“Superbly researched, deeply insightful, and a fascinating read, Quiet is an indispensable resource for anyone who wants to understand the gifts of the introverted half of the population.”—Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY People • O: The Oprah Magazine • Christian Science Monitor • Inc. • Library Journal • Kirkus Reviews
At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.
In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts—from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, impeccably researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Today we make room for a remarkably narrow range of personality styles. We’re told that to be great is to be bold, to be happy is to be sociable. We see ourselves as a nation of extroverts—which means that we’ve lost sight of who we really are. Depending on which study you consult, one third to one half of Americans are introverts—in other words, one out of every two or three people you know. (Given that the United States is among the most extroverted of nations, the number must be at least as high in other parts of the world.) If you’re not an introvert yourself, you are surely raising, managing, married to, or coupled with one.
If these statistics surprise you, that’s probably because so many people pretend to be extroverts. Closet introverts pass undetected on playgrounds, in high school locker rooms, and in the corridors of corporate America. Some fool even themselves, until some life event—a layoff, an empty nest, an inheritance that frees them to spend time as they like—jolts them into taking stock of their true natures. You have only to raise the subject of this book with your friends and acquaintances to find that the most unlikely people consider themselves introverts.
It makes sense that so many introverts hide even from themselves. We live with a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal—the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight. The archetypal extrovert prefers action to contemplation, risk-taking to heed-taking, certainty to doubt. He favors quick decisions, even at the risk of being wrong. She works well in teams and socializes in groups. We like to think that we value individuality, but all too often we admire one type of individual—the kind who’s comfortable “putting himself out there.” Sure, we allow technologically gifted loners who launch companies in garages to have any personality they please, but they are the exceptions, not the rule, and our tolerance extends mainly to those who get fabulously wealthy or hold the promise of doing so.
Introversion—along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness—is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.
The Extrovert Ideal has been documented in many studies, though this research has never been grouped under a single name. Talkative people, for example, are rated as smarter, better-looking, more interesting, and more desirable as friends. Velocity of speech counts as well as volume: we rank fast talkers as more competent and likable than slow ones. The same dynamics apply in groups, where research shows that the voluble are considered smarter than the reticent—even though there’s zero correlation between the gift of gab and good ideas. Even the word introvert is stigmatized—one informal study, by psychologist Laurie Helgoe, found that introverts described their own physical appearance in vivid language ( “green-blue eyes,” “exotic,” “high cheekbones”), but when asked to describe generic introverts they drew a bland and distasteful picture (“ungainly,” “neutral colors,” “skin problems”).
But we make a grave mistake to embrace the Extrovert Ideal so unthinkingly. Some of our greatest ideas, art, and inventions—from the theory of evolution to van Gogh’s sunflowers to the personal computer—came from quiet and cerebral people who knew how to tune in to their inner worlds and the treasures to be found there.
Table of ContentsAuthor’s Note |
INTRODUCTION: The North and South of Temperament |
PART ONE: THE EXTROVERT IDEAL
1. THE RISE OF THE “MIGHTY LIKEABLE FELLOW”: How
Extroversion Became the Cultural Ideal |
2. THE MYTH OF CHARISMATIC LEADERSHIP: The
Culture of Personality, a Hundred Years Later |
3. WHEN COLLABORATION KILLS CREATIVITY:
The Rise of the New Groupthink and the Power of
Working Alone |
PART TWO: YOUR BIOLOGY, YOUR SELF?
4. IS TEMPERAMENT DESTINY?: Nature, Nurture, and the
Orchid Hypothesis |
5. BEYOND TEMPERAMENT: The Role of Free Will (and the
Secret of Public Speaking for Introverts) |
6. “FRANKLIN WAS A POLITICIAN,
BUT ELEANOR SPOKE OUT OF CONSCIENCE”:
Why Cool Is Overrated |
7. WHY DID WALL STREET CRASH AND WARREN
BUFFETT PROSPER?: How Introverts and Extroverts Think
(and Process Dopamine) Differently |
PART THREE: DO ALL CULTURES HAVE
AN EXTROVERT IDEAL?
