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The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
Susan Cain
read on April 1, 2012

The overarching message in this book is to evaluate and describe introversion. Cain speaks from experience here and reminds the reader many times that she is herself highly introverted. I think the content in the book, and certainly the discussion about the scientific and psychological causes/effects of intro/extraversion are well done, insightful, and something I'm better off knowing. I am myself introverted and can relate very much to a lot of the discussion.

My problem with the book is that Cain treats it as this really forceful defense of introversion. Rather than being only description, the book clearly reaches out to introverts with the message, 'Hey! It's okay! You're not a freak! You're perfectly normal!'. I'm on board with that. Introverts don't need to be ashamed of their personalities or preferences, not by a long shot. And frankly, introverts have long known that they're a helluva lot better at a lot of things than the athletic jocks and gregarious salespeople.

But I think Cain goes off the rails in this book when she starts preaching about how okay it is to embrace introversion - about how it's high time that the world begins accepting introverts. She goes on at length about how we all need to pay better attention to the introverts, and how we should start asking them for their opinions because they have good ideas, even if they don't volunteer them. She seems to think that her book is going to change the way the world works, and that introverts are a-okay just the way they are. And sorry, but that's wrong. That's the wrong message to send, because it isn't going to work. I think it's great to empower introverts, and for them to know what their strengths are - but the message here should be for them to buck up and deal, because you know what, you're not going to get promoted unless you can smile and glad-hand the president, and you're not going to get a date unless you can carry on a conversation. And yeah, it's going to be harder for you, and you're not going to like it, and that may seem unfair, but you're going to have to deal with it. Because if you don't, you're going to be the smartest guy that never got promoted, and never got into the opportunity to really flourish and accomplish great things.

To be clear, this isn't to say that I think anything that Cain writes here is wrong... I only disagree with her strategy. By saying that the world needs to realize the untapped potential in introverts suggests to introverts that it's okay for them to sit around and wait for the world to come to them. That could be damaging advice, but it's exactly what introverts want to hear. I fear that many of them will leave this book feeling empowered to just be themselves, and I think that's the wrong message to send to an introvert who wants to make an impact.

Author Bio:

Susan Horowitz Cain (born 1968) is an American writer and lecturer, and author of the 2012 non-fiction book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, which argues that modern Western culture misunderstands and undervalues the traits and capabilities of introverted people. In 2015, Cain co-founded Quiet Revolution, a mission-based company with initiatives in the areas of children (parenting and education), lifestyle, and the workplace. Cain's 2016 follow-on book, Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts, focused on introverted children and teens, the book also being directed to their educators and parents.