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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (edition 2012)

by Susan Cain

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3,6562201,443 (4.04)218
JerryColonna's review
Gorgeous book. I didn't realize I was an introvert. But it's very clear, after reading this, that I am.
My only complaint is that Cain is a little biased (in a sense) towards introverts...which I enjoyed emotionally but intellectually found a little less satisfying. It creates a tilt in the book that left me with a number of questions about extroverts. I found myself, though, really wondering if this lens (introvert/extrovert) could be a useful filter for analyzing the leadership strengths and weaknesses. ( )
  JerryColonna | Apr 5, 2012 |
All member reviews
Showing 1-25 of 225 (next | show all)
In a world that values extroversion and the character traits that embody it, the capabilities and benefits of an introverted personality are lost. This, argues Susan Cain, is to the detriment of society. Starting with an outline of the Extrovert Ideal and its influence on Western, and especially American, culture, Cain traces how the history of the United States led to a personality-driven culture that favors extroverts. She moves on to describe the characteristics of an introvert and how one’s placement on the introvert-extrovert spectrum impacts everything in life from the friends made to the careers preferred. Cain also studies many of the ways introverts struggle to cultivate a “pseudo-extrovert” persona to cope with others, and the ways this both benefits and hurts them at home, at work, and in the world. The final sections of the book largely focus on children and the way introversion impacts their development and growth, and how parents can help them fully realize their potential.

I’ve always figured that I must be pretty far over on the introvert spectrum, because I find other people extremely draining and prefer to work by myself when possible, so I wasn’t surprised to recognize myself in a lot of Cain’s stories. But this book is far more than a cheerleader shouting, “It’s OK to be quiet and introverted!” It’s actually a very clinical book packed with case studies that study every aspect of introverted life. I was fascinated to learn that babies who are more sensitive to external stimulation tend to become introverts, almost as if the world is too overwhelming so they have to shut it out, yet introverts also appear to be less responsive to dopamine, which makes them more cautious. Another study disproved the popular belief that open office plans, so popular in the offices of the tech companies here in Silicon Valley, are not any more effective than traditional cubicles and in some cases may even be less effective when it comes to problem solving and creative solutions.

There isn’t a lot of practical advice for introverts, but there are a few useful examples. In one chapter, Cain dissects the interactions of a couple where the husband is an extrovert and the wife is an introvert, looking at some of the problems that come up consistently in their relationship and offering proposals to help them manage. She also devotes a few pages to raising children, offering tips for both introverted and extroverted parents to help raise their kids, whether introverts or extroverts, in ways that will accept and even promote their natural talents, wherever the fall on the spectrum. ( )
  makaiju | Aug 1, 2014 |
This is definitely a book that all introverts (or parents/friends/teachers) of someone who is introverted should pick up. Lots of great studies and inspiring information in here.
  Musefall | Jul 29, 2014 |
I had a long, lovely review written for this one, but the computer stopped computing. Bah.

Anyway, this book could not be more relevant to my interests, speaking as somebody who's at the extreme end of the "I" scale. I'd been enjoying Cain's blog posts over at Psychology Today, and I was excited to hear she'd written a book.

There's so much to love here: the engaging writing, the solid research reporting, the illustrative examples, the listings of references works and additional readings. But what really earns the fifth star for me is the fact that she doesn't frame introversion as a defect, a problem, an abnormality to overcome. We simply have a different way of being, despite the best efforts of misguided people to paint us as antisocial, arrogant, shy, dull, and any number of other projected negative characteristics.

In fact, I'm wondering whether this might be a bit of a "preaching to the choir" situation--we introverts already know the value of solitude, reflection, focusing alone on a problem, and letting each person talk. The trick is getting it across to the societal infrastructure at large: schools (group work), companies (team projects; cube farms; open bullpens), and even home designers (open floor plans). As another GR reviewer said, "Introverts living in the Extrovert Ideal are like women living in a man's world." It's ill-fitting at best and downright hostile in some cases.

