Book Review: Quiet by Susan Cain
"We should all look out for cobblers who might have been great generals."
This is just one of my favourite sentences from this insightful book on the power of introversion. Reading this book took me through so many layers of my life from childhood to adulthood and prompted so many 'that's so me!' moments. When I initially ordered Quiet, I expected it to confirm everything I thought I knew about my introverted qualities; it did so and more! Susan starts by reflecting on two great figures in history: Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Both had very different approaches to inspiring their supporters. One, in particular, did so with a quiet strength that challenged the notion that quiet meant weak. We're then taken even further back to a point in history where the Culture of Character reigned supreme; where it was more attractive to be modest and reserved. Enter the era of the Culture of Personality where in order to be seen, you had to be heard. The rise of the extrovert ideal.
The historical context Susan provides is very insightful and confirms my sneaking suspicions about the cultural shift which came to prefer the extroverted individual. Quiet gives enough background information about both traits, and later in the book focuses more on the characteristics of the introverted individual that can be easily overlooked. Her perfect mix of psychological studies into both characteristics and shared stories of the practical applications make for a very easy read. Highlighting a few influential individuals with traits an introverted/extroverted individual can relate with, she explains the core differences between the two plus the potential downfall in the extroverted ideal/culture of personality rise that has gripped the world so tightly. The real-life stories about the typical profiles of CEOs of very successful organisations that came to meet their demise, unfortunately, through an unbalanced tip towards the extroverted leader might be incredibly relatable for anyone who works in the corporate world. Susan describes those leaders as smooth-talkers who had an absolute disdain for FUD - fear, uncertainty and doubt. FUD is what caused the more introverted employees of financial firms to issue warnings about the 2008 financial crash they saw coming. Those warnings fell on deaf ears; the ears of their louder, risk-taking colleagues and leaders. Some of these stories I could relate with but Susan doesn't allow you to wallow in your quietness.
The book is full of practical tips from Susan and other introverts who are hugely successful due to their ability to harness their quietness and tap into their extroversion traits when needed. It's a world I'm entirely familiar with and the reminder of the 'emotional labour' of harnessing those traits that don't come natural is very welcome. So is the new (to me) idea of having a restorative niche that allows you to recoup your energy spent on activities that may be a part of your long working day. The final chapters of the book focus heavily on relationships which I absolutely love because most of my ministry and work revolve around relationships and this is one area I cannot afford to take for granted.
Overall, I will have to recommend this book to anyone curious about the introversion extroversion personality traits and how we impact the world today! You can get a copy here.
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