“Don’t hire introverts!” the workshop leader said to a group of travel agents at a conference I attended in 2002. He was giving advice on how to run a successful agency. “Oh great,” I thought. I had just left a 21 year career as a very introverted software engineer to enter the field of travel. The prospects of me succeeding in this new venture seemed slim as I am by nature a quiet person.
I wish back then I had Susan Cain’s excellent new book “Quiet: The Power Of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”. While that workshop leader and many others may think this is an extrovert oriented World, the number of introverts could surprise you. “Depending on which study you consult, one third to one half of Americans are introverts—in other words, one out of every two or three people you know,” Cain writes. “If you’re not an introvert yourself, you are surely raising, managing, married to, or coupled with one.”
“Quiet” reveals the value of the introvert personality type. Cain says it took her five years to write the book and it shows. “Quiet” is one of the best researched books I have ever read. Cain draws from history, biographies, interviews she conducted, and her own personal experience to paint a rich picture of the quiet temperament. I could relate to one passage about Stephen Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple Computer. Cain quotes Wozniak in his book iWoz, “Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me—they’re shy and they live in their heads,” Wozniak writes. “They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone where they can control an invention’s design without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other committee. I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has been invented by committee. If you’re that rare engineer who’s an inventor and also an artist, I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone. You’re going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you’re working on your own. Not on a committee. Not on a team.” Cain’s book is filled with little vignettes such as this, inspiring introverts like me.
More than a bunch of facts about introverts, Quiet is a fun book too. I liked Cain’s conversational writing style. “Introverts .. may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas,” Cain says. Isn’t that the truth! (as I write this review in my pajamas :-)) In chapter after chapter, Cain nails the introvert character type. “They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.”
If you are an introvert, “Quiet” will give you a better appreciation of your personality type, and insights on how to use this temperament to your advantage. I especially liked the tips on how to avoid overextending myself in social situations. If you are an extrovert, “Quiet” has value, too, as you will gain an understanding of the introverts in your life.
On a personal note, I first became aware of Susan Cain through twitter, and participated in discussions on her website. This led to me to write a guest blog post on her site about my Toastmaster experience, which you can read here. I am also doing quite well in the travel industry, thank you, despite my introverted tendencies. I run a successful agency with my wife Anne, also an introvert.