The Progress Principle

Teresa Amabile

Creativity, Productivity, and the Psychology of Everyday Work Life

Quiet: A book that deserves a lot more noise January 16, 2012

From time to time, I’ll recommend to my readers interesting books I’ve read. Here’s my review of a new book that I found particularly compelling.

Susan Cain’s new book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, has the power to change the way we think about ourselves, each other, and our world. Cain sheds new light on creativity and success by showing that, even in business, many acts of creation have sprung from solitude, not collaboration. As a card-carrying introvert in a workplace – Harvard Business School – that Cain aptly calls the “Spiritual Capital of Extroversion,” I recognized the daily challenges that “quiet people” face, as well as the value they can bring, to a world that prizes socializing and fast judgment. This quietly audacious book gives all of us – introverts and extroverts alike – tools that we need to be happier, more effective, and more appreciative of different ways of being.

Quiet deserves to be read by the one-third of us who are introverts, and by everyone who may underestimate introverts at work, in school, and in society. Why? Three reasons:

First, it is a wonderful read. Each chapter springs to life with a story that sparkles with fascinating detail – how the first Apple computer got invented, for example; how Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt fell in love; or how it feels to be welcomed into a Tony Robbins seminar. Even the tales of the research on introversion and extroversion are compelling, bringing the researchers, their subjects, and their scientific quests to life.

The second reason is all that research. Cain marshals evidence to back up every claim. Much of the research was done by others – psychologists, organizational behavior scholars, educational researchers – with Cain reporting, synthesizing, and interpreting. I’m familiar with much of the original research and, as far as I can tell, Cain gets the story right, from Jerome Kagan’s studies of temperament in infants to Adam Grant’s studies of introversion and extroversion in leaders. And Cain has done a great deal of research herself, including history (like the extreme introversion of Mahatma Gandhi and Rosa Parks) and literature (even the Bible), extensive interviews, and observations in a variety of settings. Cain humanizes all of this not only by making each person real, but also by sprinkling her own personal history throughout. The book is, essentially, a string of great stories woven together by a strong underlying theme: introversion is vastly underrated.

Finally, Quiet is enormously practical. Take, for example, the self-quiz in the opening pages, which helps readers orient themselves toward their own degree of introversion or extroversion. Or the final chapters, which include a great deal of useful advice on how introverts can comfortably behave more like extroverts when they need to; how extroverts and introverts can understand, benefit from, and even love one another; and how parents and teachers can raise introverted children to be comfortable, competent, and happy adults.

I read a pre-publication version of this book, and endorsed it. Having re-read it just now, I remain enthusiastic. I predict that we will soon be hearing a lot of noise about Quiet, for good reason. 

Comments

On January 16, 2012 Susan Alexander said...

Teresa:  What a well-written review of what seems like a very-well written, worthwhile book.  I have quite a stack of books in my queue here on my desk, so I’ve vowed to stop ordering for a while, but this one I have to see - so I’m off to Amazon!  Thank you.  Susan

On January 16, 2012 Steve Supple said...

Sounds like a great book.
I think social media can be so appealing to an introvert because it is a quiet way to talk with interesting people.

On January 17, 2012 Teresa Amabile said...

Steve,

I agree with your remark about why social media can be so appealing to introverts. And Susan Cain agrees, too. That’s one of the points that she makes (quite convincingly) in her book.

—Teresa

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