Susan Cain’s ‘Quiet’: A Book Review

In this day of social media and the 24/7 news cycle, the stream of voices, words, and emoji’s is endless and loud. Individuals often express themselves whenever a thought arises. It was in this environment that I was intrigued during a visit to Costco to purchase a book named “Quiet” by Susan Cain. The cover graphic reads, “The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.” Since I like to talk, I was curious to see what I may be overlooking. What are we all missing in this loud culture of ours? In the business world, are the introverts being drowned out by the extroverts? 

According to Susan Cain, the United States started a migration towards an emphasis on extroverted behavior in the 1920s, which is equated to being successful in business and in relationships. The author argues that there should be more room for introverts in our world because they think more, are less reckless, and focus on meaningful work. Rather than pursuing empty monetary rewards and promotions, they are the difference makers such as Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Gandhi.   

In Quiet, the author pursues introversion through visits across the nation and through analysis of historical introverts. At a high school in Cupertino, California, she seeks to understand why this school has such high SAT scores while their introverted students are so respected. She attributes the school’s success to the preponderance of first, second, and third-generation Asian-American students who are thoughtful, dedicated, and often prioritize study over all other activities. Evidently, these Asian cultures “often subordinate their own desires to the group’s interests, accepting their place in [the group’s] hierarchy” rather than Western culture’s organization around an individual’s freedom and dominance. At this school, “introversion is not looked down upon. It is accepted.”  

Cain also looks at the historical business examples of Reebok International and Backbone Entertainment. These companies learned that requiring “collaboration kills creativity.” She identifies that creative people such as developers, designers, programmers, and consultants need “privacy, personal space, control over their physical environments, and freedom from interruption and these people are more likely to be introverts. However, in order to succeed, she states that introverts have been led to believe that the path to business rewards requires them to put on a suit of extroversion to fit in the most common work environments.   

Susan Cain claims that in American society, the emphasis on seeking rewards in human interaction, professional promotion, and monetary measures has tilted the balance of power between those who are eager to speak and those who contemplate the situation, analyze it, and then provide a thoughtful response. But has this imbalance led to our recent crises such as the Great Recession, the Enron collapse, etc. as claimed by the author? It was possibly a contributing factor but unchecked extremes of any type of personality can have major consequences. For example, how many times do we hear about loners and quiet people that suddenly perform horrible deeds? Overall, Susan Cain champions the introvert by criticizing the constant use of collaboration that often leads to group-think rather than novel ideas generated through individual alone time. From an introvert’s point of view, and there are lots of reviews of this book on the Internet penned by them, this book validates their feelings and points of view. For extroverts, this a good tool to recognize and use in interactions with team members, clients, colleagues, friends, and family that are more introspective.   

Anonymous Consultant | Percipio Consulting Group, Inc.