Book | Susan Cain – Quiet

Our lives are driven by a fact that most of us can’t name and don’t understand. It defines who our friends and lovers are, which careers we choose, and whether we blush when we’re embarrassed.

That fact is whether we’re an introvert or an extrovert.

The introvert/extrovert divide is the most fundamental dimension of personality. And at least a third of us are on the introverted side. Without introverts we wouldn’t have the Apple computer, the theory of relativity or Van Gogh’s sunflowers. Yet recently extroverts have taken over. Sensitivity and seriousness are seen as undesirable.

In the international bestseller Quiet, Susan Cain shows how the brain chemistry of introverts and extroverts differs, and how society undervalues introverts. She gives introverts the tools to take full advantage of their strengths.

Passionately argued, superbly researched and filled with real stories, Quiet will permanently change how you see yourself.


 Contents

INTRODUCTION: The North and South of Temperament

PART ONE: THE EXTROVERT IDEAL

1. THE RISE OF THE “MIGHTY LIKEABLE FELLOW”: How Extroversion Became the Cultural Ideal

2. THE MYTH OF CHARISMATIC LEADERSHIP: The Culture of Personality, a Hundred Years Later

3. WHEN COLLABORATION KILLS CREATIVITY: The Rise of the New Groupthink and the Power of Working Alone

PART TWO: YOUR BIOLOGY, YOUR SELF?

4. IS TEMPERAMENT DESTINY?: Nature, Nurture, and the Orchid Hypothesis

5. BEYOND TEMPERAMENT: The Role of Free Will (and the Secret of Public Speaking for Introverts)

6. “FRANKLIN WAS A POLITICIAN, BUT ELEANOR SPOKE OUT OF CONSCIENCE”: Why Cool Is Overrated

7. WHY DID WALL STREET CRASH AND WARREN BUFFETT PROSPER?: How Introverts and Extroverts Think (and Process Dopamine) Differently

PART THREE: DO ALL CULTURES HAVE AN EXTROVERT IDEAL?

8. SOFT POWER: Asian-Americans and the Extrovert Ideal

PART FOUR: HOW TO LOVE, HOW TO WORK

9. WHEN SHOULD YOU ACT MORE EXTROVERTED THAN YOU REALLY ARE?

10. THE COMMUNICATION GAP: How to Talk to Members of the Opposite Type

11. ON COBBLERS AND GENERALS: How to Cultivate Quiet Kids in a World That Can’t Hear Them

CONCLUSION: Wonderland


Here are my favorite lines from the book:

  • (…) in 1921 the influential psychologist Carl Jung had published a bombshell of a book, Psychological Types, popularizing the terms introvert and extrovert as the central building blocks of personality. Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, said Jung, extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough.
  • “Among the most effective leaders I have encountered and worked with in half a century,” the management guru Peter Drucker has written, “some locked themselves into their office and others were ultra-gregarious. Some were quick and impulsive, while others studied the situation and took forever to come to a decision. … The one and only personality trait the effective ones I have encountered did have in common was something they did not have: they had little or no ‘charisma’ and little use either for the term or what it signifies.”
  • But when [management theorist Jim Collins] analyzed what the highest-performing companies had in common, the nature of their CEOs jumped out at him. Every single one of them was led by an unassuming man like Darwin Smith. Those who worked with these leaders tended to describe them with the following words: quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated.
  • [Wharton management professor Adam Grant] had a theory about which kinds of circumstances would call for introverted leadership. His hypothesis was that extroverted leaders enhance group performance when employees are passive, but that introverted leaders are more effective with proactive employees.
  • “Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me – they’re shy and they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone where they can control an invention’s design without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other committee. I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has been invented by committee. If you’re that rare engineer who’s an inventor and also an artist, I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone. You’re going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you’re working on your own. Not on a committee. Not in a team.” – [Stephen Wozniak]
  • What’s so magical about solitude? In many fields, [research psychologist Anders Ericsson] told me, it’s only when you’re alone that you can engage in Deliberate Practice, which he has identified as the key to exceptional achievement. When you practice deliberately, you identify the tasks or knowledge that are just out of your reach, strive to upgrade your performance, monitor your progress, and revise accordingly. Practice sessions that fall short of this standard are not only less useful – they’re counterproductive. They reinforce existing cognitive mechanisms instead of improving them.
  • Indeed, excessive stimulation seems to impede learning: a recent study found that people learn better after a quiet stroll through the woods than after a noisy walk down a city street. Another study, of 38,000 knowledge workers across different sectors, found that the simple act of being interrupted is one of the biggest barriers to productivity.
  • (…) Since then, some forty years of research has reached the same startling conclusion. Studies have shown that performance gets worse as groupsize increases: groups of nine generate fewer and poorer ideas compared to groups of six, which do worse than groups of four.
  • Psychologists often discuss the difference between “temperament” and “personality”. Temperament refers to inborn, biologically based behavioral and emotional patterns that are observable in infancy and early childhood; personality is the complex brew that emerges after cultural influence and personal experience are thrown into the mix. Some say that temperament is the foundation, and personality is the building.
  • For several decades, beginning in the late 1960s, an influential research psychologist named Hans Eysenck hypothesized that human beings seek “just right” levels of stimulation – not too much and not too little. Stimulation is the amoung of imput we have coming in from the outside world. It can take any number of forms, from noise to social life to flashing lights. Eysenck believed that extroverts prefer more stimulation than introverts do, and that this explained many of their differences: introverts enjoy shutting the doors to their offices and plunging into their work, because for them this sort of quiet intellectual activity is optimally stimulating, while extroverts funtion best when engaged in higher-wattage activites like organizing team-building workshops or chairing meetings.
  • Extroverts tend to experience more pleasure and escitement than introverts do – emotions that are activated, explains the psychologist Daniel Nettle in his illuminating book on personality, “in response to the pursuit or capture of some resource that is valued. Excitement builds towards the anticipated capture of that resource. Joy follows its capture.”
  • Persistence isn’t very glamorous. If genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration, then as a culture we tend to lionize the one percent. We love its flash and dazzle. But great power lies in the other ninety-nine percent. “It’s not that I’m so smart,” said Einstein, who was a consummate introvert. “It’s that I stay with problems longer.”
  • [Warren] Buffett takes pride not only in his track record, but also in following his own “inner scorecard”. He divides the world into people who focus on their own instincts and those who follow the herd. “I feel like I’m on my back,” says Buffett about his life as an investor, “and there’s the Sistine Chapel, and I’m painting away. I like it when people say, ‘Gee, that’s a pretty good-looking painting.’ But it’s my painting, and when somebody says, ‘Why don’t you use more red instead of blue?’ Good-bye. It’s my painting. And I don’t care what they sell it for. The painting itself will never be finished. That’s one of the great things about it.”
  • I have found that there are three key steps to identifying your own core personal projects.

