It might be too early to say this, but 2018 has been a pretty great year for books. I’ve read two so far, and both of them have earned a five star rating. That’s rare–I have to be completely in love with a book for it to earn that type of praise! The book I’m sharing with you today is one of them. I genuinely think this book will change the way I interact with people and the way I understand myself. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that can’t Stop Talking is a book by Susan Cain, and, as you might have guessed from the subtitle, it’s about introversion.
With the rise of the internet, free personality tests, and BuzzFeed quizzes, it seems that by now almost everyone is familiar with the terms introversion and extroversion, but if you aren’t, here’s a quick and limited definition:
Introverts (or those of us with introverted tendencies) tend to recharge by spending time alone. They lose energy from being around people for long periods of time, particularly large crowds.
Extroverts, on the other hand, gain energy from other people. Extroverts actually find their energy is sapped when they spend too much time alone. They recharge by being social.
I say that the definition is limited because after reading Cain’s book, Quiet, I’ve learned that introversion and extroversion affect so much more than where we find our energy. In fact, as Cain suggests, your personality might just determine a lot of things about you–how you lead, how you relate to others, how you manage conflict, and how you focus.
There are lots of easy ways to figure out where you fall on the spectrum of introversion and extroversion, but I personally like the Myers-Briggs personality test. If you’d like to try one yourself, there are lots of online tests available, but I really like this one. I’d say it’s fairly accurate, because every time I’ve taken it, I’ve gotten the same result. My personality type is INFJ, which means I’m introverted (97%, according to the test!), intuitive, feeling, and judging.
So I’ve always known that I’m more of an introvert, but it wasn’t until reading Cain’s book that I really understood exactly what that meant. I can’t recommend this book highly enough if you are an introvert, and I think that anyone who works with people on a daily basis would benefit from reading it.
There’s honestly too much good stuff to share, so I’ve decided to share with you the three main takeaways I learned from reading this book.
1. A culture shift in the US has led to the “Extrovert Ideal.”
Cain explains that as America grew and developed into a more urbanized country, we moved away from a “culture of character” to a “culture of personality” in which your ability to sell yourself became more important to others than what is on the inside. She credits the rise of movie stars and celebrities with this culture shift. The “Extrovert Ideal” that arose from this shift simply means that we believe the ideal person should be outgoing, warm, charismatic, sociable, and a great conversationalist. And while these are all admirable traits, Cain suggests that perhaps we put too much pressure on people who don’t normally act this way, expecting them to perform in ways that may not be true to their personalities.
2. Personality affects more than I thought.
I love how Cain breaks apart personality differences in almost every area of life. She talks about how conflict management, leadership styles, work environment preferences, and even dating and social life habits are all affected by our personalities. She even addresses how many people adopt certain personality traits in certain settings in order to focus on a job or task they love, even if those traits don’t come naturally to them.
3. We need both extroverts and introverts for our society to be complete.
Even though this book is all about the quiet power and strength of introverts, Cain readily acknowledges that we need both types of people, both types of leaders, parents, teachers, spouses, and friends. Her goal is to overcome the idea that quiet, introverted people are necessarily shy, anxious, and anti-social. Instead, she shares that extroverts and introverts should work together to better understand each other and give grace and support when needed.