8. SOFT POWER: Asian-Americans and the Extrovert
PART FOUR: HOW TO LOVE, HOW TO WORK
9. WHEN SHOULD YOU ACT MORE EXTROVERTED
THAN YOU REALLY ARE? |
10. THE COMMUNICATION GAP: How to Talk to
Members of the Opposite Type |
11. ON COBBLERS AND GENERALS: How to Cultivate
Quiet Kids in a World That Can’t Hear Them |
CONCLUSION: Wonderland |
A Note on the Dedication |
A Note on the Words Introvert and Extrovert |
What People are Saying About This
"A superbly researched, deeply insightful, and fascinating book that will change forever the way society views introverts." --(Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project)
"Susan Cain has done a superb job of sifting through decades of complex research... . This book will be a boon for the many highly sensitive people who are also introverts." --(Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person )
"Susan Cain is the definer of a new and valuable paradigm. In this moving and original argument, she makes the case that we are losing immense reserves of talent and vision because of our culture's overvaluation of extroversion. A startling, important and readable page-turner that will make quiet people see themselves in a whole new light." --(Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth )
"Think Malcolm Gladwell for people who don't take themselves too seriously. Mark my words, this book will be a bestseller." --(Guy Kawasaki, author of Enchantment )
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER NPR BESTSELLER
WASHINGTON POST BESTSELLER
LOS ANGELES TIMES BESTSELLER
USA Today TOP 50 BESTSELLER
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BESTSELLER
Fast Company’s #1 Best Business book of 2012
INC Magazine’s Best 2012 Books for Entrepreneurs
People Magazine’s 10 Best Books of 2012
O, The Oprah Magazine 10 Favorite Books of 2012
Christian Science Monitor’s Best Books of 2012
GoodReads Nonfiction Choice Award Winner
Audible’s #1 Non-Fiction book of 2012
Amazon’s Best Books of 2012
Barnes & Noble Best Books of 2012
Library Journal’s Best Books of 2012
Kirkus REVIEWS’ Best Books of 2012
"An important book that should embolden anyone who's ever been told, 'Speak up!'"
"Cain offers a wealth of useful advice for teachers and parents of introverts…Quiet should interest anyone who cares about how people think, work, and get along, or wonders why the guy in the next cubicle acts that way. It should be required reading for introverts (or their parents) who could use a boost to their self-esteem."
Wall Street Journal
"An intriguing and potentially life-altering examination of the human psyche that is sure to benefit both introverts and extroverts alike."
Kirkus, Starred Review
"Cain gives excellent portraits of a number of introverts and shatters misconceptions. Cain consistently holds the reader’s interest by presenting individual profiles, looking at places dominated by extroverts (Harvard Business School) and introverts (a West Coast retreat center), and reporting on the latest studies. Her diligence, research, and passion for this important topic has richly paid off."
"This book is a pleasure to read and will make introverts and extroverts alike think twice about the best ways to be themselves and interact with differing personality types."
"An intelligent and often surprising look at what makes us who we are."
"In this well-written, unusually thoughtful book, Cain encourages solitude seekers to see themselves anew: not as wallflowers but as powerful forces to be reckoned with."
"Those who value a quiet, reflective life will feel a burden lifting from their shoulders as they read Susan Cain's eloquent and well documented paean to introversionand will no longer feel guilty or inferior for having made the better choice!"
MIHALY CSIKSZENTMIHALYI, author of Flow and Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Management, Claremont Graduate University
"Superbly researched, deeply insightful, and a fascinating read, Quiet is an indispensable resource for anyone who wants to understand the gifts of the introverted half of the population."
GRETCHEN RUBIN, author of The Happiness Project
"Quiet is a book of liberation from old ideas about the value of introverts. Cain’s intelligence, respect for research, and vibrant prose put Quiet in an elite class with the best books from Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Pink, and other masters of psychological non-fiction."
TERESA AMABILE, Professor, Harvard Business School, and coauthor, The Progress Principle
"As an introvert often called upon to behave like an extrovert, I found the information in this book revealing and helpful. Drawing on neuroscientific research and many case reports, Susan Cain explains the advantages and potentials of introversion and of being quiet in a noisy world."
ANDREW WEIL, author of Healthy Aging and Spontaneous Happiness
"Susan Cain has done a superb job of sifting through decades of complex research on introversion, extroversion, and sensitivitythis book will be a boon for the many highly sensitive people who are also introverts."
ELAINE ARON, author of The Highly Sensitive Person
"Quiet legitimizes and even celebrates the ‘niche’ that represents half the people in the world."
GUY KAWASAKI, author of Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions
"Susan Cain is the definer of a new and valuable paradigm. In this moving and original argument, she makes the case that we are losing immense reserves of talent and vision because of our culture's overvaluation of extroversion. A startling, important, and readable page-turner that will make quiet people see themselves in a whole new light."
