Book Review: The Power of Introverts

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking By Susan Cain

Nearly one third to half of all people are introverted, says author Susan Cain. Yet our world celebrates the extrovert. The qualities of the people “most likely to succeed” are all those of the extrovert: gregarious, fearless, outgoing and the like. The qualities of the introvert, of reflection and concentration are often not only undervalued but often derided as “anti-social.”

I found the early chapters fascinating, as they gave me insight into my own struggles with introversion. She traces the progression of the elevation of the extrovert as the ideal personality through the last century, demonstrating the impact of this ideal on business, churches, and the educational system.

I don’t fully agree with Cain’s advice that introverts shouldn’t torture themselves in an attempt to become extroverts, however. She admits that human personality and behavior are not just limited to the introvert-extrovert dimension, and that sensitivity and shyness also can be drivers of behavior that seems anti-social. I know from my own experience that forcing myself to overcome my reticence caused me to change from a solid introvert to one who is more in the middle, almost on the borderline.

Still, her main point is valid, that the qualities of an introvert are what give us many of the most creative breakthroughs of our day. The ability to concentrate, the insight and sensitivity of introverts are qualities of innovators, inventors and artists, and should be encouraged and cultivated. Cain highlights such introverted contributors to society as Einstein, Chopin and JK Rowling.

She also provides tips for introverts who are trying to succeed in our world dominated by extroverts.

For example, many introverts have learned how to pretend to be extroverted. Faking anything can be exhausting, so Cain doesn’t recommend it unless it is for a cause you are passionate about and believe in.

She also comments on the need for introverts to be alone to recharge. The introvert, she says, needs to recognize when he needs that alone time, and to make sure he gets it. Then he can go back and fake extroversion when he needs to.

If I had any doubt that this is a book worth picking up, it was erased when I saw the title of the book directly under this one in the search results. The title? Introverts Suck. Cain’s message that the world needs the qualities and strengths that introverts offer is certainly one the extroverts of our world need to hear.

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