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Book Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

Quiet
The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
Susan Cain
Crown Publishers 01/12 Hardcover $26.00
ISBN: 9780307352149


Although the ideal in America today is an extrovert who is "gregarious, alpha and comfortable in the spotlight, nearly half of the citizens in this country are introverts who are cerebral, quiet, emotionally complex, and very sensitive." These are the views of Susan Cain, a former Wall Street Attorney, who has spent five years researching the positive and negative sides to being shy and introverted. Here are some of the famous introverts in history: Vincent Van Gogh, Frederic Chopin, Mahatma Gandhi, Al Gore, Eleanor Roosevelt, J. K. Rowling, Steven Spielberg, and Steve Wozniak.

How we got to the present scene has been orchestrated by the shift from an emphasis on character (duty, work, morals, manners) to the cult of personality (magnetic, attractive, dominant, energetic). To illustrate the extrovert philosophy, Cain profiles self-help guru Tony Robbins and visits Dale Carnegie's birthplace, Harvard Business School, and an Evangelical Megachurch.

The author has coined the term "Groupthink" to describe a new emphasis in business, schools, and even churches to emphasize small group activity over individuality, collaboration over singular effort, and brainstorming over reading. In all of this, introverts are under-valued and extroverts over-prized. Cain adds more to her fuel to the fire with chapters on the psychology of temperament and a cross-cultural look at Western cultures where the individual is adored and in Eastern cultures where the group is enshrined.

Anais Nin is quoted in the book as saying: "Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again." Cain makes a good case for a greater recognition in our society for quiet leadership, the creative milieu of solitude, and the need to honor the character qualities of thoughtfulness, sensitivity, and gentleness. Long live the introverts of the world!

 

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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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