Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I am not a shy person. I love my friends and family, and enjoy spending time with them. But extended time with people can leave me depleted. Extended time making small talk with strangers is completely exhausting. I can happily spend hours, days even, puttering around my house, working quietly, thinking a great deal, and writing and reading. A happy night for me is a cup of tea and a good book. I am an introvert.


It is estimated that in America, one third to one half of the population is introverted. If you are not introverted, chances are you are married to one or are raising one or are a friend to one. And yet, extroversion is seen as the ideal temperament in our society.

"Yet today we make room for a remarkably narrow range of personality styles. We're told that to be great is to be bold, to be happy is to be sociable." (p. 3)

 Team work and cooperation, being talkative and taking charge, having a strong personality -- these are all highly valued, and individuals with these traits are often viewed as smarter and more successful than quieter, more thoughtful personalities.

So what happens to the rest of us? According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (Crown Publishers 2012), we often pretend to be extroverts. We push our children to be extroverts. We feel ashamed that we would rather stay home with a good book than go to a big party. We feel that maybe we think too much. We feel a little guilty that we let the phone go to voice mail. So we push ourselves, often to our detriment, to be more outgoing, more gregarious, than we really are.

Susan Cain has good news for us. The world needs us. Without introverts, we never would have had the theory of gravity (Newton), the theory of relativity (Einstein), Chopin's nocturnes, Peter Pan, Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm,  Rosa Parks, or Google, to name just a few. 

She punctures the myth that group projects, team work, and collaboration, increasingly popular in schools and in the corporate world, are always the best way to work. Working alone often produces the best inventions and discoveries, the best art and literature.

I thought her explanation of the rise of extroversion as a cultural ideal was fascinating. She speaks of the "Culture of Character" slowly changing into the "Culture of Personality" in the 20s and 30s, fueled by advertisers and self-help gurus such as Dale Carnegie, and later, by exuberant sales personalities like Tony Robbins. Whereas hard work, reputation, manners, and integrity were highly valued in the nineteenth century (and could be cultivated by anyone), characteristics such as personal  magnetism and being attractive, dominant, forceful, and energetic were now being pushed as the way to succeed in an increasingly competitive world.  Just as left-handed children were trained to use their right hands, "parents and teachers conspired to overhaul the personalities of quiet children" (p. 27) so that they wouldn't be "social misfits."

Today, "The pressure to entertain, to sell ourselves, and never to be visibly anxious keeps ratcheting up."  (p. 31) Look no further than Facebook and Twitter and the rise of "selfies." There is an extreme bias toward being extroverted in the U.S.

Of course, we need extroverts. They're the ones we love to invite to dinner parties, and who make us laugh and can take great ideas and put them into action. They're fun to be around, and can energize us to action.

But Susan Cain's book reminds us that introverts are just as valuable to our world. Introverts are the thinkers, the scholars, the writers. They are the listeners, the people who enjoy deep discussions. Introverts can lead and direct people, as well, when they need to. In fact, their style may even be more helpful in sensitive negotiations, and as leaders as they tend to listen more, ask questions, and think before they speak. Their calm demeanor can often diffuse heated situations.

I, for one, love being an introvert. It's sometimes a little hard "in a world that can't stop talking," though. TVs are everywhere, even blaring at the corner gas station. Smart phones sounding alerts, 24/7 news coverage (remember the days of just one hour of news?), and FOMO (fear of missing out) can overwhelm those of us who prefer quiet. The world is really noisy. I would say even the most extroverted needs to cultivate a little quiet in this world just to stay sane and keep perspective.

This is a well-researched book (with 46 pages of notes at the end), but very readable and interesting. She explains when it is good to be a "pseudo-extrovert" (for example, when you have to present ideas to a group), how to honor and value introverted children, and how to get along with an extroverted spouse, as well as what it means to be "sensitive" and "highly reactive." Have you ever been told that, as an introvert, you need to develop a thicker skin? Well, it turns out that highly sensitive people (who are mostly introverts) are physiologically "thinner skinned;" they actually do feel hot and cold, light and noise, emotions, and others' feelings more than other people because of their physical makeup. And she explains why that can be beneficial and not a handicap.

 I highly recommend this book to introverts and introvert-lovers alike. It will give you new appreciation for the contributions introverts make to our world.

Now I'm off to quietly putter around the house by myself.

Sharing with . . .

Home and Garden Thursday

(It just occurred to me that blog link parties are the consummate gatherings for introverts! In real life, I'd be exhausted if I went to twelve parties a week!)

(I was not compensated for this review.)

