Crafted and edited with care, Worth Books set the standard for quality and give you the tools you need to be a well-informed reader.
This short summary and analysis of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain includes:
- Historical context
- Chapter-by-chapter summaries
- Important quotes
- Fascinating trivia
- Glossary of terms
- Supporting material to enhance your understanding of the original work
It’s time for a “quiet revolution!”
America’s “culture of popularity” holds extroverts—those who are gregarious, outspoken, and larger-than-life—in higher regard than those who tend to be reserved, serious, and contemplative. But think of all the great introverts—Rosa Parks, Albert Einstein, John Quincy Adams, and Lewis Carroll, to name a few—who were great leaders and thinkers, but just have a different way of expressing themselves.
Based on extensive research related to the latest psychology and neuroscience, and in-depth interviews with renowned psychologists and professors, Quiet looks at “the power of introverts” from a cultural point of view.
The summary and analysis in this ebook are intended to complement your reading experience and bring you closer to great works of nonfiction.
About the Author
Worth Books’ smart summaries get straight to the point and provide essential tools to help you be an informed reader in a busy world, whether you’re browsing for new discoveries, managing your to-read list for work or school, or simply deepening your knowledge. Available for fiction and nonfiction titles, these are the book summaries that are worth your time.
Read an Excerpt
Summary and Analysis of Quiet
The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
By Susan Cain
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2017 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
All rights reserved.
INTRODUCTION: THE NORTH AND SOUTH OF TEMPERAMENT
According to Susan Cain, pretty much everything in our lives — from our relationships and our careers to our finances and even our health — is inextricably affected by where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. Reflecting on the standard definitions of introvert and extrovert, wherein introvert is defined as one who is shy, sensitive, and submissive, and extrovert is defined as one who is an outgoing, dominant risk-taker, Cain acknowledges not everyone in the research community agrees with these definitions. Nor do these terms apply to individuals in a clear-cut or consistent way.
Still, there are some things on which most psychologists would agree. For instance, most researchers contend that introverts require far less external stimulation than extroverts. Whereas introverts may be content to sit quietly reading a book or meeting up with a close friend for coffee, extroverts tend to prefer large groups of people and are far more active in their leisure-time activities.
The two also approach their work lives differently. Introverts tend to be very deliberate when tackling a project. They tend to focus on one thing at a time, methodically working their way through a task or problem that needs to be solved. Extroverts tend to dive in, work quickly, and take risks, in large part because they require more reward stimuli than introverts to achieve peak functionality.
Social style is also a good indicator of where someone sits on the introvert-extrovert scale. Extroverts love company, tend to be assertive, prefer talking to listening, and are rarely at a loss for words. Introverts, on the other hand, listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often prefer to communicate in writing rather than in person. None of which is to say introverts lack in social skills; they simply prefer deep discussion with close friends to small talk with strangers.
Despite research demonstrating that one third to one half of America's population is made up of introverts, we remain a nation consumed by the Extrovert Ideal: the notion that our culture, our institutions, and our personalities are better served by the gregarious, unreserved, in-your-face alpha traits of the extroverted. This thinking often keeps us from recognizing the value and the gifts of introverts. Susan Cain wants to change that.
In her work as a lawyer and a negotiation consultant, Cain helped introverts — herself included — optimize their unique characteristics and talents to create rich, full lives.
The aim of Quiet is to clear up some of the confusion and empower introverts to be their best selves.
PART ONE: THE EXTROVERT IDEAL
1. THE RISE OF THE "MIGHTY LIKEABLE FELLOW"
How Extroversion Became the Cultural Ideal
The author begins our journey by tracing America's cultural evolution at the turn of the nineteenth century, from a society in which inner morality was most highly regarded to one in which a particularly charismatic personality type was considered superior — and the Extrovert Ideal was born.
According to historian Warren Susman, we drifted from a Culture of Character into a Culture of Personality beginning in the early twentieth century. And in the process, Cain argues, we set ourselves up for a boatload of personal and social anxieties from which we would never fully recover.
In Susman's concept of a Culture of Character, the ideal self was serious, honorable, studious, and disciplined. But the urbanization of America in the early 1900s put us elbow to elbow with our neighbors: those we knew and those we didn't. Suddenly, what others thought of us seemed critical to our very existence. This led to a shift from a Culture of Character into a Culture of Personality, where the ideal self was gregarious, social, and charismatic.
Cain defines the Extrovert Ideal as the all-encompassing notion that one's ideal self is outgoing, entertaining, and always comfortable in the spotlight. She ponders the rise of the Extrovert Ideal and this cultural shift through the lens of the self-help movement, which was beginning to churn in the 1920s.
The shift in culture from a character-driven to a personality-driven landscape pushed things into high gear. Popular guides that focused on the importance of developing integrity and inner virtue were replaced by those extolling the benefits of charm and popularity. Key words found in earlier guides included: citizenship, duty, and honor. The "new and improved" guides used words such as fascinating, stunning, and forceful.
