7 Jul 2012

Book Review - Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.

My team sat for a meeting with our boss. Pressing issues had to be discussed. As soon as the 1st issue was pulled up, one team member started voicing her opinions loudly – what SHE FELT had gone wrong, what SHE FELT could’ve been done, what SHE FELT should be done... When anyone else stated their opinions, she either interjected or continued on that point. It was as if those had been her points all along. No one was spared! Not the boss, not any of us; everyone was interrupted; everyone kept listening to her ranting. I lost interest within a few minutes and started making mental notes of tasks to be completed that day. So a frustrating 90 minute meeting ended with precious little to take away.
I have a bad reputation of shooting down people who interrupt me (figuratively, not literally). It has landed me in trouble, so I now refrain. But what about the others, some of whom had good ideas? Why did they keep listening to hollow words? Have you experienced something similar?

Some prefer speaking after thinking. On the other hand, many choose to think WHILE speaking. That’s SUICIDE! However, notice that the latter get their way often, even if they have a proven track record of leading things straight off a cliff. Susan Cain looks to address this aspect of humans through her book ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a WorldThat Can’t Stop Talking’.

Susan, an outright introvert, states that 1/3rd of the world’s population are introverts, concentrated mainly in Asian countries. USA, on the other hand, has the largest number of extroverts. Today, the world prefers ‘men of action’ to ‘men of contemplation’. So extroverts rule the roost. Does she hint at this being the reason why USA dominates world politics?

Quiet: The Power of Introverts
Introverts, according to Susan, are those who take time to react to social stimuli. No! They’re not intellectually challenged; quite the contrary. They gauge pros and cons before taking action, hate small talk, prefer to be on the sidelines… they’re most likely to curl up reading a book instead of socializing regularly. But they’re not shy or antisocial. Susan gives an example of former Harvard Professor Brian Little who is exuberant when he speaks to an audience, but prefers solitude when it’s time to recharge his batteries. Shyness may be one aspect, but it’s not necessary. Strengths of introverts are analysis, observation, simplification & clear thinking, listening, smarter spending, valuing friendship and believe it – leadership! Research proves that most leaders of successful organizations lack ‘charisma’ and are genuine introverts.

Most bloggers are introverts, selective in expressing their emotions. We (yes, I am one too) feel the world can’t understand us; maybe it really can’t. Our friends, colleagues, family members can’t see things from our perspective. That frustrates us, even miserable. We sometimes feel reproached for the way we are. But we’re not alone!

The author says that introverts and extroverts are forever in conflict. The latter find it hard to comprehend why the former won’t hang out with friends every evening. Their reactions sometimes make introverts question their own behavior. This is evident at Harvard Business School, where gregariousness is chosen over brilliance. Reserved students find it hard to adjust to the exuberant environment, and often endure peers’ and professors’ disappointment. All this because they’re not FORCEFUL enough in group discussions and activities.

Susan says this concept of group work (she calls it Groupthink) is a sham. Brainstorming & teamwork have been a hit with the majority lately, but the bulk of these sessions are unproductive. Creativity blossoms in solitude. Van Gogh, Moses, Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Michelangelo, Stephen Hawking and more recently Steve Wozniak, Guy Kawasaki, Pete Cashmore (CEO – Mashable.com) – they’re all introverts. They preferred solitude and came up with their brightest inventions when they were alone. Introversion led them to achieve astounding results.

Unlike Dan Goleman’s ‘Emotional Intelligence’, Quiet doesn’t dwell on how introverts’ and extroverts’ brains are wired… it isn’t filled with jargon. Instead, it is filled with soothing and mellow diction. Each chapter features interesting stories of introverts who have achieved because of this trait (and not despite it). We’re also educated on ways to handle relationships which involve both types and make them coexist.

Quiet isn’t a country specific book; it addresses the world. It proves that the 2 main personality types are introversion & extraversion. All traits can be classified under these. I wonder if animals display these 2 core traits too. Quiet is based on a subject very few have delved into, but heavily impacts all our lives. It’s revealing – it aids people to see introverts in a different light, while it helps the latter connect. It gives us introverts the ‘AHA’! feeling and leaves us nodding feverishly in agreement. The only thing Susan may be guilty of is not patronizing extroverts. But I tend to agree with every example she gives, having experienced a lot of what she talks about.

Susan Cain passionately exhorts us to realize and tap into our inner strengths. Most introverts simply live without understanding what they’re capable of as introverts. Quiet has further increased my confidence and made me comfortable in my own skin. I used to think something was fundamentally wrong with me; I now realize I’m just a strong introvert. This book makes me feel equipped to develop my capabilities and encourages me to stay true to myself. I got a chance to thank the author, and she graciously responded.

Getting nominated for awards is probably a very long and elaborate process. It's likely that introverts like Susan will lose out to market savvy authors. But this book deserves a lot more accolades than it gets. It’ll change the way people look the world. Anyone nominate this for the Nobel Prize?

Those who want to know more, check out Susan Cain’s TED Talk on Quiet here.

This post has been published by me as a part of IBL; the Battle of Blogs, sponsored by WriteupCafe.com. Join us at our official website and facebook page.
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