Learn the key ideas of the book by Susan Cain


Freeing the Power of Introversion

Somewhere between 30 to 50 percent of the world’s population are introverts, but many of them act like they are extroverts. This is because of a common misconception that extroverts are more capable, more bright, and more intelligent, whereas introverts are regarded as sad, problematic and incompetent. In Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain analyses the differences between the two personality types. Through real life examples of introverted people who, despite not being very outgoing or particularly sociable, have changed the course of history, she shows that introverts are just as capable as extroverts of achieving success and happiness in life.

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A person’s life is not determined by just their race or gender, but also by their personality

On the 1st of December 1955 in Alabama, Rosa Parks, a forty-something woman working as a seamstress, gets on a bus to go home. She sits in a seat reserved for African Americans, she is tired, and her feet are swollen. As the bus begins to fill up, the driver asks her to stand, in order to make room for a white person. In an unflustered and firm tone, she replies: “no”. The driver calls the police, and Rosa Parks is tried and convicted of disturbing the peace. That simple and resolute “no” gave rise to the civil rights movement for African Americans led by Martin Luther King, which ended with the United States Supreme Court ruling that segregation on Alabama’s public buses is unconstitutional. Rosa Parks became a role model, and an icon of the civil rights movement, but not many people know that she was actually extremely shy and introverted. One of the most famous “no’s” in history was delivered by a mild and quiet, but determined woman, who symbolised the protest that changed the entire course of American democracy. When she died, those close to Rosa Parks described her as a strong-willed but reserved person.

Our lives are not determined just by our race or gender, but also by our personality, which influences our choices, behaviour and, therefore, our entire existence. In American society, as analysed by the author, and more generally in the western world, extroverts are considered to be more capable, while introverts are sometimes seen as problematic. Being extroverted or introverted is just one of countless personality traits, and there is nothing wrong with preferring solitude and introspection. Introverts are judged according to the extrovert ideal, and some of society’s most important institutions, like schools and workplaces, are based on this standard. Being sensitive, pensive, and shy is seen as a second-rate quality, somewhere between misfortune and an illness. Yet, without introverts, we wouldn’t have the theory of relativity, Peter Pan, Charlie Brown, E.T., Google, or Harry Potter, to mention just a few of the “products” created by people with reserved characters. The world would have missed out on incredible works of art, and some of the greatest discoveries in history, had it not been for some peace and quiet, and a secluded place to work.

The vast majority of teachers still believe today that extroverts make the best students; so introverted pupils are discriminated against from early childhood. Children who speak often, and loudly, are considered more intelligent than those who keep to themselves and prefer to sit and ponder, rather than talk just for the sake of talking.

Introverts are not necessarily shy: shyness is really just the fear of being judged by others, of being humiliated, while introversion is the preference for minimally stimulating environments and situations. Shyness and introversion are easily confused, because they often overlap, but don’t always coexist.

People can be categorised into four types of personality: calm extroverts, anxious extroverts, calm introverts, and anxious introverts. Barbara Streisand, for example, is a calm extrovert, because she has an exuberant personality, but is also shy and suffers from stage fright. Bill Gates is a calm introvert, but is not at all shy, because, although he is very reserved, he has a strong personality and is not easily influenced.


The key ideas of "Quiet"

A person’s life is not determined by just their race or gender, but also by their personality
The Extrovert Ideal was compounded with the rise of the consumer society, and the move away from a culture of character towards a culture of personality
We often regard chatty people as being more intelligent than quieter individuals
Teamwork stifles creativity: the most brilliant minds need solitude, in order to focus, come up with new ideas, and carry out projects
Being an introvert is also biological: we are born with a predisposition to listening and being reserved
Extroverts and introverts have different reactions, because their brains release different amounts of dopamine
The extrovert ideal does not exist in all cultures: Asian people are more inclined to accept and support introverts
Sometimes it is useful to regulate our behaviour according to our circumstances, regardless of whether we are introverts or extroverts
How to approach introverted children or students, in order to support their growth and the development of their personality
Take-home message

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