Guest Blog Post: “Quiet” Book Review
Book Review: “Quiet” by Susan Cain
Guest Blog Post by Angelique Ringgold
A Little Back Story
When I was a kid, I can vividly remember not wanting to talk to adults. I was labeled a “shy” child. One day, a relative asked me how old I was. I answered in a timid voice, “four,” and the room immediately erupted in shouts and hollers, “She does speak!” This reaction only further reinforced my desire to stay quiet.
As I got older, I obviously learned how to talk to adults and other kids. But, I rarely raised my hand in class, unless there was a “participation grade” that forced me to. I prefered to work in small groups and would often take the lead in these settings. I eventually became a corporate trainer and learned to be comfortable talking in front of large groups. But, being around other people would drain my energy. I eventually came to learn that this was a feature of an introvert. That dreaded label!
A few years ago I took a test to determine just how much of an introvert I really am. The answer = 60% introvert. Hmm…..
Perhaps it is because I am married to an EXTREME EXTROVERT that I feel much more introverted than the score suggests. If we go to parties together, we’re always the last to leave because Tim gets his energy from other people. He wants to talk to everyone for as long as he can. He CHOOSES to sit in the middle seat of the airplane so he can meet two new people on every trip. I think the middle seat must be my worst nightmare!
A Third Category?
A few years ago I attended a conference that had best selling author Daniel Pink, as the keynote speaker. His keynote was based on his book “To Sell is Human.” I hadn’t read his book yet, so this was the first time I learned about a new term – ambivert. An ambivert is someone who falls somewhere in the middle of the introvert/extrovert continuum. So I took another quiz to find out whether I was an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert.
Consistent with the prior 60% introvert score.
In this keynote, Pink described how ambiverts make the best salespeople. They like people (extrovert quality) but also tend to be highly intuitive (introvert quality) which serves as their recipe for success. I also learned that people tend to move more toward the center of the spectrum as they get older. This definitely jives with my experience.
I find the exploration of introversion and extroversion fascinating! In my corporate life, I often found myself quoting books and statistics to defend the behaviors of introverts. “Why doesn’t she speak up more in meetings?” was a common complaint I would hear about my more introverted colleagues. So I have continued to seek out additional wisdom on this topic. Recently, I posted in our online business coaching community, asking for additional book recommendations. Two of our coaches immediately recommended “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain.
This book goes so much deeper than my previous readings on introversion. Cain cites a lot of research that explains how and why introverts and extroverts excel in certain situations. She also explores the topic of sensitivity. Apparently about 70% of highly sensitive people are also introverts. Tim will often tell our sensitive child, “Sensitivity is a Superpower.” But, it’s tough to convince a 9-year-old boy of this.
Susan Cain has this to say about sensitive people, “….highly sensitive people tend to be keen observers who look before they leap. They arrange their lives in ways that limit surprises. They’re often sensitive to sights, sounds, smells, pain, coffee. They have difficulty being observed (at work, say, or performing at a music recital) or judged for general worthiness (dating, job interviews). But there are new insights. The highly sensitive tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive. They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions – sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear. Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments – both physical and emotional – unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss – another person’s shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly.”
This describes our 9-year-old son so well. For example, last Sunday Tim and I made plans for us to all go to the beach. He and I discussed it and we thought we’d discussed it with the kids. Apparently we hadn’t. When we told Julian it was time to get ready to go to the beach he became very upset. He doesn’t like surprises, even if it is a so-called “pleasant” surprise of going to the beach. We are learning that we need to limit surprises and be careful about how we observe him.
The Power of the Introvert
Historically the traits of the highly sensitive have been looked upon as weaknesses. So, why do we value extroversion in our culture? It wasn’t always that way. In the book, Cain explains how the introduction of moving pictures and movie stars gave way to the Cult of Personality we know today.
Of course, both introverts and extroverts add value to our workplaces and society as a whole. Check out these famous introverts:
Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss)
All these folks were successful not in spite of their introversion, but BECAUSE of it. Just know that if you’ve been labeled as an introvert or as “too sensitive” go ahead and own it! You are in good company.
If this topic interests you, two other books I recommend are The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D. and To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel Pink.
Thanks for reading! Drop us a comment below and let us know what you think about this topic.