Quiet – Susan Cain

quietQuiet, originally published in 2012 seems to have had some kind of a relaunch. It has suddenly showed up in all kinds of lists and reviews. I picked it up only around Christmas 2018 and is my first book for 2019. Its byline promises to unleash the power of Introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. It is not strictly a self-help book but more a combination of survey of latest research and a societal call to action; some advice is thrown in for good measure.

Its basic premise is that the modern world has given too much importance to the Extrovert ideal. That we have idolized extroverts and their way of working, thinking, interacting to the detriment of its equivalent opposite – introverts. That this is a mistake and we are all worse off because of it. Extroverts are not necessarily better at coming up with ideas, leadership, entrepreneurship etc. In fact, the book claims the opposite-that introverts are much better on all kinds of attributes – on account of the way they are wired and their ability to concentrate away from the crowd.

The books cites research and examples to make its points. In popular books of this nature, one is never quite sure if the survey of research is comprehensive or just selectively biased in support of whichever theory is being proposed and this is no different for Quiet. Discounting any such bias, the research is interesting with entertaining stories and anecdotes. The discussion on cultural differences – with special focus on the Asian culture – is a bit shallow and grossly over-generalized. Similarly, examples citing Warren Buffett, President and Mrs. Franklin and Mahatma Gandhi are too simplistic and come across a force fit.

Its call to action to the society is to recognize the inherent differences between introverts & extroverts and make suitable adjustments to get the best out of both. Its call to action to Introverts is to recognize their unique strengths and veer towards careers and situations where these strengths are most relevant; if they would rather pick up careers more suited to extroverts instead, then they should recognize this will require extra effort and suggests strategies to cope. The book also has advice for parents of introvert children as well as managers of introvert staff. A lot of its main points are self-evident and non-controversial – the occasional ‘Ah ha’ moments come when it shows how introverts subconsciously modify their behaviour to fit in with the Extrovert Ideal.

The book is an easy one-time read, but it is trying to do too many things and tackle too many topics at the same time. It is difficult to come up with one or two neat takeaways. The author probably recognized this – there is a short 2 page conclusion at the end of the book to compensate.

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