For book club in September we read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I found that I got a lot out of this book. I self-identify as “extroverted for a purpose”: being around people doesn’t exhaust me, except if I’m around people without purpose or authenticity; when I have to assume a role rather than be myself, I find that exhausting. I also absolutely recharge through running, reading a book, and quality time with one person or small familiar groups (which is more synonymous with introversion according to Cain’s definition). I enjoy people, and I can be energized by being around them with the right motivation and purpose (a work event with meaningful connection time, working through major challenges in a group, discussing a book with others to see multiple perspectives, etc.), but walking into a party without a purpose (just a casual thing or networking event just to “meet people”) feels…awkward to me.
The book talks about many aspects of introversion and extroversion. The key domains the books delves into are: how introverts and extroverts tend to differ around motivation and sensitivity, the impact of nature vs. nurture with respect to introversion and extroversion, Western vs. Eastern cultural norms on extroversion and introversion, the history of extroversion, how introverts may enact purposeful behavior changes to simulate extroversion, advice for corporations on how to grow and nurture introverts as well as extroverts, how leaders can embrace the diverse perspectives that groups with introverts and extroverts provide, and that introverts and extroverts benefit most when they cooperate. Fundamentally the book encourages understanding differences of human reactions to particular stimulus, and encourages empathy for those which may not reflect your cultural norm, but are still quite normal.
In terms of feedback, most of the book club enjoyed this book. We self-identified as half introverts and half extroverts in the group. Unilaterally the extroverts said they felt that their empathy and understanding for introverts expanded through the book. There was feedback on whether the inverse was true given the pathologically extroverted examples that were referenced in the book (e.g. Tony Robbins, Winston Churchill, etc.). The feeling was that the intention was to shun extroverts into “checking themselves” vs. helping people gain a better understanding of alternate mental states.
Ultimately I would have loved to see the conclusion own the oversimplification in the title and reiterate the nuance in the research cited throughout the book. There is a spectrum between introversion, ambiversion, and extroversion; stimulus, purpose, and environment alter how people manifest, and your upbringing and culture have a significant implication to how you will represent yourself. We are individuals, and we get to choose how we show up. I really enjoyed the messages around empathy and inclusion in this book, and wished there had been more moderate examples of extroverts to highlight that not all the good ones are introverts masquerading as extroverts because of Western society’s expectations and cultural norms, but even with that caveat I really did appreciate the book.