The world of psychology was also feeling the pressure to make room for this new focus on personality. Gordon Allport developed a diagnostic test to measure social dominance, and Carl Jung published his groundbreaking book Psychological Types, in which he popularized the terms introvert and extrovert to describe those who were quiet and those who were anything but. Some might argue that the most influential effort to package personality was Alfred Adler's theory of the "inferiority complex," which he used to describe those who felt inadequate in their surroundings. Americans jumped at the opportunity to name their anxieties.
The Extrovert Ideal is alive and well even today, and the pressure to sell ourselves continues. An individual's social status, income, and career are used all too often to define one's self-worth — a task that becomes twice as complex as we struggle to establish who we are online and offline.
2. THE MYTH OF CHARISMATIC LEADERSHIP
The Culture of Personality, a Hundred Years Later
Eager to understand why our society holds extroverted behavior in such high regard as a prerequisite for strong leadership — and to examine whether there is any merit to this thinking — Cain devises a plan to visit a handful of wildly successful extroverts. Her findings? The Extrovert Ideal is not always popular in leadership circles. In fact, the extrovert model of leadership can be detrimental.
Cain enrolls herself in one of Tony Robbins's motivational seminars, "Unleash the Power Within," for the not-so-small sum of $895. This secures her a general admission seat "in the back." Others have paid $2,500 for a Diamond Premiere Membership and a seat closer to Tony. According to Cain, Robbins exemplifies the Extrovert Ideal. His seminars teach students how to embody this communication style, nearly guaranteeing them happy, well-lived lives. Personal power is the key to everything. And the key to personal power? Sell, sell, sell yourself.
But what if you can't? Or would rather not? Cain argues that by confusing being good at selling oneself with being a good person, we devalue anyone who chooses a more reflective path. And if you're naturally predisposed to being introverted, does this mean you're doomed to a life of mediocrity? It depends on whom you ask.
Cain's next stop is Harvard Business School (HBS), where, driven by America's current leadership climate, the Extrovert Ideal is everywhere. HBS classwork is done largely in groups where the loudest, most-assertive students often prevail in leadership roles, dominating the direction of the work and driving the decision-making process. Is it any wonder we're prone to thinking: Loud + Dominant = Most Competent? And yet, as Cain points out, there are dozens of highly successful, ridiculously competent introverted CEOs.
Management theorists including Jim Collins, Peter Drucker, and Adam Grant have studied introversion, extroversion, and their respective connections to leadership success. In short, they've found there's no real proven link between extrovert behavior and strong leadership skills. According to Grant, good leadership is more dependent on context than on an overarching personality type. His findings demonstrate that extroverted leaders work best with "passive employees" and introverted leaders work best with "proactive employees," thereby confirming good leadership is more dependent on the makeup of a team than on the manager's personality type. One style is not consistently better than the other — and a combination of the two is best.
Rick Warren is the author of The Purpose Driven Life and pastor to Saddleback Church, a congregation that draws an average of 22,000 people every Sunday, in Lake Forest, California. Despite differences between HBS and Saddleback, the one thing both institutions have in common is a strong reliance on — and support of — the Culture of Personality.
Trekking to Saddleback to explore, Cain meets up with Adam McHugh, a local evangelical pastor and avowed introvert. Cain wonders, Is it possible to be deeply involved in the evangelical movement and be an introvert? The evangelical culture often ties faithfulness and extroversion together. They put an emphasis on community, on sharing the word of the church, and on the importance of an ever-expanding membership. For an introvert like McHugh, that's a tall order. According to him, evangelicalism has taken the Extrovert Ideal to the extreme. "If you don't love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love."
McHugh knew he wasn't alone, based on the feedback he received from the public after sharing his thoughts on his blog. He eventually wrote a book called Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. He argues that evangelism requires listening as well as talking. While he recognizes meaningful change won't happen overnight, he's committed to helping the movement grow with the help of his fellow introverts.
3. WHEN COLLABORATION KILLS CREATIVITY
The Rise of the New Groupthink and the Power of Working Alone
Susan Cain is given credit for coining the term New Groupthink, and this chapter is dedicated to exploring and critiquing the concept. New Groupthink is an organizational method used in schools and businesses that relies heavily on teamwork for driving ideas — and which Cain argues has the potential to "stifle productivity at work" and to "deprive schoolchildren of the skills they'll need to achieve excellence."
Flashback to Menlo Park, California, in 1975. Meet the Homebrew Computer Club, whose goal was to design computers for the masses, and Steve Wozniak, who, three months after attending the first Homebrew meet-up, would succeed in building his first personal-computer prototype. Less than a year after that, Wozniak would cofound Apple Computer with Steve Jobs. In his memoir, iWoz, Wozniak fondly recalls his regular meetings with the kindred spirits of the Homebrew Computer Club. Yet, he claims that working in solitude was the impetus for most of his biggest creative accomplishments — not the time he spent in the company of others. His advice to those who aspire to great creativity: Work alone.
Cain uses this as a jumping-off point to introduce research that claims that introverted personalities are more common among truly creative types than extroverted personalities. Assuming that this is true, why are so many organizations and management theorists obsessed with the concept of teamwork? If solitude inspires great creativity, why do we revere the hive mindset and rely on the wisdom of crowds?
