What is the last book you read that left you feeling changed? Like you truly learned something tangible from it, and in some way, the book changed your life!?
In my experience, books like that are few and far between, but my answer to that question would be (hands down!) Quiet, by Susan Cain. I’ve been meaning to talk more about this book for ages but it wasn’t until quarantine (and having a lot more time to just… think) that I remembered my idea for a post about this book.
A few months ago, upon Carly’s recommendation, I picked up Quiet. She had recommended this book to me ages ago (this Fall maybe? Before that?) but I kept putting it off. (It sounded boring TBH.) But once I finally started it, I could not put it down. Usually with non-fiction, I will slog through, reading slowly… but that was not the case with this book. I was so drawn in that I found myself nodding and shaking my head for most of the book.
If friends were around and I was always reading they always commented on my body language, curious as to what the heck I was reading and why I was so engrossed. It was that good. I think for me the biggest thing was that reading this book made me feel so incredibly understood – it also made me realize that some of those things that I have always thought are “bad” about my personality aren’t actually all that bad.
The reality is that the world needs both introverts and extroverts to survive. And while Cain writes about what’s happened to make introversion fall out of style, she (an introvert) explains why both personality types are so important. I love what an academic approach she takes to writing the book – there is a lot of history and science involved!
Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking
Quiet by Susan Cain
Quiet by Susan Cain has been on the best seller list for more than 5 years now. The book explores what Cain calls “the extrovert ideal,” where our society values charisma and teamwork. If you prefer working in solitude, or prefer listening over speaking, you may find your efforts underappreciated… especially at work. We’ve moved to what Cain calls a “culture of personality” where being charismatic and magnetic can often be valued over intelligence and even character.
This book is interesting because it explores all of the positive things about introverts, and how much we as a society lose from undervaluing them.
What I Learned About Introverts
About a third of us are introverts!
I had thought it would be less than that, I don’t know! It was reassuring to know that a great deal of us (one in every three people!) are actually introverts.
Introverts need their alone time to be creative.
This is something I relate to deeply. I feel like the one upside of quarantine has been that my creativity has been out in full force. I’ve had more creative ideas than ever and I think a lot of that comes from spending so much time in solitude. (Don’t get me wrong, I am ready for things to get back to normal – this is just something I personally have noticed!) Cain gets more into the actual brain science behind this (I’m not going to even try to summarize it, haha) which was fascinating.
Introverts prefer listening to talking.
This is an obvious one but one thing it triggered for me was thinking about how I have always been so much more comfortable asking other people questions (or even better: sitting back and just listening to the conversation and taking everything in) vs. talking about myself. Sometimes when I spend time with a group of new friends and have to talk about myself a lot, I feel really tired afterward!
Introversion and shyness are NOT the same thing.
This was reassuring. The main thing is that introverts prefer a lower stimulation environment. Quiet… less noise, less action and excitement! Extroverts, by contrast, need that stimulation to feel their best. (I’m witnessing this now during quarantine as some of my really extroverted friends struggle deeply.)
Introverts aren’t always shy or even antisocial.
When it comes We’re just a different kind of social. I love people and I love being social… but I hate large groups or noisier environments! I want to have a glass of wine with one or two friends. If I were with my two best friends at a quiet wine bar or on a date at a fun restaurant I could stay all night. But if they wanted to leave and go to a louder bar or a party with more people, I would try to get out of it and get home to my bed.
Shyness, Cain explains, comes not from introversion, but from a fear of negative social judgment. So you can be introverted and not shy at all. You could also be a shy extrovert. Confusing, right!?
Introverts can fake it.
When people first meet me they never believe that I’m an introvert. I don’t think I’m particularly quiet or shy, I can be loud and even obnoxious (when I want to be), and I love talking to people (especially in small groups). And while I’ll never be fully comfortable in the spotlight, I can manage it well and handle myself. I do a lot of public speaking for my job and also our podcast live shows.
But how I recharge is by being alone or in a quiet, less stimulating environment. And when I am around a large group of people I get overstimulated very quickly… and just feel incredibly drained. I know when I’m faking it. Sometimes when it gets really bad I will have this weird out of body experience where I look down and see myself and it’s like I am acting, or playing a character. A permanent smile stretched across my face, this person who is not actually me but instead, this weird caricature! Does that make any sense??