I recommend this book to introverts everywhere, people who think they might be introverts, and sympathetic/curious extroverts. ( )
  pfflyernc | Jul 25, 2014 |
In a world that seems to value the outgoing personality, constant sharing, brainstorming, and the open concept at work and school, this book is a wonderful antidote. It praises the value that comes from an individual, alone, thinking and creating. It describes and advises about ways an introvert copes with being out there in the world. Sometimes I felt there were a few too many arcane psychological studies, perhaps stretching a good idea out past it's natural perimeters. But a good read it is, affirming the natural instincts of the 30% of the people who would self-identify as introverts. ( )
  gbelik | Jul 12, 2014 |
It took a long time to read this since I didn't finish it the first time I got it from the library and the list for it is just insane. The book is great for introverts letting you know that you are not bad even if our society is set up to love extroverts. The book is full of anecdotes about the writer and other people that she has had contact with dealing with different things while being introverted. There are several studies quoted as well and overall it is a good book for positive affirmation that is ok to be an introvert. ( )
  Glennis.LeBlanc | Jul 8, 2014 |
I was looking forward to reading this book for months. I listened to podcast review it and tell me how awesome it was. I watched the author's Ted Talk and thought it was brilliant. I would look for author interviews and reviews on the book--all good. But when I started to read the actual book I realized, it just wasnt that good. Maybe it was the hype I built for it. Maybe it was that I'd heard a lot of what she talked about before I read the book and didn't find it any better presented in the book.

But I consistently felt reading the book that it consisted of generalizations which she said were supported by research, but never makes the effort to help the reader figure out which source she gets her information from. There are pages and pages of references in the back--but I want end notes next to each sentence that makes some broad claim that I can actually investigate. She says repeatedly, "this is what an introvert is" but I didn't feel like she was talking about me.

I'm deeply disappointed in this book.... ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
I was looking forward to reading this book for months. I listened to podcast review it and tell me how awesome it was. I watched the author's Ted Talk and thought it was brilliant. I would look for author interviews and reviews on the book--all good. But when I started to read the actual book I realized, it just wasnt that good. Maybe it was the hype I built for it. Maybe it was that I'd heard a lot of what she talked about before I read the book and didn't find it any better presented in the book.

But I consistently felt reading the book that it consisted of generalizations which she said were supported by research, but never makes the effort to help the reader figure out which source she gets her information from. There are pages and pages of references in the back--but I want end notes next to each sentence that makes some broad claim that I can actually investigate. She says repeatedly, "this is what an introvert is" but I didn't feel like she was talking about me.

I'm deeply disappointed in this book.... ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
I mostly enjoyed the concept of this book more than the execution. It was not quite what I was expecting.

What I thought was going to be a sort of guide, filled with advice and alternate perceptions for the introvert designed to help him navigate more successfully in "a world that can't stop talking", was in fact mostly a collection of case study anecdotes. Granted, some of the studies were interesting in their own right, and I did identify with some of the personal subjects of any given chapter, but taking as a whole "Quiet" turns a little dry to me. Valuable, but dry.

Only in the last chapter, which focuses exclusively on children, do we get what I was expecting from the whole book. But as I have no children, the advise for how to raise little introverts, though of some interest, really did little to make the book more personally useful to me.

I applaud the writing of this book, and the research that went into doing same. But I think it is better for those of a scientific mind, or those who literally have been introverted their entire life, without realizing that there are many in-built reasons why they are so.

I have always known of the biological aspect of being introverted, however, and after a while, grew ever so slightly impatient with reading about my cerebral cortex. ( )
  TyUnglebower | Jun 28, 2014 |
In non-fiction novel Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we undervalue introvert personality type and how much we lose by doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert type (the culture of personality) throughout the 20th century and explores how deeply it has come to be the “ideal” our culture. The Extrovert Ideal, Cain believes, is so pervasive that influences our work performance, educational policies, political choices, and even the country's financial health. But the main focus of "Quiet" is to expose the myths and misunderstandings that were born when we as a culture embraced the Extrovert Ideal and turned introversion into a malady needs to be avoided. Ms. Cain traces both the biological and cultural basis for introversion and extroversion and their role as evolutionary survival strategies in animals and humans. The insights gleaned from these studies can help introverts take advantage of their special traits and thrive on their own terms in an extroverted world. Amid the research and the advice, Ms. Cain calls attention to those introverts who have made a difference in the world like Rosa Parks and Ghandi. They showed that empathy, thoughtfulness, persistence, compassion, focus and conscientiousness, all characteristics ascribed to introversion, are leadership attributes too. As a life-long introvert (I spent most social functions as a child in a chair reading a book) I really enjoyed this book—easy to read but at the same time well researched and thorough. The book is not an “introverts are superior” rant but rather an explanation of how we can leverage personality types most effectively. There is no right or best personality type but like life in general, we need to understand each other for more harmonious relationships. 4 out of 5 stars. ( )
  marsap | Jun 19, 2014 |
Book Description
Publication Date: January 24, 2012
The book that started the Quiet Revolution

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.

