Aren’t you tired to see that every single job ad requires candidates who work well in a team and who have ‘people skills’?
When I was a teenager, I felt like a freak, felt ashamed that I didn’t enjoy parties, didn’t like to be in the center of attention, didn’t want to involve in debate groups / uni associations / excursions, etc. Whenever someone was nice enough to invite me to a coffee, I would be too afraid to decline the offer. ‘If I say no she will never invite me again’ I was thinking. If the invitation implied a 121 meeting it was perfect, but whenever I had to join sizeable groups, I would wither like a flower and after half an hour I already regretted.
Felt guilty because I didn’t miss these things that people were so happy to share on social media.
This book helped me understand I am an introvert. There is nothing inherently wrong with me.
Thanks to Susan Cain, I am free from the oppressive standard of the extrovert ideal!
So why this book had such an impact? There are many reasons and 10 of them are…
1. The Writing Style
Quiet is a book that makes a simple point: we must see introverts as valuable and worthy. And she makes such a wonderful use of storytelling.
For example, in her first chapter about the extrovert ideal, she starts with Dale Carnegie’s story and how his metamorphosis from farm boy to public-speaking icon led to the boom of extroverted personality.
It makes you ‘hear’ the sound of her voice narrating and creating these vivid images in your mind. And those images make you connect her arguments and get the gist of each chapter.
You must read the second chapter to see how good she is at storytelling! In her effort to understand better this extrovert ideal, Susan attends one of Tony Robbins’s seminars, Unleash The Power Within. She describes what happens there, how people react, and what is the major catch of those seminars.
‘The audience divides into pairs again, enthusiastically introducing themselves and pumping their partners’ hands. When we’re finished, the questions repeat. “Did that feel better, yes or no?” “YES!” “Did you use your body differently, yes or no?” “YES!” “Did you use more muscles in your face, yes or no?” “YES!” “Did you move straight toward them, yes or no?” “YES!” This exercise seems designed to show how our physiological state influences our behavior and emotions, but it also suggests that salesmanship governs even the most neutral interactions. It implies that every encounter is a high-stakes game in which we win or lose the other person’s favor. It urges us to meet social fear in as extroverted a manner as possible.’ (Cain, 2012).
2. The Amount of Research and Data
Susan Cain spent 7 years to write this book.
She presents research findings from the fields of psychology, communication, business and arts. The author traveled a lot and interviewed different people. She was keen to explore those environments where the more you speak and intervene, the more perks you get. As I mentioned before, she took part at one of Tony Robbins’ seminars. She went to Harvard and spoke with the super extroverted students there (and a disguised introvert). She even went to an Evangelical Church (one of the largest and most influential evangelical churches in America).
3. The Stories
The book presents the stories of Rosa Parks, Dale Carnegie, Gandhi, Darwin Smith and Steve Wozniak and how they succeeded in a world that doesn’t stop talking. But it’s even more interesting to read the stories of other introverts.
The story of this introverted girl particularly touched me. Her extroverted parents were thinking there was something wrong with her. After school, she only wanted to go home and read. She was not competitive like her ‘successful’ parents.
As an introverted child, I always wondered what is wrong with me and why I can’t be like my mother or my brother. Even today, they can’t see what the world looks like for me. But Susan Cain’s stories helped me see how introverts of all ages struggle to fit in an environment that doesn’t accept them as they are.
4. I Got a Better Understanding About My Introversion
This book helped me understand my behaviours and habits. For example, I understand why I can have such a passionate conversation with one or two persons, but I am a disaster with groups. I realized why I am so reluctant to unexpected change of plans or why I am ambitious but not competitive.
Still, this does not mean that I can use my introversion as an excuse for not having friends or not doing things important for me.
Susan Cain explains that when an introvert has a meaningful goal, extroversion may become a means of accomplishing that goal. Introverts can act like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love, or anything they value highly.
For example, Susan is terrified by public speaking. Despite her discomfort, she gave a revolutionary speech at one of TED conferences. It was an episode of terrifying extroversion, but it was a fruitful one. Susan Cain’s talk was viewed nearly four million times in its first year online (TED, 2013). The talk propagated the key idea of her book: introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and people should celebrate and encourage them.
5. This Book Gave Me Hope
Quiet is the book that made me feel good about myself
Introversion is not an invisible illness, but a gift (wrapped in an awkward appearance).
I may not be a charismatic figure, but people prefer to connect with me when they need an advice or encouragement. Because of my personality, I may never be a leader (well, Susan Cain explores introversion and leadership too, so it is not without hope) but I can bring value to an organization. I am thorough and I like to direct all my focus on what I am working at.
This book changed my life. It showed me I don’t have to be discouraged. Yes, I don’t master small talk and I don’t thrive in noisy, overstimulating environments. But I can have meaningful conversations that can last for hours.
Introversion is not a weed. Introversion is a flower that needs water to bloom.
6. Made Me Want To Talk More About Introversion
The book inspired me to write more about my experiences as an introvert and share my thoughts and lessons. In a world that can’t stop talking, we should make space for the quiet ones.
I think this is important especially for kids.
I grew up as an introvert child in an environment where only the loud ones were taken into account. As a kid is especially difficult to understand why you feel more attracted to a pile of books than going out and playing with the other kids in the snow.
And I think parents should stop trying to fix their introverted children.
Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured. If an introverted child needs help with social skills, teach her or recommend training outside class, just as you’d do for a student who needs extra attention in math or reading. But celebrate these kids for who they are.