It’s okay to do this – we all have to do these things to survive and be successful. But what I took away from the book is that it’s good to notice it, and when I feel myself “playing the character” I will give myself time off, stay in, have a night or two or three in to get back to basics and recharge. Recharging doesn’t always mean being alone but it means being in a quiet, less stimulating situation.
But we shouldn’t fake it very too long!
If we (introverts) fake extroverted behaviors for too long it can take a real toll on our health – both mental and physical. I felt this big time last year when we went on tour for our podcast. Between the live shows and the meet and greets afterward I would want to crawl into a dark hole for days afterward. I’d find myself always feeling a little sick and could never pinpoint exactly what was wrong. I was also very grumpy.
I realize now that this was partially caused by pushing myself too far into the extrovert spectrum. It was really interesting to me as I would watch Becca and she would react so differently. After a show she was so energized and inspired and excited and wanted to go out and do things. Meanwhile, I felt cripplingly tired – I wanted my bed and a book and a glass of wine! It’s funny how friends can be so similar but so different, too! I had a lot of guilty feelings about this at the time but the book helped me understand what was going on.
My General Impression of this book!
Honestly, this book is great. I can’t recommend it enough and have been telling everyone I know to go and read it immediately. Cain writes incredibly well and I learned SO MUCH. If you are an introvert, it’s a must-read. (It would also be a great gift for an introvert friend.)
Cain’s criticism is not of extroverts, but rather the extrovert ideal and how it is unwise to value one personality type over another. So I also think it could be worth reading if you’re an extrovert… especially an extrovert who is dating or married to an introvert, works closely with an introvert, has an introverted child, etc! I think it’s just a really helpful book in terms of better understanding human nature and how different personality types work. No personality type is better than another, it just is what it is and it’s good to understand how different people work and what energizes them. After reading this book, I personally feel like I understand my personality better (and can make better choices to support my basic needs!).
I will say that you could probably get away with reading just the introduction and then chapters nine and ten if you want to skip all the history, science, and more cerebral stuff and just get into the actionable advice.
PS – things to do at home for introverts, + six random things I love!
photo by Carter Fish.
I started reading this book and got busy and never finished. I need to pick it back up now that I have some free time! I am a major introvert and hope there are some pages I can let my husband read so he can understand how I feel sometimes!
Oh you must!!! Let me know how it goes – it’s such a great book.
YESSS! SO GLAD YOU READ & LOVED!!!
I need to get my hands on this book! It sounds really good! 🙂
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
EXXCELLENT review of this book — you hit all the high points! I especially loved how this book challenges readers not to think of extroversion as the ideal. For so long, people have made me to feel my introversion is wrong. We are ALL ideal and our differences make the world better. 🙂
Yes! Could not agree more!!!
I also loved this book. My two jobs are 1) workshop facilitation 2) improv comedy. Everyone assumes because I’m always teaching or performing that I’m super outgoing and extroverted. But it’s just not true. I am so in love with what I do, but I recharge my batteries at home, on my couch, ALONE… with wine. I joke that my biggest fear is seeing someone I *kinda* know in an elevator because small talk scares me.
The book helped me feel grateful to be an introvert when I always thought it was holding me back. But it also really shined a light on how society values extroverts, which is such a shame. I’ve definitely felt that pressure of needing to network, speak louder, etc. to “get ahead.” Introverts 4eva.
YES!!!! (To your whole comment!) I think loving what you can do can override this (like the professor who is so dynamic and charismatic all day but would recharge in isolation and now i think lives on a farm with his wife? I loved that part!!!)
Also agree re: small talk. It’s my least favorite thing in the world BUT I feel guilty/bitchy not partaking! I’m always happy when I’m with a friend and they can do the small talk and I can just listen and smile.
Lastly, totally with you on networking, speaking louder, etc. I worked a long time in the corporate world and always felt silly raising my hand in meetings just to talk unless I had something really smart to say. It was such a struggle.
This has been on my list for ages, loved reading this review. I’m curious if anyone has listened to this on audio as I have a lot of audible credits that need using up. Figured I’d post this here and I’ll inquire in the FB group as well.
Thanks for all the great content during quarantine. I live alone and have valued this community (and my book club friends who I met through the facebook group!) more than ever 🙂
Awwwww I am so happy to hear that! And I bet this would be great as an audiobook.
