Quiet in Person: A Night with Susan Cain

She doesn’t look like a superhero, but she is…

I have been blessed in the last two years to find a pair of books that have helped me understand myself tremendously. 2011 was all about learning about, and coming to terms with, my anxiety. 2012 was the year of owning and understanding introversion. Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking was essential in coming to that understanding.

Needless to say, when the opportunity to see Susan at the Harvard Book Store in person presented itself, I knew I had to take advantage of it. A woman at the appearance referred to Quiet as a valentine to the introvert; I’ve previously referred to it as an autobiography that Susan Cain didn’t know she wrote about me. For so many, it has served as a reassurance to fellow introverts that they are neither alone nor abnormal; and for extroverts, it has served as a light to illuminate the plight of their less animated friends.

Although the book was quite informative, I still managed to learn even more from Susan in her brief time speaking. Some of the gems that she shared:

  • In just over 13 months, Quiet has been translated into over 30 languages. Whoa.
  • Prior to Quiet, there was very little language to discuss the effects of introversion on personality; it is now being floated as a legitimate workplace diversity issue.
  • Obama is the only president to schedule downtime between his meetings. It astounds his staff, and is proof that despite being animated and personable, he is also the sort of person who needs to recharge after exerting himself with human interaction. This propensity to need time for himself earned him a reputation for being aloof, and an article from journalist Maureen Dowd accusing him of being introverted (no wonder people think it’s bad!)
  • At first, Cain struggled to tell people about what she was working on because of the stigma that tends to surround introversion. But as she wrote, she became more comfortable and no longer feels self-conscious about identifying as introverts.
  • Speaking of identifying as an introvert, more extroverts are starting to identify themselves as introverts. Why? Cain voiced two reasons: one, the hyper-introverted nature of our society is starting to become too much for even the most extroverted in our world (hence the rising popularity of decompressing activities like yoga and meditation, and asynchronous communication like texting); two, once good qualities such as increased care for people and thoughtfulness started being identified with introversion, it wasn’t as undesirable of a state as previously thought.
  • A tip she gave students to help cope with their introversion in classes that ask for participation: speak first. If you speak first, the pressure to contribute meaningfully dissipates quickly, instructors appreciate you breaking the ice, and fellow students recognize the contribution as a good one. Also, preparing for class helps- there is a tendency to look as though you haven’t prepared for class, but it actually could help reduce the stress and overstimulation that can come from the pressure to contribute.

It was also great to get to ask questions of Susan, and she welcomed dialogue with the audience warmly. I was excited to get to talk to her about bringing her research to higher ed, and how I have designs on making it a dissertation topic. After telling her about some of the research I’m doing with selection processes and introvert friendly practices, she was really excited and urged me to write up some of it for her website. Further, she urged me to send her any publications that came as a result of it. It was really cool to be encouraged by someone who is a well-researched authority on the topic.

All told, my time getting to see and speak briefly with Susan Cain gave me the energy I needed to keep pushing myself to research more, write more, and talk more about introversion in the work I want to do. Thank you Susan for the inspiration, I look forward to doing more with the work that you’ve started 🙂

2 thoughts on “Quiet in Person: A Night with Susan Cain

  1. And thank YOU for posting about this book. I am adding it to my reading list ASAP. I think I'm getting it with my Christmas B&N card rather than putting it toward LotR.

  2. Pingback: Beyond Introversion | The Eternal Student

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