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Book Review: Quiet

Sam Bridegroom  |  Posted Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 at 06:12:43 PM

Image:Book Review: Quiet Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Format I Used:
 Kindle and Audible (it's also available from Apple as an iBook.)
Short Version Review:
 Absolutely a must read. I've been through it twice, and I'm planning on reading/listening again.

Simply put: this might be the most influential book (on a very personal level) that I've ever read. Period. As I described it to my wife, it's as close to being a manual for understanding me and the way I think/operate as she might ever find.

The book is a fascinating look at introverts in what appears to be an extrovert-driven society. I absolutely fall into the introvert category. Quiet explained a lot of things to me about myself, the kinds of things that have always been hard for me to explain to others (if that makes sense).  I thought that it did an excellent job of highlighting and contrasting the introvert/extrovert ways of life, really providing some guidance into what makes each "tick". This is the best thing I've read in a really long time, if not ever.

I think it's equally difficult for each camp (the introverts and extroverts) to clearly articulate why the other's approach to things feels so foreign or disruptive (and in some cases, painful and crippling). In Quiet, Susan Cain did a remarkable job of presenting both sides and providing the rationale/explanation for many of my own behaviors - explanations that I've been trying (and failing) to find for many years. The whole compare/contrast approach she took really made it very clear and much easier to understand. Throw in just enough science to provide something more substantial than just anecdotal observations (for the "I really need to understand the science behind it" geeks like me), and it does a remarkable job of opening one's eyes to the stark differences between the two.

There are three discussions in the book I found to be the most thought-provoking:
  • The Harvard Business School extrovert-driven culture (I would have never been successful there). The extension of that discussion education in general was also very interesting.
  • How extroversion equates to success - at least in the Tony Robbins way of thinking. That is so not me, but yet I like to think I'm successful.
  • And yes, how the nerd culture has such introverted leanings. I can't begin to count the parallels to my own professional life that I identified.

I know that my wife has looked at me more than once in a social setting and said something like "I don't understand what your problem is with this", or "you need to lighten up and relax - it's just a small get-together." I don't like big productions (of any kind) or noisy crowds (unless it's for a basketball game - somehow I find a way to overcome things in that setting). The introvert in me (and it's an extreme case for me as well) simply prefers quiet contemplative time. There are a lot of other things in the book that really hit home with me that I won't go into, but I can tell you from this introvert's perspective, it's unbelievably validating to see that a lot of my behaviors are not a case of "he's just an odd bird" but rather that I'm just cut from a little different cloth. Not that it's ever bothered me, because I'm also one who is more than comfortable in my skin and not overly concerned with what most people think of my opinions and behaviors. It's still validating, though.

This is an excellent book for any manager or people leader to read. Most successful managers don't need to be experts in their fields; I think what makes them successful is the ability to understand the resources they have and how best to implement them to bring about success for their group. That means understanding what makes them successful, and more importantly, creating the right environment to allow them to be successful. It's all about playing to strengths and averting situations that expose weaknesses - and providing the right social environment for people to operate is a big part of that.

This is a book for both introverts and extroverts - and it's absolutely worth the read/listen.

Susan Cain also does a TED talk titled "The Power of Introverts" - it's one of the most viewed TED Talks ever, at over 2.5 million views. Very much worth the 19:00 of your time.


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