Book Review: “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain

It’s so good to have someone touting your own virtue when it’s widely perceived to be a fault in this society. Indeed, the introverts in this country have gotten a bum rap. Thanks to this book, people like us can feel good about ourselves and learn a few techniques in thriving in this mostly-extroverted society, epitomized by someone like Tony Robbins and business school like Harvard Business School.

The author sited several key famous introverts: Rosa Park, Steve Wozniak, Einstein, Dr. Suess, Al Gore, Warren Buffet, Gandhi, and etc. She interviewed several introverts especially someones in Cupertino, CA where I reside. I was shocked to realize that Cupertino is the capital of introverts.

Also, I was surprised to learn this contrarian view that collaboration kills creativity – “solitude is the key to creativity.” And brainstorm does not work as effectively as electronic collaboration due to social loafing, production blocking, and evaluation apprehension. It was Steve Wozniak’s introversion that allowed him to create the first Apple PC. Social networking is ironic as Internet was first used to “promote bands of often introverted individuals.”

It is mentioned this interesting science about one’s temperament exhibited as babies may lead to the adulthood as an introvert or extrovert. The “high-reactive” (to stimuli) babies turn into introverts and “low-reactive” babies turn into extroverts.

Of course, there is a free-will part of introversion.

Extroverts like Ted Turner tend to seek rewards (buzz) and take on more financial risk as opposed to introverts like Warren Buffet, who think more carefully and pause in time of loss and persist when challenged and frequently in a state of “flow.” Einstein – “It’s not that I’m so smart. It’s that I stay with problems longer.”

Cain explored the culture difference of the extroverted West and the introverted East. Indeed, growing up in Taiwan, I was encouraged to listen more than talk – classical introverted teaching.

In the last part, Cain offers some help for the introverts. Being good at “self-monitoring” could make good pseudo-extroverts for the love of what they do. HSM (High-self-monitor) are better liars than LSM. A good HSM like Professor Little makes a good speech by continually checking his audience for subtle signs of pleasure or boredom and adjusting his presentation to meet its needs.

When to act more extroverted? Need to have the “personal” project/passion. To find it: 1) think abck to what you loved to do when you were a child. 2) pay attention to what you gravitate to. 3) pay attention to what you envy. Don’t act out of character too long. Have many “restorative niches.” Negotiate a “Free Trait Agreement” with your loved ones.

Bridging the communication gap. Introverts tend to be conflict avoiders, while the extroverts are “confrontive capers.” at ease with an upfront, even argumentative style of disagreement. They tend to understand each others a little less each time they argue in a way that the other disapproves of. Introverts like people they meet in friendly contexts; extroverts prefer those they compete with. Introverts need not bite but need to “hiss” the extroverts. Introverts are better at decoding the social dynamics but not good at participating in one due to brain’s ability to process a lot of information at once. Introverts tend to focus on one or two serious subjects in conversation, while the extroverts chose light-hearted and wider-ranging topics.

Working with introverted kids: 1) work with them on reaction to novelty, 2) expose your kids gradually to new situations. 3) teach them self-coaxing skill. 4) teach them simple social strategies to get through uncomfortable moments.