INTERESTING. When I was younger, I 100% thought I was an extrovert, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve definitely felt more introverted, which may also just be having less energy. I really think I’m kind of right down the middle.
I totally TOTALLY get the idea of sometimes feeling dissociated in a large group.
The creativity point is interesting! I definitely thrive more creatively when I’m bouncing ideas off of people and getting inspiration from them—I *wish* I could be more creative when I’m in solitude. I’ve always dreamed of going off on some solo writing retreat for a day or two but I don’t think I’d actually be that creative all by myself!
I was the same way – always thought I was extroverted because I can be very boisterous and loud! Turns out it’s just about how we recharge, and what can make us feel overstimulated (or understimulated!)
Hope you’re hanging in there lady! xo
Yes, this book completely changed how I view myself! I used to think there was something wrong with me because I preferred not to constantly be the center of attention or didn’t always want to go out to loud parties with people I didn’t know. But this book provided so much validation and I love how Cain emphasizes the strengths of introverts and what they bring to the table both personally and professionally. It also helped me figure out how to do my job — as a researcher and lecturer at a university, which requires abilities from both sides of the spectrum — to the best of my ability, making use of my strengths. I have the book on my Kindle, but I highlighted so much that I am thinking of buying a hard copy so that I can flip through it more easily once in awhile for encouragement!
Right!? I felt exactly the same. I have really struggled with a lot of the same thoughts and thinking something is wrong with me! I loved this book so much and think I’m going to maybe make myself read it every year as a refresher. 🙂
My psychiatrist just recommended this book to me. I am an introvert living in quarantine with two extroverts (my husband and daughter) in Brooklyn, and the struggle is real 🙂
Oh my gosh, GOOD LUCK. That sounds really challenging!!!! I have been wishing for company lately but would definitely struggle in that situation. I think you’ll really enjoy the book.
We have this book on our bookshelves, but I have never read. Thank you for the chapter highlights as I loved reading your article, but just not interested in reading an entire book on it. I will check it out. I am also a non shy introvert! I love to connect with people and talk through my feelings and thoughts, debate topics, discuss movies and books. But I completely relate to the overstimulation. Too many noises make me feel stressed and frazzled. I hate the idea of any sort of standing up networking event. Small talk in a loud room is my personal form of torture.
I’m curious if stimulation in non verbal ways is more sensitive for introverts? Ie, I really appreciate comfortable clothing, the right water temperature for a bath, the perfect temperature for hot food and cold. Or maybe I’m just super particular!
My husband and I are both introverts (him even more so than me) and I always think it’s likely a big reason we chose not to have children. We really savor and cherish our quiet home.
Yeah you could totally just read those chapters!!!!!
I forget what chapter it is, but she actually talks a lot about sensitivity (to noise, textures, temperatures, etc!) It’s a different thing (I think there’s a term for it… “highly sensitive person?”) but equally interesting.
Lastly, think I feel very similarly to you. I love kids but really cherish my alone time. I don’t think I could handle it!!!
Hi Sharon, I read (and liked) a book called The Empath’s Survival Guide that talked a lot about the sensitivities you mentioned and I related to that!
I loved this book. I’m an extrovert married to an introvert. I also work in a hospital/team-setting where it’s important to be aware of how other people work best. Although I’m always interested in personality quizzes/types/enneagrams, it has a more substantial impact when I’m trying to learn and appreciate others rather than reading my type and feeling super understood/validated/superior (hahaha). Great review!!
Oh I’m so glad to hear from an extrovert who has read (and loved it!!!) Thanks for weighing in. I’m also personality test/enneagram obsessed!!!!
I’ve had this book on the shelf for a few years now! This is the perfect time for me to pick it up! Thanks for sharing this review!
Ah yes!!!! Please do, and let me know what you think!
Thank you so much for sharing! This book has been on my to-read list for awhile. I’ll have to order it!
Oh good! Let me know how you like it!
Such an incredible book review that I loved reading! (Per the usual with you!) I’m an introvert and have been wanting to read this book for ages now, and you’ve definitely given me the push I needed to make it happen—can’t wait to dive in! Thank you for all that you do ❤️
Oh good, I hope you read it! Come back and let me know how you like it!