By Susan Cain
(Broadway Books, $16)
Reviewed by Rose McAllister Croke
When “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain was first published in hardcover in 2012, it spent 42 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. Now available in paperback, “Quiet” will once again spark a national conversation about the power of introversion in a world that reveres gregarious, loud-talking extroverts.
A self-acknowledged introvert, Ms. Cain argues that our culture holds a deliberate bias toward the Extrovert Ideal (the highly verbal alpha personality) while dramatically undervaluing the strengths of introverts (introspection, persistence and sensitivity). Yet many of the greatest achievers of the 20th century were introverts, including Eleanor Roosevelt, George Orwell, Rosa Parks, Marcel Proust, Warren Buffet, Dr. Seuss and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.
In Part One of “Quiet,” Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal and how its far-reaching effects permeate our culture. In Part Two, she explores the psychology of temperament and the roles of hereditary and free will in personality. In Part Three, Cain compares the differences between Western culture, where the individual is deemed most important, and Eastern culture, where the success of the group is valued above that of the self.
In Part Four, she offers practical advice on everything from how to network if you dislike small talk and being a “pretend extrovert” when it is beneficial, to better negotiating introvert-extrovert relationships and helping an introverted child to navigate school and foster friendships.
“Quiet” commands attention by championing the power of silence and solitude in a world that often rewards attention-seeking behavior. It is a book that will get people talking at a time when the pressure to entertain and sell ourselves — and never visibly be anxious — keeps escalating.