Book Review: Quiet by Susan Cain

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership, Book Reviews

Over the years I have figured out that from time-to-time I “get too busy.” It’s obvious when I reach that point because I get cranky, start inadvertently missing meetings that are in my calendar and generally have very low energy. I then go through a process of what I’ve been calling “reset to zero.” By this I mean that I drop out of all nonessential groups and activities, decline most requests for socializing and make sure that any meetings I do attended are critical; ditching the others. I didn’t think much about this self-imposed process until recently. My reading in neuroscience led to deeper understanding of how our brains work. My reading in neuropsychology and coaching gave me some insights into personality traits. Among those understandings came the revelation that at heart, despite my many public activities, I am an introvert. And then Susan Cain’s excellent book Quiet, was recommended to me. It is perhaps the clearest and most practical of the works I’ve read that are focused on the continuum of introversion and extroversion.

According to Cain, “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.” There are many ramifications to understanding how our society emphasizes action versus contemplation, being extroverted over being introverted and quickly taking risks rather than measuring risk carefully. One very important lesson I gathered from Quiet was to be much more cognizant of how our children and young people are being acclimated to the preference our society has for extroversion.

Much of what I have learned from reading about Cain’s research I will put to work in my coaching practice. Some of the ideas for immediate use in my work are:

  • Our work environments must be made safe for those on the introverted side of the spectrum
  • Our educational institutions are “death” for those who tend to introversion – must change
  • Everyone has the right to reticence – resist the temptation to require all to participate
  • True innovation rarely comes from brainstorming – have people work alone first
  • Be sure to provide quiet time for those who need it – our society is very noisy and fast paced

Cain is meticulous about letting the reader know when she is taking an educated guess about why people react the way they do. She also cites the scientific data and research data as well. She uses many personal anecdotes along with other personal stories of real people in everyday circumstance. I encourage every parent and every leader to read this book and understand the implications of what Cain is sharing with us. We will certainly be creating a better environment for ourselves and a safe culture in our organizations if we embrace the teachings in this excellent book.

Click here to see the book on Amazon.