Thursday, April 24, 2014

392 (2014 #20). Quiet

by Susan Cain,
read by Kathe Mazur

Before I read this book, I thought I was more extroverted than introverted - but now I definitely think I'm a closet introvert.  In the introduction to Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, author Susan Cain has 20 true-false statements (pages 13-14), such as "I often prefer to express myself in writing," "I often let calls go through to voice mail," and "I like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale, with only one or two close friends or family members." I answered true to 17 of them, meaning I am probably more introverted than extroverted.  I certainly don't consider myself to be quiet, though.

This nonfiction book is an exploration of introversion and extroversion.  The introduction makes it clear that introversion is not synonymous with shyness, an assumption a lot of people make that also, I believe, causes mis-identification.  I'm certainly not shy, so people (including myself) often assume I am an extrovert.

Part One talks about the rise of the "extrovert ideal," the ways society tends to favor extroverts, and how this came about.  For me, the most valuable part of this section was the chapter called "When Collaboration Kills Creativity," which talks about how group projects and brainstorming, working in "teams,", and open-office plans can actually hurt productivity, especially for those who are more introverted.

Part Two reviews some of the research on the biological basis for introversion and extroversion, and the nature-versus-nurture question.  It also explores the role of free will (which explains why some introverts, like me, are okay with public speaking).  Studies have shown that "high-reactive" babies often grow up to be introverts (page 10), and that "introverts are more sensitive than extroverts to various kinds of stimulation...and that introverts and extroverts often need very different levels of stimulation to function at their best" (page 123-4). I thought the experiment described just after this was very interesting - apparently, introverts will salivate more when lemon juice is placed on their tongues.  I'll have to try this!

Part Three, was, in my opinion, the weakest part of the book.  Its single chapter discusses cultures (mostly Asian) that don't emphasize the extrovert ideal.  I felt the quietness discussed here was not truly introversion and extroversion, and the areas where Asians experience more (in school) and less (in business) success in America had more to do with their cultural norms and traditions.

Part Four is the "advice for introverts" section, suggesting times they should act more extroverted than they really are, how introverts and extroverts can best communicate with each other (particularly in a marriage), and how to best raise quiet kids, with ideas for both teachers and parents.

Her conclusion pretty much sums up the points in her book in just two-plus pages.  However, I was disappointed with the stereotype on page 265: "Quit your job as a TV anchor and get a degree in library science." I'm a librarian who interacts with people all day long at a reference desk, multitasking, and I give presentations frequently.

Actress Kathe Mazur has the perfect soft voice for a book with this title, but an audiobook is not ideal if you want to study this book in depth.  For one thing, Cain's extensive end notes (47 pages that reference her sources) and the nine-page index are not available in the audio.  On the other hand, listening to the audiobook is a good introduction to the subject - but I'd recommend having a print copy available for reference too, as well as for re-reading.

© Amanda Pape - 2014

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]

1 comment:

  1. Susan Cain helped me understand why introversion is okay. Why reading is okay. Why quiet is okay. Why thinking is okay. I'm exceedingly grateful to her.

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