In a media-driven world that covers the ebullient and dramatic lives of celebrities, an emphasis on being outgoing, cheerful, gregarious, and sociable emerges. But for many of us, that’s a horrifying and sometimes self-denying ideal. Susan Cain explores the value of both introverts and extroverts in her 2012 book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”
Cain worked diligently to compile research and anecdotes to investigate the underpinnings of the extroverted focus of our current society, as well as to understand the differences between introverts and extroverts, whether it is genetic, environmental, or, ultimately as many things are, a combination of the two.
While this book provides validating insights about introverts and their positive contributions to our world, it also offers strategies for integrating the quieter longings of introverts into our boisterous landscape dominated by extroverts. Cain gives recommendations for couples or friends who may be introvert/extrovert pairs, including making “Free Trait Agreements,” compromising on one less-appealing activity to gain the opportunity for an appealing one and preserving the harmony of the relationship.
For bosses or business people, there are ideas for adjusting the structure of the work environment to allow space and time for introverts to recharge. There are ways to situate oneself, even in a full meeting, to allow for a “restorative niche” that will give the introvert time to be quiet while still contributing to the meeting. This principal can even apply for extroverts working in a less-sociable workplace — what circumstances can be created to allow those extroverts to recharge through conversation and collaboration?
Teachers and parents are given sage recommendations for treatment of children who early on exhibit traits of an introvert: how not to label these behaviors as “shy” or force the child into louder or more sociable activities at the peril of the child’s self-image and confidence.
In the end, Cain’s “Quiet” provides great insight into the different internal motivation and reward structures of humans. She provides informal quizzes that allow the reader to consider whether they fall more to one side or the other, to consider what drives them, to consider in what ways they may better interact with their peers, colleagues, mates, or children to be supportive and nurturing, no matter whether extrovert or introvert.