Quiet – Susan Cain – 7/10

“Moreover, they tell us that the Extrovert Ideal is not as sacrosanct as we may have thought. So if, deep down, you’ve been thinking that it’s only natural for the bold and sociable to dominate the reserved and sensitive, and that the Extrovert Ideal is innate to humanity, Robert McCrae’s personality map suggests a different truth: that each way of being – quiet and talkative, careful and audacious, inhibited and unrestrained – is characteristic of its own mighty civilisation.”


“We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.”

The blog world has been raving about this book. RAVING. I suspect because we’re all a bunch of introverts delighted that someone has decided that we’re worth hanging out with. I found this book both revelatory and disappointing. As an introvert-in-hiding*, I was sort of hoping to find some tips and tricks in here, which are not to be found (or at least the ones that were in there, I’d already figured out for myself or with the Physicist’s help).

What was to be found, repeatedly, was evidence that some introverts have been very successful in business, government and life in general specifically because they were introverts. It talks about Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Seth Klarman (president of an astonishingly successful hedge fund), Eleanor Roosevelt and Craig Newmark (founder of Craigslist). So that was inspiring.

There were some really interesting psychological points, particularly about high-reactivity. Cain writes at length, citing several studies, about infants who react strongly to stimuli, who grow up to be introverts; whereas those who become extroverts seem to have a stronger filter on the world.

I don’t know. I think the book is a good read, and an important one; it just didn’t rock my world the way I thought it would.

* Cain has a quiz early in the book. How many “yes”es out of twenty do you score?

1. I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities.

2. I often prefer to express myself in writing.

3. I enjoy solitude.

4. I seem to care less than my peers about wealth, fame, and status.

5. I dislike small talk, but I enjoy talking in depth about topics that matter to me.

6. People tell me that I’m a good listener.

7. I’m not a big risk-taker.

8. I enjoy work that allows me to “dive in” with few interruptions.

9. I like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale, with only one or two close friends or family members.

10. People describe me as “soft-spoken” or “mellow”.

11. I prefer not to show or discuss my work with others until it’s finished.

12. I dislike conflict.

13. I do my best work on my own.

14. I tend to think before I speak.

15. I feel drained after being out and about, even if I’ve enjoyed myself.

16. I often let calls go through to voice mail.

17. If I had to choose, I’d prefer a weekend with absolutely nothing to do to one with too many things scheduled.

18. I don’t enjoy multitasking.

19. I can concentrate easily.

20. In classroom situations, I prefer lectures to seminars.

I’ve bolded the only 4 to which I didn’t answer yes. But the one that I think is missing from the above is “I seem to care less than my peers about the approval of others” – because that is a classic introvert characteristic that I am spectacularly lacking. Why is it missing? Do you think it belongs on the list?

Additional information:
Copy a gift from Ma Physicist (after my willpower was too strong for the Banana Republic sale)
Publisher: Viking – Penguin Group USA, 352 pages (hardback)
Order Miss Julia Stirs Up Troublefrom Amazon*
* this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards give-aways and site hosting

8 thoughts on “Quiet – Susan Cain – 7/10”

  1. I’m reading it right now and enjoying it. As for your question, I don’t know if it matters that the question is on the list or not. But, of course, after you mentioned it, I did notice it was missing. 🙂

  2. I recently reviewed this one. Interesting point about “I seem to care less than my peers about the approval of others” I agree that is an introvert trait. But, then it’s also something that comes with age, or at least it is for myself.

  3. Great post. Love that you included the test. 14/20. And yes, I think the blogosphere loves this book so much because we are all introverts at heart. I plan to read this book at some point, but my husband is reading it right now and her takes forever to finish a book!

  4. Yes, I’ve heard a lot about this one too. Interesting to read your take on it, and thanks for posting the quiz. I nodded my head to 18 out of 20, so I suppose it’s clear where I stand on the introversion scale… All except questions 7 and 20. So it seems this book is for me – I’d be interested in the psychological points, but not so much in the examples of famous introverts. Like you, I’d want a few tips too…

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