Book Review: Quiet by Susan Cain

Book Review: Quiet by Susan Cain

On every Myers Briggs test I have ever taken I have been on the line between extrovert and introvert.  Large groups don’t drain my energy, but I am more likely to seek out small ones.  I love to ponder a decision, but am not afraid to make one.  In fact, on the author’s home page you can take an introvert/extrovert test and it scored me an “Ambivert”.  With that in mind, I found this book both tremendously insightful AND very frustrating.

I was absolutely fascinated by the authors break down of what makes an introvert.  One of the central ideas of the book was that sensitivity (and not shyness) is what likely makes an introvert, introverted.  The author points out that sensitive people seek quiet environments and individual connections so that they don’t have sensory overload, while people who aren’t sensitive crave lots of stimulus to keep them interested/entertained.  The author points out that shyness is a particular fear (the fear of interaction with people) and that it might be more common in introverts, but it’s not directly correlated.  This really gave me a new way of looking at myself in the world… it’s possible to be someone who craves attention and validation from people (traditionally associated with extroverts), but also can become over-stimulated by too many of them at the same time.

I was also really interested in the discussions around being true to yourself.  The author was primarily speaking about introverts who need to take on an extrovert mentality for periods of time because its what their passion requires (She calls them pseudo-extroverts).  She points out two great rules when you find yourself having to not be true to yourself (which I think are useful even if what you’re faking isn’t extroversion).  First, make sure you’re doing it for a reason you’re truly passionate about, or you won’t be able to sustain the energy required.  Second, you should create a contract with yourself that outlines when you will need to be outside your regular personality and when you can relax in your personality.  This contract will allow you to muster the strength when its important, but also keep you from feeling guilty when you need to be yourself.

The only part of the book that I didn’t like was the last part.  In this section the author covered how to live with, love, and work with introverts.  I was frustrated by this portion of the book because it made all introverts out to be the same.  What I had really liked about the rest of the book was its way of breaking down people who are (or appear to be) introverts in to different groups, but in the last couple chapters they were all treated the same.

Botton Line: Unless you are a 100% extrovert who only lives and works with 100% extroverts, I highly recommend this book.