First, think back to what you loved to do when you were a child. How did you answer the question of what you wanted to be when you grew up? The specific answer you gave may have been off the mark, but the underlying impulse was not. If you wanted to be a fireman, what did a fireman mean to you? A good man who rescued people in distress? A daredevil? Or the simple pleasure of operating a truck? If you wanted to be a dancer, was it because you got to wear a costume, or because you craved applause, or was it the pure joy of twirling around at lightning speed? You may have known more about who you were then than you do now.

Second, pay attention to the work you gravitate to. At my law firm I never once volunteered to take on an extra corporate legal assignment, but I did spend a lot of time doing pro bono work for a nonprofit women’s leadership organization. I also sat on several law firm committees dedicated to mentoring, training, and personal development for young lawyers in the firm. Now, as you can probably tell from this book, I am not the committee type. But the goals of those committees lit me up, so that’s what I did.

Finally, pay attention to what you envy. Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth. You mostly envy those who have what you desire. (…)

  • “Emotional labor,” which is the effort we make to control and change our own emotions, is associated with stress, burnout, and even physical symptoms like an increase in cardiovascular disease. Professor Little believes that prolonged acting out of character may also increase autonomic nervous system activity, which can, in turn, compromise immune functioning.
  • “I discovered early on that people don’t buy from me because they understand what I’m selling,” explains Jon [Berghoff]. “They buy because they feel understood. (…) I believe that’s what makes someone really good at selling or consulting – the number-one thing is they’ve got to really listen well. When I look at the top salespeople in my organization, none of those extroverted qualities are key to their success.”
  • (…) true self-esteem comes from competence, not the other way around. Researchers have found that intense engagement in and commitment to an activity is a proven route to happiness and well-being.

This book is about introversion as seen from a cultural point of view. Its primary concern is the age-old dichotomy between the “man of action” and the “man of contemplation,” and how we could improve the world if only there were a greater balance of power between the two types. It focuses on the person who recognizes him- or herself somewhere in the following constellation of attributes: reflective, cerebral, bookish, unassuming, sensitive, thoughtful, serious, contemplative, subtle, introspective, inner-directed, gentle, calm, modest, solitude-seeking, shy, risk-adverse, thin-skinned. Quiet is also about this person’s opposite number: the “man of action” who is ebullient, expansive, sociable, gregarious, excitable, dominant, assertive, active, risk-taking, thick-skinned, outer-directed, lighthearted, bold, and comfortable in the spotlight. These are broad categories of course. Few individuals identify fully with only one or the other. But most of us recognize these types immediately, because they play meaningful roles in our culture.


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