quiet by susan cain

quiet is the loudest word ever shouted


this isn’t supposed to be a review, but maybe a discussion of the ideas Susan Cain talks about.  if you want to READ one, jon ronson’s 2012 guardian article does a good job of that.  reading was relatively new to me when i got Quiet, having enjoyed it as a child and possessing a library card (imagine matilda from the film MATILDA); i had lost the interest entirely at secondary school, possibly after being forced to read Holes.  the enjoyment had turned very much into a laborious, headachey chore.  regardless, now a glasses-wearer, i read again, or at least own books. i. i. i. i. i hadn’t expected to buy anything on friday but we find ourselves in bookshops quite often and there we were.

QUIET is definitely an adjective i am used to hearing in reference to myself and probably why i was drawn to this book.  Cain discusses introversion and extroversion through her research, aiming to show the practicalities of introversion ‘along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness’.  mostly discussing what is introversion, introverted traits, and the Extrovert Ideal our society aspires us towards and which introverts must live in.  it appears everyone has gushed over this book and i can see why, and despite mentioning the Exodus, Quiet won me over too.  general feedback seems to suggest that Quiet comforted people in their introverted ways.  i learned that my so-called “party naps” were actually me recharging from the over stimulation of socialising.  and that i wasn’t the only person who had left the (i hate these words) nightclub dancefloor :)!!! and retrieved to the toilet for a lovely ten minutes alone.  is being quiet or introverted radical?  i was unaware that introversion was in anyway oppressed so much that people felt unique by it or shocked to find out they weren’t alone in hushed living.  Quiet made me very aware that i am definitely not an extrovert, any idea that i am is laughable.  generally there is a misunderstanding of these terms though, and despite trying not to i think Cain perpetuates this too.  in the introduction she states we should see them as loose terms without definition but continues to contradict this by paralleling introverts to nerds and extroverts to sporty/popular-types.  introversion and extroversion are not in opposition of each other, maybe they’re friends?  they probably are!  the possession of one trait is not the absence of another, maybe this was forgotten.  maybe this won’t work here but it stood out for me whilst reading the introduction: ‘shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not’ (pg. 12)

i think the most intriguing quality to Quiet is the “real-life stories” included which are subtly intertwined into the narrative, ranging from Rosa Parks to Steve Wozniak (who are both introverted and achieved amazing things) (and you can to! is the general message).  Cain includes stories from their lives, and i think autobiographies.  alongside this is a lot of facts or at least theories, i like the knowledge but many non-fiction books become boring where i think this one does not.  this being why Quiet is so compelling.  quietness definitely means something to me, both personally and the notion of it; but i wonder is quiet bad?  why is being quiet seen as a negative thing?  why should we aspire to be loud?  Cain answers these with no, you can still be successful and be quiet, you might even be more successful.  quietness is only a different way of being and loudness is maybe necessary at times however being quiet if that is natural is just as okay.  quietness to me surpasses volume despite the issue of volume being probably the aspect of introversion that most apparently effects me, and others remind me of it frequently.  especially my dad who continues to tells me to speak up.  i am QUIET in volume, quieter than i apparently should be but i couldn’t make myself any louder if i tried.  maybe quietness is a demeanor or a way of being.  “come out of your shell”.  quietness, in the way i think of it, has yet to be articulated for me

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me and my shell, 19 remake of 18


PART ONE: The Extroverted Ideal; the first emphasis of the book is placed on leadership and the workplace which is fundamentally important due to the NEED to be extroverted at school or at work.  coming from college i had felt quite confident however, a few months later, starting university, i suddenly found myself “in my shell” and i was quite comfortable so i remained there for a while.  although she praises both introverted and extroverted leadership styles she importantly never suggests one is more correct than the other.  both have their advantages yet introverted leaders are more likely to see and work with this than extroverted ones.  this may be a real life problem i am currently struggling with, my manager keeps calling me sensitive.  an early problem i had with the book was that introverts achieve success with the help of extroverts like Steve Wozniak with Steve Jobs and Rosa Parks with Martin Luther King.  or, how business men put their awkwardness aside for their working day and act extroverted.  to an extent i do this too but i don’t want to, i am aware i am unsuited to my job and have sort of stopped trying.  i hope more people read this book and that the structures of schools and workplaces change so people are allowed to work in their own ways, so people’s strong points are valued and drawn on and so people don’t feel the need to be someone else for a large portion of their days and ultimately LIFE.

PART TWO: Your Biology, Your Self?  sometimes i worry i am not quiet by default but quiet because of things that have happened to me.  this part, included a lot of information, lots of studies done trying to guess and determine whether children would be introverted or extroverted when they grew up.  judging from reactivity, brain activity, reactions, behaviour, all sorts of things and therefore focusing on issues surrounding the nature vs. nurture debate.  Cain discusses physical differences between introverted and extroverted humans such as parts of the brain acting differently, and how/what causes them to think differently. here it sort of moves away from my understanding or better said my idea of quietness as it seeks to (re)define introvert not quiet.  my notion of quiet is separate from these terms which are both highly understood and misunderstood.  introversion and extroversion have been argued upon for years and i’m not here to join in those debates.  chapter six compares Franklin Roosevelt to his wife Eleanor Roosevelt, the first an extroverted politician and the second a introvert who spoke out for causes she felt necessary.  another pair whose relationship is (was) intriguing: Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs; founders/creators of Apple.  one – Jobs – is more of a manager or leader and maybe this is unfair but the other – Wozniak – is the one who cares (cares more)? Steve Wozniak’s iWoz is mostly about his inventions and understanding of engineering in the build up to inventing the first home/personal computer.  However he also talks about his beliefs and mentions his shyness too, including details of his relationship with Jobs, he says: ‘we were always different people, different people right from the start’ p.148.  The two Steve’s highlight Cain’s stereotypical introvert and extrovert, making her argument more personal and interesting.  Jobs is extroverted, talkative, and a risk-taker.  Wozniak is hard-working, often speechless, and extremely interested in engineering which is both how Apple began and why he left becoming overlooked for Jobs and somewhat forgotten.

PART FOUR: How to Love, How to Work or maybe just how to cope with being a human.  I don’t really have anything smart to say here.



i am an introvert but that doesn’t matter. i am a girl but that doesn’t matter either. i don’t see the need in categorising oneself but i suppose that also doesn’t matter too. i feel pretty self-assured with my own identity but i already was. Quiet was compelling, it is important and interesting, ranging through enough people and topics to please anyone and therefore i would recommend it. and in case this was a book review i am going to say 4/5 stars




chapter one: the rise of the mighty, likeable fellow – how extroversion became the ideal

chapter two: harvard business school, the ideals of leadership, touch on religion (and some exodus nonsense)

chapter three: the workplace? pros and mostly cons of the group thinks , open plan offices, etc

chapter four: nature or nurture? how the argument is swayed by politics and various studies – high / low reactive children

chapter five: compares human personalities to elastic bands

chapter six: franklin & eleanor roosevelt, sensitivity, al gore’s role in climate change and being cool

chapter seven: how introverts / extroverts think differently & the wall street crash / global economic problem thing i have forgotten it’s name of 2008, yea

chapter eight: asian-americans / eastern and western temperaments and how personalities effect the culture 

chapter nine: when should you act more extroverted than you really are?

chapter ten: relationships between introverts and extroverts staring disagreements

chapter eleven: shyness and introversion in children, teaching / parenting advice and lots about school

conclusion: ends on a positive note, feels encouraging


THE BOOK THAT CREATED A QUIET REVOLUTION is written on the back and is also a twitter account which you can get to by clicking on this sentence.


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