The Literary Salon – Quiet – A Book for Introverts

One of the most common remarks that I read from bloggers on here, is that  she/he is an introvert.   Writers tend to be introverts, with a few exceptions, Hemingway being one, but then maybe he was just an extrovert when he’d had a few too many.   Writing requires introspection, and some peace and quiet.   Your mind be busy and your thoughts multiplying faster than you can get them down, but outwardly you are silent.   Although this book is not a new release (it was a best-seller in 2012 and won numerous awards), I thought it would be a good selection for this month’s literary salon, if only to provide food for thought as summer is winding down and our noisy busy lives resume.        

Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – by Susan Cain  –  2012 

QuietBookCover

Publishers Blurb

“At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.

In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts–from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.”
About the Author:

A self-proclaimed introvert, Susan Cain is an honors graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School and spent seven years working in corporate law for prestigious clients, then worked as a negotiations consultant before quitting to become a writer.   In addition to her two best-sellers (Quiet 2012 and Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts 2016), her writing has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and many other publications, and her TED talk on the same theme has been viewed over 23 million times.  She is co-founder of the Quiet Schools Network and The Quiet Leadership Institute.    All in all, a very impressive resume – it tired me out just reading about all her accomplishments, and this is just the shortened version – although she attributes all she has achieved to being an introvert.  I did note that it took her seven years to research and write the book.  

My Goodreads Review:

 

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop TalkingQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As an introvert, I really enjoyed this book, especially the last chapter which was addressed to schools and teachers, but then I was the child whose otherwise stellar report card always included the derogatory comment, “Joni fails to participate in class.”  Vindicated – Introverts now Rule!

Why I Liked The Book:    (see review above) 

It’s been so long since I read this book that I can’t remember specific details about it, but it made me feel that introverts were finally being heard and valued for the first time, in a world which basically worships extroverts.  Most of our public leaders, CEOs and politicians are extroverts – anyone who can talk a good game is often successful, justified or not, in a world which often values style over substance.    These are the people who take up all the space in the room, grab all the attention and never lack for anything to say.    But do they ever stop to listen?   Introverts tend to be the best listeners, and often make the best bosses because they listen, ask questions and weigh all the factors before they decide or speak.  They tend to observe and remember things about others, and usually make great conversationalists, a rare trait in this all-about-me world.    They are often creative souls as creativity requires solitude.    Introverts are generally undervalued in today’s society, so I enjoyed reading a book which pointed all that out and felt a certain degree of vindication.  (Not to knock extroverts though, parties would be dull without them!)    Here’s a Wikipedia link with a breakdown of the chapters and principles involved.

Introverts would much  rather stay home and read a good book than go out to a social event, but usually enjoy themselves when they do.   The would rather have a good conversation with one person, than many superficial ones at a crowded party.   They enjoy their own company, and like being with others,  but usually need alone time after socializing, in order to recharge.  

I’ve always been a quiet person, a result of genes, being a middle child and growing up in a fairly isolated rural environment.    I was a quiet kid who turned into a quiet adult.  I might have gone into journalism as I love a good story, only I and others (like the high school guidance counselor) thought I was too quiet.   (But then they ruined my plan of being a girl detective too!)    

I was a details person, as quiet people often are, and was well suited to my career where for decades I had a comfortable level of interaction with people.   Working forced me to become more extroverted, and I was good at it, (no one would know as I can talk for hours if I have to, it’s an Irish thing), but it can be exhausting being an introvert in many jobs today.    Like many work places, mine was eventually subject to downsizing, staff cuts and quotas and my enjoyable job turned into a stressful one, where I was under constant pressure and seeing way too many people – as those Facebook memes say, it was too peoply out there.   I like people, in small doses, but after a day of people in big doses I would come home so overstimulated and drained it would take hours to decompress.   I needed lots of down time.  (I suppose if you are an extrovert who works at home all day you might want to go out at night and see people, but I have to wonder if the author’s change of careers was precipitated by her marriage and raising young children – those little cling-ons require lots of energy).   Plus there is a level of rudeness and impatience in society today which was not there in my earlier working years.  So if you ask me what I miss about not working, it’s the people, (most of them quite wonderful), but then again, it’s not.    If you’re an introvert, you’ll know what I mean. 

Introverts often have an easier time with retirement, as they are used to spending time alone, content in their own company and many retirement activities – gardening, reading, painting, are solitary pursuits.   I guess if you are an extrovert you fill your schedule with volunteering or run for public office or travel the world on bus tours.   While no one wants to be lonely or turn into a hermit, it’s nice to have a balance between the two which is consistent with your level of introversion or extroversion whatever it might be.   (People who fall near the middle of the spectrum are called ambiverts). 

Do they still make kids do public speaking in school?  It was always a dreaded activity for me.   Oh, I could write the speech, but my voice is soft and I can’t hear you would be the usual comment.   Introverts do not like being the centre of attention, hence the dislike of public speaking – hard to avoid unless your speech is so boring the audience falls asleep!    I would hope that teachers are better trained now to value introverts as well as extroverts.   As for those report card comments, it was always the word – “failed” which bothered me.  As if failure to raise your hand and participate was a crime, instead of merely being the innate personality trait it is, belonging to that of a quiet soul.       