In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts—from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves. ( )
  camtb | Jun 18, 2014 |
It's not every day you read something that rings true with every aspect of your personality, and addresses many of the nagging and deep-set questions you've wrestled with all your life. Kudos to Ms. Cain for researching and writing this brave and important book. Even if you don't consider yourself an introvert, this book still deserves your attention. ( )
  emilyingreen | May 28, 2014 |
The book that validates introversion. Finally! ( )
1 vote mojomomma | May 19, 2014 |
Less of a self-help and more of a self-understanding book, Quiet describes introversion, and the characteristics associated with it, from a social and historical standpoint. If you've only ever experienced the characteristics of introverts through observation, this will be a good read. If you are someone with introverted tendencies, it will be less of a read, unless you have low self-esteem associated with the behavior.

The cheer leading of listing successful introverts and accomplishments by introverts seemed a bit contradicting and offensive. The need to point out that people with introverted tendencies can succeed the same as people with extroverted tendencies was somewhat off putting. While I understand the purpose is to point out that introversion or extroversion is not inherent to success, it reads as though introverted-tending people don't believe they can succeed. The author also had the tendency to reiterate an example multiple times. ( )
  Sovranty | May 12, 2014 |
From the subtitle of Quiet, you might expect a self-help guide for introverts. And towards the end of the book, it does edge towards that, demonstrating strategies for introverts to cope in a world which prizes the cult of personality and for how to cope with introverts.

It’s so much better than the self-help presentation might suggest though. Cain presents a cultural history of introversion, how it’s become undervalued and marginalised, and some of the consequences of that. Cain’s own introversion lends empathy to her writing, meaning the book never comes across as dry but instead is always fascinating – this is a quest to understand introverts, almost certainly starting with herself. And it’s that passion to understand and explain the quiet people that makes this so absorbing and made me give my copy straight to my wife after I’d finished it. It’s one of those rare books that, if you conform to the introverted personality type, you’ll feel is written just for you and is speaking directly to you. A lot of the scenarios Cain presented were almost painfully familiar.

It’s a disservice to the author to simply think of this as a book for introverts though. It equally deals with extroverts by studying their opposite numbers, and often directly by how extroverts and introverts interact. This isn’t a call to arms that we should suddenly change society to sweep extroverts from power and put introverts in their place (no, most of us introverts are happy to let them have the limelight). Instead, it’s about understanding and communicating what introverts are often too shy to say, about how their undervalued strengths can contribute and complement those of extroverts. This is the sound of an introvert speaking quietly, but forcefully. And to a fellow introvert, it’s a wonderful, persuasive sound. ( )
  JonArnold | May 7, 2014 |
My book club chose to read this look at introverts and the challenges facing them months ago. I started the book but when I realized I wasn't going to be able to go to the meeting, I just left it sitting, partially read, on my bedside table for a terribly long time. I admitted to another member that I was having trouble motivating myself to pick it back up and read it again. She suggested that I wasn't driven to read it because I'm not an introvert. I probably gave her a completely dumbfounded stare. I am the introvertedest of introverts (wink to Charlie Brown). There's never been a personality or psychological profile ever that hasn't pegged me as an extreme introvert and family and friends who know me well would certainly agree. But apparently I fake it or hide it well. And when I finally did pick the book back up and continue, I learned why. In fact, when I picked the book back up the second time, I was completely engrossed in it.

