Book Review: Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking
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Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking is about people who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying, and working alone to brainstorming in teams. It is about the people who are often labeled “quiet”, the introverts. It is about people I very strongly identify with.
Author Susan Cain, a self-proclaimed introvert, says that one-third to one-half of the people we know are introverts. Her book cites many examples of people who have made major contributions who were in fact shy, quiet, introverts. People such as Vincent van Gogh, Rosa Parks, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Dr. Seuss, Steven Spielberg, Gandhi, and many more. The stories of such introverts contribute to a well researched and well argued point that introverts are undervalued.
Yet the book is not about the bashing of the extrovert. It espouses that extraversion is good, but that we have made it into an “oppressive standard” which we expect introverts to conform to.
Cain talks about this as the Extrovert Ideal and the effects that it has, addressing society’s bias against introversion. She writes about American business culture and American schools and forced collaboration. From childhood we are taught that to be social is to be happy and introversion has come to be viewed as “somewhere between a disappointment and pathology.” Cain explains that introverts can actually be very good in areas where extroverts are often expected or preferred. For example, introverts can actually make good leaders because they are good listeners and often more willing to accept the input of others.
Reading the book actually led me to look up the author’s Ted Talk as well as an npr interview with the author. Seeing her on the stage and hearing her speak about this topic was rather enlightening. She used many of the same examples from her book. It was however, what she had to say about herself that was so interesting. She walked onto the stage holding a bag. She proceeded to share the story of being sent to camp as a child and taking a suitcase of books which ended up being hidden under her bed for the summer. She then opened her suitcase to reveal what she had packed… books. Her point was that we should not be ashamed of what is in our suitcase. We all have something valuable to contribute.
This had me thinking about how introverts and extroverts seek information differently and how they interact in the library differently. Perhaps the extrovert boldly walks up to the service desk and asks for exactly what they need, while the introvert ferrets out the information from the library website, or texts a librarian, or even quietly approaches the service desk to ask for instructions they intently listen to. While the extrovert may easily and readily engage in an annual library party with music and games and prize drawings, the introvert may be more drawn to Stress Free Zone activities or a Blind Date with a Book display. Library professionals need to be aware that different types of people approach things differently and seek and accept assistance differently. Most importantly, library professionals need to have an acceptance that this is okay.
The premise behind this book and the thoughts that it provoked actually inspired my interest in the information community I have chosen to look at this semester, the socially anxious college student. While introversion and social anxiety are not the same, this is where my thought process took me. From the introverted individual to the student experiencing library anxiety. It may be a bit of a stretch from the topic of the book to the topic of my research but the connection is there.
I would definitely recommend this book to others. I would also recommend checking out Susan Cain’s Ted Talk and her npr interview. While I can not say that I agree with every point made by the author, I do find the topic fascinating and many of her arguments valid.
Cain, S. (2012). Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. New York: Crown Publishers