44 comments :

  1. I'll look for this book. I would love to read it. I'm an introvert, too. I'm very friendly but it tires me out to be around a lot of people, too. And I'm a very content to be at home person. Sweet hugs, Diane

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  2. Like you, I'm an introvert and make no apologies..never have, never will other than to say, living in solitude makes me crave more and more solitude. I was considering going to see Lyle Lovett when he comes to Richmond, VA and had, just about, decided to buy a ticket. when I went to the website and saw elbow to elbow with scarcely any sun light much less room between people and I absolutely GASPED! There's NO way I'm going to brave that kind of crowd; church on Sunday morning is all I can handle. Even now I shudder at how close I came to pushing myself over the edge.
    Sounds like a good book but this is as close as I'll get; thanks for the review.

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  3. I am an introvert, definitely. Thanks for the book review. I rarely listen to tv or radio and in our 21 years of marriage, we have never been to the movies! Like you, I like rambling around the house, cleaning or baking or playing with our pets.
    Hope you have a good evening.

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  4. I hear you Deborah...I am the same.
    I would much rather be "in the quiet" although I do love family and friend get togethers!
    Hope you have a wonderful week!

    Deborah :)

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  5. I'm wondering how you reconcile Blogdom to the need to be away from the constant prattle? I have read a review or two on this book in other places, but yours is the most comprehensive and makes me think that I'd read it if I found it at the library.

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    1. Oh Vee, that's easy . . . I just close my laptop!

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  6. This is me, too. I have my moments of being extroverted but I really do feel that I am on the introverted side of the spectrum. I like to socialize but I can only do it for so long before I am depleted. This book sounds like a good read!

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    1. A lot of people think introverts are anti-social. Not true. It just means we are energized by quiet time, and need to have some in our lives in order to function at our best.

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  7. Hello, How are you doing? I loved how well you wrote this review. I am really somewhere in the middle! I cannot stand to have music or the TV on . I have to have large chunks of quiet! I also need a bit of girlfriend time every few weeks! I love to write and read and study the word.
    I think I have enjoyed blogging because I can chat when I want to!!
    This book sounds interesting as I have a few grandchildren that appear to be more quiet then their parents. I just wanted to tell you how much I have enjoyed having your comments to read and also reading your posts. Blessings, Roxy

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  8. Wonderful review of what sounds like a very thought-provoking book. I'll be looking for it.

    I could relate to what you wrote... very much so! Cut from the same cloth (again), I do believe, dear Deborah!

    Hugs and thanks SO much for putting into words things I think about often.
    Brenda
    xox

    PS I truly hated those team/group projects in school. Those were so straining to my soul. I hope somebody in education-land gets that!!


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  9. I read this book several years ago and found it both interesting and affirming of my own introversion. The changing cultural norms were a fascinating insight.

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  10. I thoroughly enjoyed your post, dear Deborah! My husband calls me his "Wallflower" since I tend to be quiet and shy around lots of people. I would much rather stay at home than be in large crowds. Blogging is such a wonderful way of communicating with others, making friends around the world, and just being myself.

    By the way, your tea cup is simply beautiful. Hugs to you, sweet lady!

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  11. Oh Deborah your words echo my sentiments so well on this subject! I have two wonderful introverts in my life and have learned so much from them, especially my younger daughter. It used to incense me when teachers etc described her as 'so shy' , 'needs to speak up' and she is left -handed-a playgroup leader even tried to make her use her right hand!! Now she is at university and described by lecturers as 'The thoughtful, intelligent one' and one of her lecturers told us that often those who say the most usually know the least-food for thought! She is accomplished, caring and loves to putter about at home with her dogs and books-it is the greatest privilege to have her in our lives. Thank you so much for sharing those thoughts with us-I shall be seeking out this book xx

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  12. Being an introvert myself, I loved this post! It's nice to know it's ok to be this way ... another closet to come out of? I couldn't help but wonder if blogging isn't full of introverts with it's easy flow of conversations and random posts that we put up whenever the mood suits us. I was always very shy as a child and even remember a counselor coming in to speak with me about it in elementary school. I must've been seen as a problem. I was still criticized for being quiet in high school and my English teacher wrote continuous comments in my journal (a horrible exercise to write a journal that the teacher had to read) about my quietness, which made me resent him. We used to have to take these little written tests to determine if we were extroverts or introverts. They made me feel like it was the worst thing to be quiet, so I used to fill in the "correct" answers to make me a little less of a loser. I finally came out of myself in college and then gained huge confidence working in the big city for many years. As I get older, I feel myself reverting to the original me, but without feeling insecure about it. I'll always be quiet and a homebody at heart. It doesn't mean I can't laugh and have a good time like the extroverts, but it does mean that I can also take pleasure in peace and quiet as well. Wendy