7. As a 95% Introvert I Can Squeeze 5% of Extroversion
I used to hate myself because I didn’t have many friends; There was this frustration because I didn’t know how to charm the person next to me; I was never good at small talk.
At some point I was desperate because I can’t change who I am. I can overcome some fears, yes, but I will never be as ‘salesy’ as my brother or easygoing like my mother.
In this book, the author speaks about the ‘rubber band theory’ of personality.
So this means I should not give up and suddenly become a loner. I can make progress and feel more relaxed at social gatherings. With practice and patience, I can overcome my fear of public speaking. I can build meaningful connections with other people. So I can stretch myself, but only so much.
Just as Susan says, Bill Gates will never be Bill Clinton and Bill Clinton will never be Bill Gates.
8. I No Longer Feel Guilty For Leaving The Parties Earlier
I remember the last party I attended (before Corona hit). It was after work (usually I don’t have energy for socializing after 8 hours of stress). This time I said ‘yes, I am coming’. Why? I felt like I was losing the only chance to be integrated among the ‘normal’ ones. So I went. And then it was the birthday party of my friend, and I honestly wanted to be with her on this special day.
As always, I got early there so in the beginning it was ok. And then people came in waves. Unknown faces, loud noises, shouting, music, people talking in the same time…the perfect recipe for a disaster.
So when I felt I was too tired to stay, I told my friend I was sorry, but I needed to leave. She understood, and it was ok. But it was also me who understood! This is who I am. Such a party (especially after work) sucks all the energy. I am not selfish. I am not a people hater. And no, I am not a freak.
For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel miserable for having different needs than others. Needs that don’t include loud music and constant chatter in the background.
That my social anxiety went through the roof on that day it is another story (to tell in a future article).
9. I Realized Shyness Is Not Introversion
Shyness means wanting to connect with people, but you are too scarred of being embarrassed or judged or ridiculed. Introversion is the need of spending more time alone, but it doesn’t imply lack of social skills.
This book gave me a clearer picture of who I am.
So, I am an introvert. I don’t like noisy parties; Reading books and spending time alone, this is what I enjoy. I spend lots of time in my mind, contemplating.
But I am also a shy person, quite close to social anxiety. Sometimes I would like to approach different people, but I am paralyzed by fear. This is something I can work on with a specialist, but I can’t ‘fix’ my introversion.
With professional help, I can overcome fears like asking for a price of an item in a store or making phone calls. Yet, I will continue to be a quiet, reserved person. I may gain confidence about my social skills, but I will never be a bubbly, chatty person.
10. Helped Me Embrace My Introvert Self
The world will never change. The Culture of Personality, as put by Susan Cain, will not go away soon because the era of Social Media requires exposing ourselves. People who sell their personality, who are gregarious and charming and know how to entertain, will always be preferred.
But I don’t have to feel hopeless anymore.
As an introvert, I have my own talents and qualities and I can serve with the same passion and success introverts do. But I will do it more … quietly.
I didn’t know, but my introversion triggered years of anxiety. Not introversion itself, but my lack of understanding. When I was a kid, all I wanted was to stay home and read my books rather than go outside and play like the normal kids would do.
I used to feel inferior and compare constantly with my colleagues at school and work. There were many hours of crying because I wasn’t like ‘them’, the popular ones. Small talk was a lost game, and my ideas once propagated fell into thin air. It hurt because I felt invisible and worthless.
Then I tried to force my way into extroversion. I tried to be more social at family weddings and ‘pose’ like a normal young woman. I was dying inside though because I knew it was a facade.
Later on, I joined two students’ associations, but I failed big time. I couldn’t handle the energy of so many young students. During meetings you should show how happy you were there, how vocal you were. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy being there, but I was too tired. There were too many meetings and assignments and felt like it robbed me from my precious me-time.
I thought once school years were over, I would be fine. Little did I know that the ‘real’ world needed a candidate with excellent communication skills, energetic and proactive.
During a training session for my second job, I hit bottom. It was a time where you met your colleagues and socialize between training hours. I did my best to approach my new colleagues. I asked them questions so I can put fuel to those conversations like good pal Dale Carnegie advises. The biggest fear was that people will notice I was lonely and will think ‘Why is she spending so much time alone?’. My biggest fear was to be seen as a freak. I got home and cried a lot because it happened again: I couldn’t connect with people and I ended up hiding myself in a corner.
Quiet Is a Book That Changes Lives
Well, it was my shyness (not the same with introversion) and social anxiety that caused all of this. But I didn’t know much about all of this. I mean, I like to be alone but not lonely. Sometimes I talk for hours with people (when the conversation inspires or motivates me). I like fun things. BUT not in the same dose as extroverts like.
My despair came from not understanding what was happening. I tried to explain to my extrovert mom and brother, but they only thought I was… antisocial.
Then I read this book!
I can’t say it changed my life, and it’s the greatest book of my life.
But it helped me in so many ways and with every page I was reading I was screaming inside ‘YES, that’s it. Exactly.’ or ‘Aha, that is why…’.
I related so much to this book, and I hope it will help you.
Susan Cain is a writer, lecturer, and speaker. Her TED talk has been viewed over 30 millions times, and even Bill Gates named it one of his all-time favorite talks. Her Quiet revolution is continuing years her success with the book and the talk. In a world that can’t stop talking, Susan doesn’t stop either.