To further support her theory of creative solitude, Cain introduces us to psychologist Anders Ericsson, whose entire career has been driven by one question: How do exceptional achievers get to be so good at what they do? In a now-famous experiment, Ericsson followed three sets of violinists, each asked to keep track of their daily routines. He found the two best groups spent most of their time playing in solitude, engaged in something called Deliberate Practice — working on tasks that were most important to their individual progress. When practicing deliberately, a student first identifies a task or knowledge that's just out of reach, then strives to improve his performance, monitors progress closely, and revises as appropriate. Ericsson identified Deliberate Practice to be the key to exceptional achievement.
Since Ericsson's findings were published, numerous studies have found that people working individually have come up with better ideas than those working in groups. In fact, creativity goes down as group numbers rise. We must also have the right working conditions for exceptional achievement; the current trend of open-office floor plans and shrinking personal office space makes this increasingly difficult to achieve.
In spite of her aversion to the New Groupthink, Cain recognizes there is a place for face-to-face collaboration and suggests we find ways to become more effective at combining ideation methodologies rather than defaulting to tactics that are based on outdated modalities of thinking and pit extrovert against introvert.
PART TWO: YOUR BIOLOGY, YOUR SELF?
4. IS TEMPERAMENT DESTINY?
Nature, Nurture, and the Orchid Hypothesis
Nature versus Nurture. It's a decades-old discussion — and one that Cain has been grappling with. Jerome Kagan, one of the great developmental psychologists of the twentieth century, is also more than a bit curious. The eighty-two-year-old scientist has spent his entire career studying the emotional and cognitive lives of children. In 1989, he launched a Harvard study involving five hundred four-month-old babies. Kagan was certain he'd be able to determine which of these babies would grow up to be introverts and which would grow up to be extroverts based solely on 45-minute evaluations. He wasn't wrong.
Kagan introduced a carefully selected set of new experiences to the infants, who had varying degrees of reaction to the stimuli. Some cried loudly and squirmed a lot — these were considered "high-reactive" babies. High-reactive kids tend to think and feel more deeply about what they've noticed in the world around them. They are particularly sensitive to their environments. Similarly, whether pondering why one child is sad about getting pushed, feeling especially guilty about breaking a friend's toy, or focusing with extra intensity on particular interests, introverts feel everything a little more. Other infants in the study were more placid and low-key — these were the "low-reactive" babies.
Kagan predicted those who were "high-reactive" would grow up to be introverts and those who were "low-reactive" would grow into extroverts. Every few years, Kagan followed up with members of the initial group for a series of tests.
His predictions were accurate: Many of the children turned out exactly as he had expected and proved that at least some introversion has a biological basis. Other studies have substantiated his findings.
With these conclusions in mind, it's important to pause for a moment and consider two different concepts that are often confused: temperament and personality. Cain notes that temperament refers to biologically based traits (nature), while personality is more about what shines through after cultural and personal experiences are added to the mix (nurture).
After considering the above, Cain wonders if she's been asking the wrong question. Maybe it's not about nature versus nurture but more about, "To what degree is temperament destiny?"
She turns to London-based psychologist Jay Belsky to learn more about the "orchid hypothesis." This theory suggests that while some children are like dandelions and can thrive in any kind of environment, not all are quite so resilient. Adverse environments can be especially damaging to "high-reactive" children. Like orchids, it doesn't take much adversity to wilt some high-reactive children, and a nurturing environment can actually be more beneficial to the high-reactive children than to those in the low-reactive category.
As with orchids, the right combination of care and nurturing will help high-reactive children grow to be strong and grounded.
5. BEYOND TEMPERAMENT
The Role of Free Will (and the Secret of Public Speaking for Introverts)
Cain wonders to what extent we can change our biological predisposition to introversion or extroversion. To help her answer this question, she turns to one of Jerome Kagan's protégés, Dr. Carl Schwartz, who picked up Kagan's work with the low-reactive and high-reactive children once they reached adolescence. Using an fMRI imaging machine, which can map the brain, Schwartz pays close attention to the amygdala of each subject.
He's learned that the basic footprint for an introvert or extrovert does not change with age. It's true that a person's environment and exercising free will can affect personality to an extent, but we are still highly influenced by those inherited introvert and extrovert traits.
The amygdala region is the part of the brain that helps us manage risk. Of course, as humans, our brains are more complicated than a simple amygdala. Supporting the amygdala is the neocortex, which helps in teasing apart danger from unwarranted fears. It's the part of our brain that is activated during self-talk and helps us think rationally about a situation. The relationship between the amygdala and the neocortex is what makes it possible for some introverts to overcome their fears and wind up award-winning actors. And the neocortex is also the part of the brain than can help extroverts dial it back a bit and bask in some solitude.
Excerpted from Summary and Analysis of Quiet by Susan Cain. Copyright © 2017 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Direct Quotes and Analysis,
What's That Word?,
About Susan Cain,
For Your Information,