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  13. I think I need this book! I have always been an introvert and that is why I live where I do! Crowds and commotion have always made me feel depleted - I need lots of solitude and time to process life. Of course I married a true extrovert and that has kept me from being a complete hermit....and blogging keeps me connected without the terrifying fear of 'small talk'. I totally relate to this. Thank you for the book review - it is going on my reading list. xo Karen

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  14. I made note of this title since it sounds like a perfect read for me, being an introvert. I like to spend time with friends, like today I organized a lunch with 5 friends, but then I like quiet time the rest of the afternoon, gardening and reading and chatting with hubby.

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  15. Many of us are introverts and I'm not afraid to declare I'm not a people person. I see myself in the descriptions above as well so it's nice to know there are others the same. Blogging has made it easier to make friends and when I'm not in the mood to post or comment, my laptop is shut too, sometimes for a couple of days.
    Good book review and discussion Deborah.

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  16. Dearest Deborah,
    You are very much like me but in fact we are only a kind of intellectual introverts... We don't agree with all the blabbering about 'nothing'... that annoys us and feels like a wasted time. For that, sure I too would rather curl up with a good book and a tea on hand in my own comfortable space.
    Some people are only busy with their own EGO all the time. On FB it is also annoying to see the many selfies and me-me postings or borrowed things from others that they love to share. They have in fact very little to say or write about!
    Sadly we do live in a world of ego-gratifying self promotion to an alarming degree. The ubiquitous 'Selfie' is just one annoying symptom.
    As the saying goes: Coins makes sound when dropped, but paper bills won’t. Lesson: “When your value increases, keep yourself silent and humble.”
    Sending you hugs,
    Mariette

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  17. Thankyou for reviewing this book - it is on my wish list and I have been wanting to read it - I might move it up the pile. I am a people person and love being around people (which is probably why I like going to work) and I can also be a chatter box, however give me a book and I will go off quietly and not say boo to anyone!!

    PS If i have no one to talk to, I will chatter to the cat!! or to myself :) :)

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  18. I had to laugh out loud at your ending comment. You are so right! :)

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  19. Hi Deborah, this is a very interesting post and the book sounds like one I would enjoy. I have to say I may be a mix of both introvert and extrovert when I need to be. I can handle myself well in a crowd but really don't enjoy to be there. I love people, but only a few at a time in person. I love to be by myself at home and puttering around with this and that. It makes me happy to sit with a good book on a cloudy afternoon and read just me my cup of tea. I love to visit with a good friend and we talk and talk, but I hate to talk on the phone. I am not on facebook or see the need. Blogs are so different and more of a reference to life then a chat session. When I get stressed over it and overwhelmed by the pace, I shut my computer off and return to my quiet corner. Some days I think of life before the computer and I miss it to a certain degree. I could easily live in Mayberry and be very happy with a project in my lap, lace on the windows and a visit now and then from a friend or family. Aunt B had it all~~~
    Blessings my friend.
    XO

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  20. Hi sweet Deborah!
    I would love that book, it's my kinda read. Yes, I'm not an introvert, but hubby is. Your post is very interesting and I so enjoyed it. I too retire to my room and look for peace and quiet and with a good book or a pretty decorating magazine, even if they're old. I've been sick with a cold, so instead of complaining I decided to enjoy my illness by staying in bed as the weather here is chilly and rainy.
    I am feeling a little better, but right now I'm retiring to bed again, lol! Thanks for your sweet and kind visit honey, you always make my day!
    See, we have something in common, we both have the Asiatic Pheasants transferware plates and I also collect the red!
    Hugs,
    FABBY

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  22. Another introvert here! I wonder if most bloggers are? Like you, I enjoy time with friends and family but definitely need my quiet time away from others. I'm a home-body and love days spent puttering around the house...just me, myself and I, oh and the dog too. :)

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  23. Sounds like a wonderful book Deboarh! I am more of an extrovert, but hubby is definitely an introvert. However, I do love alone time and quiet time. When I was painting my sewing room hubby would come in and say, 'do you want some music?" He was so sweet and hook music up for me. I loved it for a while, and didn't want to tell him that I loved just the 'quiet'. Thanks for sharing with SYC.
    hugs,
    Jann

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  26. We'd be great friends, Deborah. I'm social, but never mind being alone. I've heard about this book and will have to read it. Thanks for the recommendation.

