Review: Susan Cain – Quiet
Out of all of the books I’ve read in the entirety of my twenty-something years on this Earth, a very slim proportion have had a lasting impact on how I perceive myself, and how I view other people. Quiet is a rare read that does exactly that. No big deal, huh?
Susan Cain sheds enlightenment on “the power of introverts in a world that won’t stop talking”. At least one third of our society are introverts, a group which I’m now proud to say I am part of. ‘Introvert’ is a word quite often charged with negative connotations. Cain points out very poignant moments as early as childhood, which reinforce the belief that introversion is a second-class personality trait. She uses the example of primary school parents evenings, with teachers making comments such as “well, he seems to like to play by himself, and has just two friends in class” with overly concerned eyes.
“Introverts living in the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.”
We’re not told of all the amazing traits and gifts that introverts possess: thinking deeply, listening intently, spotting subtleties, and being focused and self-sufficient.
I personally love dancing and performing on stage, teaching classes of dozens, meeting new people and going out to bars and clubs every single weekend (sorry liver, sorry bank balance) – on the surface you’d assume I’m extroverted, but I’m definitely an introvert. Think of an introvert for a moment – you’ll probably conjure up a picture of a slightly timid, socially awkward yet thoughtful individual who exists on the outskirts of the action. That’s the trope that we’ve seen time and time again in movies and on TV: think Charlie in The Perks of being a Wallflower, Daria from um, Daria, and Josh in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
You see, there’s a subtlety to introversion, that we’re often not shown – many introverts love being around people, talking (well, more listening if we’re being honest), and attention to a certain extent. The part many people don’t see, is that after a 5 hour drink-up with a bunch of new people we’ll be physically and mentally exhausted, and to regain energy we have to retreat solo, and indulge in our own little world to re-coup: Kendrick Lamar says it best: ‘sometimes I need to be alone.’ For introverts, solitude really is a requirement and not just a desire.
Quiet is full of passion, intriguing research, and stories of real people. This book isn’t propaganda to discredit extroverts everywhere (they’re great too!), but it exists to appreciate the very misunderstood and undervalued introverts – after all, “everyone shines, given the right lighting”.