PS.  As this is an older book, libraries may have a copy.   It’s a fairly long but interesting read, but if you lack the time, here’s a link to the author’s TED talk.

Upon re-watching the TED talk again (20 minutes), I highly recommend it – some very excellent points, especially about solitude and creativity.    I especially liked that it opened with the author talking about social activity in her family being everyone all together in their comfortable corners, reading their books.   Obviously she grew up in a family of introverts, but her talk/book also has an important message for extroverts trying to understand their introvert spouses (opposites attract!) and children.    

 

 

 

 

 

20 thoughts on “The Literary Salon – Quiet – A Book for Introverts

  1. Ally Bean says:

    Quiet was a book that confirmed who I was and validated all that had happened to me along the way. I recommend this book to both introverts and to extroverts who want to understand introverts. I’ve not seen the TED talk.

    I totally agree about public speaking in school. I hated it, but have to admit that to this day I can recite some poems from heart because of it. “Under the spreading chestnut tree the village smithy stands, the smith a mighty man is he with large and sinewy hands…”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joni says:

      We took poetry (High Flight, Robert Frost etc) but never had to recite it, but I remember how painful it was to have to do speeches in English class – even if it was only for 3 minutes. It’s such a self-conscious age anyway. When I had to do presentations for work, at least I had a microphone for my soft voice! Yes, that is a good point, it also for extroverts who want to understand their spouse, kids etc who may be introverts. She mentions that in her talk, which Bill Gates said was one of the best TED talks he’d ever heard.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      I should have added that the book/talk is great for extroverts who are trying to understand their introvert spouses or kids too. I may go back and edit that, as opposites attract.

      Like

  2. lindasschaub says:

    This was very interesting Joni. I had never heard of an ambivert before, but I suspect that is what I am. I don’t mind going out to mingle or go places if I have to, but clearly I’d prefer to stay hunkered down at home and I”m perfectly fine doing so. I’m especially no gadabout once the snow starts to fly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      I think ambivert might have been a term the author made up? I am more of an introvert, although I can talk a lot if I have to in social situations, and may seem outgoing, I’m not. Too much talking drains me, (like a 2 1/2hr phone call!)
      although I find it interesting at the time, I often feel tired and overstimulated after.

      Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        I really prefer my own company much of the time, but that said, I’d much rather interact with people on here than people I’ve known for many years. I have more in common with you than with friends I have not seen in 45 years. We have just grown apart. The phonecall I will tell you here – didn’t want to say on my blog. I have investments made long ago – I know nothing about stocks, bonds and don’t pretend to know about them, and neither do I take an interest in them. That may make me seem dumb and I have relied on two different entities to just spoonfeed me over the years. I can’t even say that once I am retired, that I’ll take an interest – I won’t. So the annuity I had for 7 years is about to expire and some young whippersnapper who has resumed handling my account called me out of the blue last week and said “soon it will be time to make a decision about the annuity” – he asked me questions and asked if I knew exactly what was in my other account. I said “my access information is in my other computer – it had a disk failure and I need to go in there and move documents onto a flash drive – the logon and password were generated by RBC, not me, and they are not something I logically would remember. I have a document that has the info for myself.” He seemed surprised. I said I was told since I’m not taking dividends until after I retire, not to follow the daily stock market as it is disheartening. He asked if I knew what amount I would get from social security. I said I have not yet looked and will look as I approach 66 1/2 years old. He seemed incredulous. I said “I may be angry with myself for not returning to work full time after my mom died.” So he asked me to get the information re: the other investment and my social security estimated benefits and we would set up a meeting over the phone. He works out of Cleveland, OH. I gave him the info and he called me at 5:45 p.m. on Tuesday – at 8:10 I finally hung up. Three times he wanted me to move it all over there – I finally was rude in the end, having spent all this time wading through the almost 100 pages of pies and graphs and lingo and three times saying that let’s discuss rolling over the annuity, okay? Either I am his only customer or he enjoys staying til 8:10 on a regular basis. I finally finished and he sent me documents by Fed Ex yesterday – I’ve not looked at them, but I have to sign/return them to him in a prepaid mailer. I may appear to be stupid, but I am not interested and he should be happy I did not hang up or force the issue sooner. The only good thing was he spent so much time crunching numbers, he said I could retire now and be good and be good at age 90 as well. I rolled it over six years and he said “I’ll call you from time to discuss ‘things’ and maybe we’ll try to change to a higher percentage with a little more risk.” I said “no risk” and fine, you can call, but no risk. I have caller I.D. Like the voles, some things just have to go and not linger.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        Oh we are so alike. I get the high pressure stuff from my RRSP guy and just ignore it. I think it bugs him that my stuff is all spread out in different places, and not all in his, but some of it is from different places I’ve worked, so I left it there after I quit. I’m surprised he did that over the phone though, and didn’t make you go in for an appointment. I finally went in a retirement savings financial plan meeting this spring, and it told me what I already know. I know where things stand, but I have no interest in following the market. I cashed out of a lot of my stocks when I retired, as I wanted a safer portfolio, and that seemed to bug him too. Well at least if you (or your boss) decide to retire you’re good, as so many people are not, but I think being single it forces you to plan ahead, as you know no one else is going to look after you. An RRSP here is like a 401K – it’s called something else there? You get an income tax deduction for it, and sometimes your workplace matches it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Joni, I worked in one law firm that matched whatever you put in dollar for dollar – that enabled me to amass a nice 401(k) and yes, they want it tidy and all in one place and I am conservative and got angry at this guy and finally said after he went back to the topic and kept saying look at these graphs I showed you (all those pages of documents he e-mailed me when we started the call): “we should consolidate and Peter at RBC has money sitting there and charging you to manage it and not investing it … what am I going to do … tell Peter that? I have told both of them I have no interest in following it, just do your decisions and I don’t have to approve them, just act in my best interests. So the third time saying … “look I did well on the annuity, it is safe, let’s get it rolled over before RBC calls me and says says “let’s consolidate” … he wanted to do it before and I brushed it off. As a matter of fact, I came home from walking Thursday morning and saw he had called on the caller i.d. Not nice of me, but I did not return the call. he could assume I was gone … I usually e-mail and acknowledge he called and he calls back … I can’t call there as it is an out-of-zone call for me. I should have mailed the stuff today in the prepaid mailer to the PNC , but here I am at the blog … and not done it but will mail it Tuesday morning and tell the PNC guy I mailed it Saturday – we are alike! I am not interested in it, I started my long-term retirement planning back in 1986 when my boss at this time had a brother who was a stockbroker. Invested a little because he monitored it and he told me what stocks to pick for the 401(k) at work. I’ve transferred all that to RBC and yes the 401(k) is the same as you have and at 70 you must take dividends … 6% of your total amount invested and that means you are paying taxes on it. And they take 2% to manage it. So, yes I might be doing well but still going to pay taxes inevitably and I hope that the stock market does not crash as a result of all this Trump talk about tariffs … this is your and my future. As for me, there is no one helping me out here, no family, so I am on my own and would rather not have worries. I do wish I’d taken a long-term healthcare policy out years ago though in the event that something happens – I understand long-term care, in-house or in a facility is so expensive it would wipe your finances out in a heartbeat. And now I am going to go walk and I have to start getting more thingsdone in the morning – the blog is eating up massive chunks of time and I struggle to manage it to the detriment of the rest of the house. I need to figure it out as to managing my time better.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joni says:

        I started my retirement planning back in 1988, when a co-worker and I signed up for a general interest night course at a community college which my stockbroker was teaching as he was just starting out and looking for new clients, and I have stayed with him over the years, although we have had our disagreements, mostly about consolidating everything with him. One thing they did advise for me was taking out some of the RRSP now, while my income if very low, as when I turn 65 and collect old age and CPP it will be higher and I will pay more tax on it,. I haven’t done that yet, although I should have been doing that the past few years. Oh well, death and taxes. Re stock market, I still have some stock in my portfolio, for growth, but not as much. We can also put 5000 a year into a Tax free Savings Account, but no matter what stocks we chose, there always seems to be a dud amongst them. The best RRSP for me was my last workplace, as I left it in US. mutual funds, and the US market has done great. The Canadian one TSX is not as volatile.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        See your guy wanted to consolidate too – it was annoying and I was like you and had to be firm. I kept saying “I don’t want all my eggs in one basket” but he started straying there once again within a few minutes or telling me what page to scroll to in the many charts he sent as we started talking. We were smart to do that way back then and not wait so it had time to make a nest egg. I listen to a retirement show that is on every weekend – two different retirement specialists. One Saturday, one Sunday and I learn some things about what they say and they do promote a class they teach and it is an 8-hour class for $25.00 and the money is given to charity and you get a booklet and an intense training period.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. annieasksyou says:

    This is so thoughtful and interesting, Joni. You picked a book that clearly resonates widely.

    It’s worth noting that fear of public speaking has long been at or near the top of many lists of human difficulties. So either there are more introverts than extroverts, or that particular activity resonates in the primitive brain for any number of reasons.

    I’ve never really thought of myself in these terms. As I read your definition of introvert, that sounded right, but then ambivert (whatever its origins) seemed a better fit.

    The important thing is that we feel comfortable in our own skins; the label doesn’t define us.

    And now I’ll watch that TEDTalk.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      At least when I did presentations at work I had a microphone for my soft voice! I should have added, that the TED talk/book is good for extroverts who might be trying to understand their introverted spouses and/or kids. It’s well worth watching. I think part of the public speaking issue is that introverts naturally don’t like being the centre of attention, and it’s hard to avoid that when your’re doing a speech, unless it’s so boring your audience falls asleep! I think she might have made the term ambivert up.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. annieasksyou says:

    I think you did mention the value of extroverts’ learning about the introverts in their lives in your conclusion—an excellent point!

    I looked up the origins of ambivert: it was coined by a psychologist named Hans Eysenck in 1947. They (we?) comprise a large percentage of the population, so it was good that Cain discussed this group.

    Liked by 1 person

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