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  27. So glad you read this book because I had heard about it and was curious. You do really good book reviews by the way. Many years ago, I had a job and we took personality tests. My test on introvert/extrovert, scored exactly in the center! Our instructor told me that to "break the tie", I needed to answer would I rather spend an evening reading a book or going to a large party. Book won, hands down. I love studying about these aspects of personality and behaviour. An oldie but a goodie, one of the first I read on this topic, is The Birth Order Book. Have you read it? It has a lot of insight, too.

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  28. Me again. I forgot to thank you for letting me know that I was a "no reply" blogger. I THINK I have it fixed. Thanks!

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  29. I think in this world everyone seems to want to be an extrovert.... like it is an achievement to be the life of the party and be the most out-going person in a room. I have, in the past few years, embraced and finally come to understand, that I am an introvert and realizing that it is OK to be a home-body and want time alone, and to even not answer the phone, because it is normal for me (and so many others). Before I retired I was a trainer in a large insurance company and was "on" for 40-50 hours each week, it was physically painful many days. Many don't understand how I could do that job and say I am an introvert, but it is a classic definition. But, in order to do that job that I did love, I had to have hours of quiet time to gather my strength back to do it another day. I have told so many people that I was born to retire, and I think being an introvert has a lot to do with that. No more meetings, deadlines, presentations.... it is wonderful. My gardens, my books, my little bits and dabs of crafting, it all lends itself to being quiet and having some peace. I do have several very close good friends and do lunch and shopping trips quite often. Being an introvert does not mean that we are recluses!! My husband, however, is just the opposite of me, and after 42 years of marriage we both know my limits. Many times he will go off to a gathering and I choose to stay home. It works for us, and it really helps me to know that he is OK with that if I need to just have some quiet time. I am new to following your blog and look forward to your posts!!!!

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  30. I guess I am a little of both..... I like you can spend hours working around the house...thinking, singing.. Just me on the mower....quiet and thinking.. Some of my best thoughts are on a mower....I also LOVE to read....Nothing like a good book... But, I also love cooking...entertaining...open Bible studies... I guess I am what I need to be when I need to be it....lol. I think there is to much pressure to always be something we are not... Be who you are! I think God gave each of us a unique personality... One good thing about blogging... freedom to express ourselves... Have a great day! Blessings!

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  31. I am an introvert! I'm going to look for this - it sounds fascinating and marvelous to know the world nees us! :) I appreciate you sharing with Home and Garden Thursday,
    Kathy

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  32. I have seen this woman talk on TED talks on YouTube. I think she makes some great points! I am too an introvert and I am happy that way.
    Sherry

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  33. We are so alike, Deborah.i am not a snob but I love staying home. Thanks for sharing this beautiful post and not make me seem so abnormal, lol.....Christine

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  34. Me too :) Count Me in.This was very interesting,You were describing Me to the tee.Small talk with people who are not My close family is exhausting to Me also.I can relate to Your whole post :) YHEA that it's a good thing.

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  35. Hi Deborah,
    Your teacup is so very pretty and you have made me very interested in reading that book. I also love being at home and puttering around. I am rarely alone and with my three grown children and their friends always around I find my home never a quiet place. I love my family but I do think I am also an introvert. Thank you so much for sharing. Isn't it strange that we are searching out company and friends through blogging? I hope that you manage to find time this week to read and have tea. Thank you for visiting me and leaving such kind words. Karen

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  36. Dear Deborah: Your tea cup is so beautiful. I love ready books like that. I am fine alone except at night, then I need company for sure. Love to visit, but am ok, if I don't maybe I am somewhere in the middle. Interesting post today. Have a great week. Blessings, Martha

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  37. I was introduced to this book fairly recently and loved it. Introverts, of which I'm one, are so often misunderstood, so the book really resonated with me.
    Mary Alice

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  38. I might seem like a chatty Kathy, but I often dread social gatherings and find them stressful. My quiet husband on the other hand loves them , and I think he especially appreciates me breaking the ice and starting conversations for him to sit back , enjoy, and chip in when he feels like it. I know most who know me would consider me the extrovert and him the introvert, but they'd be very wrong ! I think I'll have to read this book.

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  39. Hi sweetie!
    I'm back from our trip to the Peruvian coast and wanted to say hello and wish you a wonderful week.
    Thanks for your sweet visit...hope you saw your darling teacup in there, among my 'treasures.'
    FABBY

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  40. Wow...I am going to look this book up....love your post! My daughter, hubby and I are all introverts and we like it just fine. It's the current culture which tries to make us feel bad- like we are missing out and are party poopers. Haha! There is something to be said for valuing character as opposed to valuing volume and partying.

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