Cain offers up real world experiences that extroverts face. She profiles famous people who are surprisingly (and not so surprisingly) introverts. She discusses the cultural significance of being a person who feels a real need to escape the social to recharge. She details studies about whether introversion is a learned trait or an inborn genetic gift. She talks about the different ways that introverts and extroverts are stimulated by what they see and hear and how those differences result in things like very different managerial styles. She offers suggestions for parenting introverted children and how to use your or your child's introversion positively. She debunks myths about introverts. And she confirms things that those of who fall into this category (and those who live with or love an introvert) have long suspected without any proof. In short, she covers a huge amount of ground in this concentrated look at introversion.

As a book intended to be a discussion of the strengths of introverts and ways in which to learn to put yourself more out in the world when the world requires it, this is very successful. Cain has covered all her bases, using scientific studies as well as anecdotal evidence to discuss theories and confirm that introversion is not a defect or a lesser way of being than extroversion, despite the fact that culturally, we as Americans, are taught to venerate and emulate extroverts more often. As I read through this, I kept seeing myself in the pages and caught myself thinking that my extroverted husband should really read this to understand me better. This is well written and very detailed although it occasionally veers towards sounding like a Master's Thesis or other academic paper, especially when Cain writes that she will go into more depth on a particular subject in X chapter before continuing with her primary argument for the chapter in which she is currently writing. In general though, this is a fascinating look at a subject not often covered by the non-academic world (and often not covered there either). Those who are introverts will appreciate this confirmation that they are not weird or broken but that they have specific strengths and skills which just happen to be different that the majority. And those who are not introverts might find this an interesting read to help them understand the quieter folks among them. ( )
  whitreidtan | Apr 25, 2014 |
Before I read this book, I thought I was more extroverted than introverted - but now I definitely think I'm a closet introvert. In the introduction to Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, author Susan Cain has 20 true-false statements (pages 13-14), such as "I often prefer to express myself in writing," "I often let calls go through to voice mail," and "I like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale, with only one or two close friends or family members." I answered true to 17 of them, meaning I am probably more introverted than extroverted. I certainly don't consider myself to be quiet, though.

This nonfiction book is an exploration of introversion and extroversion. The introduction makes it clear that introversion is not synonymous with shyness, an assumption a lot of people make that also, I believe, causes mis-identification. I'm certainly not shy, so people (including myself) often assume I am an extrovert.

Part One talks about the rise of the "extrovert ideal," the ways society tends to favor extroverts, and how this came about. For me, the most valuable part of this section was the chapter called "When Collaboration Kills Creativity," which talks about how group projects and brainstorming, working in "teams,", and open-office plans can actually hurt productivity, especially for those who are more introverted.

Part Two reviews some of the research on the biological basis for introversion and extroversion, and the nature-versus-nurture question. It also explores the role of free will (which explains why some introverts, like me, are okay with public speaking). Studies have shown that "high-reactive" babies often grow up to be introverts (page 10), and that "introverts are more sensitive than extroverts to various kinds of stimulation...and that introverts and extroverts often need very different levels of stimulation to function at their best" (page 123-4). I thought the experiment described just after this was very interesting - apparently, introverts will salivate more when lemon juice is placed on their tongues. I'll have to try this!

Part Three, was, in my opinion, the weakest part of the book. Its single chapter discusses cultures (mostly Asian) that don't emphasize the extrovert ideal. I felt the quietness discussed here was not truly introversion and extroversion, and the areas where Asians experience more (in school) and less (in business) success in America had more to do with their cultural norms and traditions.

Part Four is the "advice for introverts" section, suggesting times they should act more extroverted than they really are, how introverts and extroverts can best communicate with each other (particularly in a marriage), and how to best raise quiet kids, with ideas for both teachers and parents.

Her conclusion pretty much sums up the points in her book in just two-plus pages. However, I was disappointed with the stereotype on page 265: "Quit your job as a TV anchor and get a degree in library science." I'm a librarian who interacts with people all day long at a reference desk, multitasking, and I give presentations frequently.

Actress Kathe Mazur has the perfect soft voice for a book with this title, but an audiobook is not ideal if you want to study this book in depth. For one thing, Cain's extensive end notes (47 pages that reference her sources) and the nine-page index are not available in the audio. On the other hand, listening to the audiobook is a good introduction to the subject - but I'd recommend having a print copy available for reference too, as well as for re-reading.

