Book Review:

If you consider yourself to be an extrovert and you’d like to understand the introverts in your life better, Quiet by Susan Cain is an excellent resource. And if you consider yourself to be an introvert, this book can help you to understand extroverts better, and to deepen your appreciation of your own personality. In Quiet, Cain looks at characteristics of introverts and extroverts and she presents a variety of research studies on these personality types. She also interviews numerous people, ranging from residents of Silicon Valley to students at Harvard Business School.

Cain talks about how there are no universally accepted definitions of introverts and extroverts. She discusses definitions that are consistent with the work of psychologist Carl Jung and that include the following observation: “Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough.” She goes on to discuss various ways in which introverts and extroverts tend to differ. She states about introverts, “They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation.” Regarding extroverts, Cain observes that they “think out loud and on their feet; they prefer talking to listening” and they “rarely find themselves at a loss for words.” She also mentions that there is an introvert-extrovert spectrum, as it’s not the case that everyone is either completely an introvert or completely an extrovert.

An important point that Cain makes is that introversion is different from shyness. She writes, “Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating.” Another notable point in the book is that studies indicate that between one third and one half of all Americans are introverts. She includes many examples of famous introverts, such as Rosa Parks, Bill Gates, J.K. Rowling, Eleanor Roosevelt and Albert Einstein. Cain wraps up the book with two chapters that are chock-full of useful advice. One chapter is about “How to Talk to Members of the Opposite Type” and the other is about “How to Cultivate Quiet Kids in a World That Can’t Hear Them.” Quiet is an engrossing book whose impact lingers long after you’ve finished reading those final chapters.

See more features from the May 2014 issue