Friday, November 23, 2012

Quiet: The Power of Introverts

Susan Cain

Susan Cain spent five years officially—and her entire life unofficially—researching Quiet. This self-proclaimed introvert set out to write a book that would empower the quieter half of the population and increase awareness among parents, teachers, and employers.

As part of her extensive research, Cain visited an evangelical mega church, Harvard Business School, and a Tony Robbins seminar. While visiting the church, Cain discovered that “evangelical churches often make extroversion a prerequisite for leadership.” Some parishes even check Myers-Briggs scores and think twice “if the first letter isn’t an ‘E’ (for extrovert).” At Harvard, one of the students commented, “Good luck finding an introvert around here.” After watching Tony Robbins perform, Cain concluded that he has a “hyperthymic temperament, a kind of extroversion-on-steroids.”

I put on my teacher hat and paid particular attention to the interviews Cain conducted with Asian-American students living near Cupertino, California. While they excelled academically, many of these introverted students struggled with class participation and hit a brick wall in workplaces where “loudness and speaking out are the keys to popularity and financial success.”

Cain also interviewed successful introverts who have learned to survive and thrive in highly-charged workplaces. In fact, Susan Cain herself is a great example of an introvert who has managed to adapt, since she would never have be able to publish Quiet if she hadn’t convinced her publisher she was enough of a pseudo-extrovert to promote it. Cain helps us to understand the unique things introverts have to offer, and helps introverts to better understand themselves.

- Joanne Guidoccio

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