© Amanda Pape - 2014

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my local public library. This review also appears on Bookin' It.] ( )
  riofriotex | Apr 25, 2014 |
In this book, Cain gives an overview of introversion: history, cultural connotations, and hints for how to best deal with introverts in the workplace, the classroom, and in interpersonal relationships. It offers plenty of food for thought without being self-helpy; indeed, it felt a little like a pat on the back in spots (and perhaps because I am an introvert, I was not entirely comfortable with that!). It's well-organized and engaging; even listening to it as an audiobook I never found my mind wandering. If you have any interest in the topic of personality types, or if you are an introvert (or live, work with, or socialize with any introverts), I would recommend this book. ( )
  foggidawn | Apr 4, 2014 |
A must read for anybody involved in education or HR. ( )
  davevanl | Mar 15, 2014 |
The main message I got out of this was that it is perfectly OK to be introverted, in fact you can almost say you should be proud to be one (if you belong to that group). Susan gives advice on raising introverted children, communicating with the opposite type and in romantic relationships, tips for teachers, and tips for corporate culture and how to better accomodate introverts and thus increase productivity. Some useful stuff in here too about how to be more extroverted, and why people are extroverted at some times and not at others.

There is a stigma to the word introvert and the ideal of the extrovert can be seen everywhere. What Susan points out is that many you would believe are part of this ideal are actually "pretending," and are in fact not extroverts. I believe this is an important work to tear down the connotations of being introverted, which for some is seen almost as a disease or something to be overcome. For those who believe such a thing, they need to read this book and I bet their assumptions and outlook will change for the better! ( )
  lcalvin83 | Mar 6, 2014 |
This book was an explanation of all the problems (and triumphs!) of my life. I'm not going to lie, but I was kind of expecting more concrete advice on how to "harness the power of introversion" to be successful. Instead of that kind of self-help book feel, "Quiet" gives a wonderful cultural overview of introversion and why it seems to be in conflict with American social norms. You should definitely read this if you are introverted, or if you are not introverted but a loved one is. ( )
  LongSigh | Mar 4, 2014 |
So, Susan Cain's book puts introverts in exactly the place where they might squirm the most. That is, in the spotlight. Luckily, I found out by taking the quiz at the start of the book that I am neither intro nor extro, but rather what is called an 'ambivert'. Therefore, I could cherry pick my way through Cain's book ascribing the positive benefits of both introversion and extroversion to my own case. No wonder I gave the book five stars!

More seriously, among the many ideas and explanations of personality and character traits in this book, there were two propositions that I found most interesting. First, that in recent years the cult of personality has taken over from the appreciation of character. This, I believe to be true, and a notable change for the worse during the course of my own lifetime. Second, that there is a distinct difference between socializing (which many extroverts like to do) and relating (which introverts favor). Perhaps this is the reason you can so often leave parties feeling vaguely dissatisfied - there was too much socializing and too little relating.

I think Cain's book does an excellent job of helping you look at life from a different viewpoint. What's more, the examples she uses to document her extrovert/introvert propositions are well-chosen and lively, if not downright funny.

A good read, I would say, for extroverts, introverts and ambiverts alike
1 vote Miribooks | Feb 25, 2014 |
Great. Immensely helpful in understanding myself. ( )
  Adewoye | Feb 20, 2014 |
This is a very interesting, engaging book with insights into the minds and brains of introverts (and extroverts) as well as practical tips for being an introvert in an extroverted culture. As an introvert who has had to learn extroverted skills, and who also lives and works in a church culture that oftentimes elevates the extroverted person, I found her advice to be pertinent and thought provoking.
However, towards the end of the book her stories (of which there are many) of different peoples' experiences with introversion/extroversion became a bit too much. The book could have been about 30 pages shorter, with the information in the last few chapters presented a bit more succinctly, and I don't think anything would have been lost.

Overall, though, I think this is a book I will reference in the future and recommend to those either struggling to live with their own introversion or trying to understand someone else's. ( )
  NGood | Feb 19, 2014 |
De kracht van introvert zijn in een wereld die niet ophoudt met kletsen.
  jbo365 | Feb 16, 2014 |
Very interesting implications for education. The modern American school is definitely not a nurturing place for the introvert child. ( )
  Turrean | Feb 15, 2014 |
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Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0670916765, 0141029196

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