NAOMI WOLF, author of The Beauty Myth
"Superb…A compelling reflection on how the Extrovert Ideal shapes our lives and why this is deeply unsettling. Based on meticulous research, it will open up a new and different conversation on how the personal is political and how we need to empower the legions of people who are disposed to be quiet, reflective, and sensitive."
BRIAN R. LITTLE, PH.D., Distinguished Scholar, Department of Social and Developmental Psychology, Cambridge University
"Quiet elevates the conversation about introverts in our outwardly-oriented society to new heights. I think that many introverts will discover that, even though they didn't know it, they have been waiting for this book all their lives."
ADAM S. MCHUGH, author of Introverts in the Church
"Gentle is powerful... Solitude is socially productive... These important counter-intuitive ideas are among the many reasons to take Quiet to a quiet corner and absorb its brilliant, thought-provoking message."
ROSABETH MOSS KANTER, Harvard Business School professor, author of Confidence and SuperCorp
"Memo to all you glad-handing, back-slapping, brainstorming masters of the universe out there: Stop networking and talking for a minute and read this book. In Quiet, Susan Cain does an eloquent and powerful job of extolling the virtues of the listeners and the thinkersthe reflective introverts of the world who appreciate that hard problems demand careful thought and who understand that it's a good idea to know what you want to say before you open your mouth."
BARRY SCHWARTZ, author of Practical Wisdom and The Paradox of Choice
“A smart, lively book about the value of silence and solitude that makes you want to shout from the rooftops. Quiet is an engaging and insightful look into the hearts and minds of those who change the world instead of tweeting about it.”
DANIEL GILBERT, professor of psychology, Harvard University, author of Stumbling on Happiness
Reading Group Guide
For additional features, visit www.quietrev.com
At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled "quiet," it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society−from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.
Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. This extraordinary book has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how introverts see themselves.
1. Based on the quiz in the book, do you think you’re an introvert, an extrovert, or an ambivert? Are you an introvert in some situations and an extrovert in others? See the quiz, here: https://www.quietrev.com/the-introvert-test/
2. What about the important people in your lives—your partner, your friends, your kids?
3. Which parts of QUIET resonated most strongly with you? Were there parts you disagreed with—and if so, why?
4. Can you think of a time in your life when being an introvert proved to be an advantage?
5. Who are your favorite introverted role models?
6. Do you agree with the author that introverts can be good leaders? What role do you think charisma plays in leadership? Can introverts be charismatic?
7. If you’re an introvert, what do you find most challenging about working with extroverts?
8. If you’re an extrovert, what do you find most challenging about working with introverts?
9. QUIET explains how Western society evolved from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality. Are there enclaves in our society where a Culture of Character still holds sway? What would a twenty-first-century Culture of Character look like?
10. QUIET talks about the New Groupthink, the value system holding that creativity and productivity emerge from group work rather than individual thought. Have you experienced this in your own workplace?
11. Do you think your job suits your temperament? If not, what could you do to change things?
12. If you have children, how does your temperament compare to theirs? How do you handle areas in which you’re not temperamentally compatible?
13. If you’re in a relationship, how does your temperament compare to that of your partner? How do you handle areas in which you’re not compatible?
14. Do you enjoy social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and do you think this has something to do with your temperament?
15. QUIET talks about “restorative niches,” the places introverts go or the things they do to recharge their batteries. What are your favorite restorative niches?
16. Susan Cain calls for a Quiet Revolution. Would you like to see this kind of a movement take place, and if so, what is the number-one change you’d like to see happen?
SUSAN CAIN ON QUIET FOR BARNES AND NOBLE (followed with a Quiz and Q & A afterward)
Are you an introvert yourself? And if so, how are you handling the tremendous publicity?
Yup, I'm an introvert and this can make my jam-packed publicity schedule a challenge. There was one day where I gave 21 radio and TV interviews!
But the publicity is also a great gift. I am so passionate about this book that my excitement helps me transcend my normal dislike of the spotlight. I also draw inspiration from the introverted leaders I profiled in QUIET. From Rosa Parks to Eleanor Roosevelt to Gandhi, many of the transformative leaders of the 20th century were shy or quiet people who achieved what they did because they cared so much about their cause. I think that we can all draw strength from their examples.
Who do you see as your ideal reader? Just self-described introverts, or business folks and educators who may be stifling creativity with their insistence on "GroupThink"?
First and foremost, I want to reach introverts whose psyches may have been buffeted by living in a world that favors extroverts. I've received thousands of notes from readers who say that after reading the book they are letting go of a lifetime of guilt and shame. I'm so grateful when readers take the time to write and tell me this, because that has always been my important goal.
