Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

An unassuming exterior should not be confused with an inner lacking or weakness

Reviewed by Julie A. Penley, PhD, El Paso Community College

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop TalkingTitle: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
Author: Susan Cain
Publisher: Crown Publishers
Copyright year: 2012
ISBN: 978-0-307-35214-9
Number of pages: 333
Price: $26

The author of Quiet reminds us that both introverts and extroverts have a valuable place in our society and argues that the former may not always realize their contributions (or have their contributions realized by the latter). A writer and former corporate lawyer, Susan Cain presents research findings from the fields of psychology, communication, business, and the arts, as well as anecdotal data from the likes of Rosa Parks, Dale Carnegie, Gandhi, Darwin Smith and Steve Wozniak that speak to the power of introverts and why an unassuming exterior should not be confused for an inner lacking or weakness.

Cain begins the book with a social history of extroversion and how the media has helped to shape the Western cultural ideal of outgoing, highly energetic, and social individuals. Part Two presents the biological and environmental influences on temperament and behavior using both empirical research and historical and current events to illustrate Cain’s conclusions. Part Three examines cultural differences in personality ideals and highlights the notion of “soft power” in education, politics and other social settings.

Although the entire book is interesting, useful, and entertaining, Part Four presents a wealth of examples and ideas to apply the information from the rest of the book. In this final section, Cain grabs readers’ attention with chapters titled When Should You Act More Extroverted Than You Really Are? (Spoiler Alert: The answer is: when you care deeply about the person, goal, or value at the core of the situation), The Communication Gap: How to Talk to Members of the Opposite Type (through communication, compromise, and, in the case of relationships, occasional time apart to pursue your own interests and preferences), and On Cobblers and Generals: How to Cultivate Quiet Kids in a World That Can’t Hear Them (through sensitivity and mindfulness of the child’s perspective. In Cain’s words, “...parents need to step back from their own preferences and see what the world looks like to their quiet children.” [p. 243]). This last chapter includes wonderful advice and strategies for elementary teachers and parents alike to help children thrive in their learning environments.

Quiet is well written and would likely appeal to a wide audience, including psychologists, educators, parents, business professionals, and lay people. Psychology instructors could easily incorporate the book into the personality section of the Introduction to Psychology course and could obviously weave it throughout an entire Personality Psychology course. But Quiet would also be useful in most other psychology courses, including Social Psychology (e.g., in discussions of social cognition and communication, foundations of liking and attraction, factors contributing to individual and group behavior), Developmental Psychology (e.g., childhood personality and parenting styles, antecedents and consequences of bullying, correlates of risk-taking), and Industrial/Organizational Psychology (e.g., discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of team dynamics and teamwork, exploration of leadership styles). Instructors who already have a solid understanding of personality development and its behavioral manifestations will find a number of examples and discussion starters in Quiet to supplement their class activities. Instructors who want to learn more about the field of personality or those who would like more ideas for incorporating applied psychology examples into their courses will also find the book helpful and easy to use. Students could use Quiet to brainstorm ideas for honors projects or other independent research ideas. Anyone could read Quiet for pure reading pleasure or to better understand themselves or their family, friends, or coworkers.

The jacket of Cain’s book states, “[Quiet] has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how introverts see themselves.” If you are quiet and ever felt the need to justify or even apologize for that, Cain’s book will speak volumes to you. If you are not so quiet, Cain’s book may help you better understand and relate to the “quiet” people in your life.