality scale, I found it reassuring to recognise my behaviour and have it explained and also valued. While not a ‘self-help’ book in the truest sense, Cain’s book does provide a reassessment of the ‘power’ of introverts. 

As Jon Ronson writes in his review:

“It's also a genius idea to write a book that tells introverts – a vast proportion of the reading public – how awesome and undervalued we are. I'm thrilled to discover that some of the personality traits I had found shameful are actually indicators that I'm amazing. It's a Female Eunuch for anxious nerds. I'm not surprised it shot straight to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list.”

But unfortunately I was never really totally absorbed by the book and I found myself skimming through chapters.  

The main issue was the constant and exhaustive review of the academic research which I was just not that interested in.  Rather than a quick summary, Cain would devote pages to detailing a journal article and the research it was based on.

I also found the chapter: "Soft Power - Asian-Americans and the Extroverted Ideal' a little problematic. I was very uneasy about some of inherent essentialist arguments and over generalisations being made. 

What I enjoyed the most and what makes Cain's book worth reading is where she writes about her personal experiences and talks to other introverts. For example, she writes about forcing herself to attend an Anthony Robbins 'power' seminar and also where she ends up going to an introverts retreat and actually hating all the silence and non-speaking! 

Overall, I'm really glad I read Cain's book and she makes a powerful and eloquent argument for valuing introverts.

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