But I also hope that QUIET will inspire educators, managers, and clergypeople to rethink some of their standard practices. Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are increasingly organized in hyper-stimulating ways that favor groupwork and an extoverted approach. This leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and happiness. This is a great problem for introverts, but really it's a problem for us all.
Join the conversation with Susan Cain at her blog, thepowerofintroverts.com.
Are you an introvert?
Take this quiz to find out where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. Answer each question True or False, choosing the answer that applies to you more often than not.
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 about wealth, fame, and status less than my peers.
5. ______ People tell me that I'm a good listener.
6. ______ I'm not a big risk-taker.
7. ______ I enjoy work that allows me to "dive in" with few interruptions.
8. ______ I like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale, with only one or two close friends or family members.
9. ______ People describe me as "soft-spoken" or "mellow."
10. ______ I prefer not to show or discuss my work with others until it's finished.
11. ______ I tend to think before I speak.
12. ______ I often let calls go through to voice-mail.
The more often you answered True, the more introverted you are. If you found yourself with a roughly equal number of True and False answers, then you may be an be an ambivertyes, there really is such a word. Note: This is an informal quiz, excerpted from Quiet, based on characteristics of introversion commonly accepted by contemporary researchers.
Q & A with Susan Cain, Author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
Q: Why did you write the book?
A: For the same reason that Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique in 1963. Introverts are to extroverts what women were to men at that timesecond-class citizens with gigantic amounts of untapped talent. Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts, and many introverts believe that there is something wrong with them and that they should try to "pass" as extroverts. The bias against introversion leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and, ultimately, happiness.
Q: What personal significance does the subject have for you?
A: When I was in my twenties, I started practicing corporate law on Wall Street. At first I thought I was taking on an enormous challenge, because in my mind, the successful lawyer was comfortable in the spotlight, whereas I was introverted and occasionally shy. But I soon realized that my nature had a lot of advantages: I was good at building loyal alliances, one-on-one, behind the scenes; I could close my door, concentrate, and get the work done well; and like many introverts, I tended to ask a lot of questions and listen intently to the answers, which is an invaluable tool in negotiation. I started to realize that there's a lot more going on here than the cultural stereotype of the introvert-as-unfortunate would have you believe. I had to know more, so I spent the past five years researching the powers of introversion.
Q: Was there ever a time when American society valued introverts more highly?
A: In the nation's earlier years it was easier for introverts to earn respect. America once embodied what the cultural historian Warren Susman called a "Culture of Character," which valued inner strength, integrity, and the good deeds you performed when no one was looking. You could cut an impressive figure by being quiet, reserved, and dignified. Abraham Lincoln was revered as a man who did not "offend by superiority," as Emerson put it.
Q: You discuss how we can better embrace introverts in the workplace. Can you explain?
A: Introverts thrive in environments that are not overstimulatingsurroundings in which they can think (deeply) before they speak. This has many implications. Here are two to consider: (1) Introverts perform best in quiet, private workspacesbut unfortunately we're trending in precisely the opposite direction, toward open-plan offices. (2) If you want to get the best of all your employees' brains, don't simply throw them into a meeting and assume you're hearing everyone's ideas. You're not; you're hearing from the most vocally assertive people. Ask people to put their ideas in writing before the meeting, and make sure you give everyone time to speak.
Q: Quiet offers some terrific insights for the parents of introverted children. What environment do introverted kids need in order to thrive, whether it's at home or at school?
A: The best thing parents and teachers can do for introverted kids is to treasure them for who they are, and encourage their passions. This means: (1) Giving them the space they need. If they need to recharge alone in their room after school instead of plunging into extracurricular activities, that's okay. (2) Letting them master new skills at their own pace. If they're not learning to swim in group settings, for example, teach them privately. (3) Not calling them "shy"they'll believe the label and experience their nervousness as a fixed trait rather than an emotion they can learn to control.
Q: What are the advantages to being an introvert?
A: There are too many to list in this short space, but here are two seemingly contradictory qualities that benefit introverts: introverts like to be aloneand introverts enjoy being cooperative. Studies suggest that many of the most creative people are introverts, and this is partly because of their capacity for quiet. Introverts are careful, reflective thinkers who can tolerate the solitude that idea-generation requires. On the other hand, implementing good ideas requires cooperation, and introverts are more likely to prefer cooperative environments, while extroverts favor competitive ones.