Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Book Review: Quiet by Susan Cain

As a therapist with a Master's degree in Psychology, I have often studied personality differences. I feel as though I have a very good handle on intraversion and extraversion*, and commonly incorporate these elements in my practice with individuals and with couples. There has been a good amount of research on the subject of personality, but it's always exciting to come across a resource that offers new information or summarizes the research that's out there in a comprehensive way. Quiet by Susan Cain is one of those resources.
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I was originally intrigued by Tim Challies' review of this book (which is how I heard about it) because I am not an introvert. My wife is, however, so when I told her about this book she was very interested and began reading it. Halfway through she recommended it to me and raved about how it had impacted her. Naturally, after hearing this I had to read it for myself. This review will be from an extrovert's point of view.

Quiet is mainly about introverts in a world of extroversion. Cain argues, chapter by chapter, that our society has increasingly catered to extroversion and in the process has devalued the power of introverts. One of the book's best features is the research that went into it. Cain saturated the pages of Quiet with study after study about how introverts and extroverts interpret, interact with, and impact the world in very different ways.

Reading this book was tremendously helpful for me as an extrovert in understanding myself, but also in understanding introverts. I found myself observing conversations with introverts and becoming more aware of how they interact with me. I adjusted to these conversations and was impressed with how it positively impacted the depth of our dialogue and connection as a result. Quiet helped me gain patience and confidence in my conversations with introverts, but more importantly it humbled me. All of a sudden I found myself learning from them and seeing the value of quiet in my own communication patterns.

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I have already recommended this book to friends and clients, and received good feedback about it. Introverts have told me they have felt more validated in their personality style, less insecure about themselves in relationships, and taken more risks in communication. I can see Quiet being a helpful book for both introverts and extroverts alike, applicable to just about any domain, both personal and professional.

My only qualm with this book is Cain's references to evolution throughout the book. Quiet does not claim to be a Christian book, although it does contain many biblical references describing characters' personalities. As a Christian, however, the evolution references definitely felt out of place and unwarranted, adding no value to the subject matter. I found myself wanting to skip over those brief sections and make my own applications from a biblical worldview. This gave me a greater appreciation for the complexities of personality, and drew me deeper into worship of God for having created these complexities to reflect Himself. Despite this qualm, I highly recommend Quiet and will likely read it again and again myself.

I received this book from WaterBrook Multnomah as part of their Blogging for Books program in exchange for my unbiased review.

More Information

You can visit the author's website, The Power of Introverts, and take an informal Introvert/Extrovert Quiz.

Susan Cain gave a TED talk (which just surpassed 4 million views as of the date of this writing) that summarizes the book fairly well. You can watch it here:

*Susan Cain chose to use the layperson spelling for introversion and extroversion, rather than the clinical spellings, as they are more recognizable. As such, I decided to comply with this review as well.


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