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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
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101 of 104 people found the following review helpful
Throughout most of her book, Susan Cain takes a balanced approach to the immensely difficult task of examining the advantages and disadvantages of being primarily an introvert as well as those of being primarily an extrovert. I use the term 'primarily' in the context of culture as well as one's temperament, personality, preferences, tendencies, and (yes) volition. 'If given a choice'' is a helpful phrase. Some people dread being the center of attention whereas the behavior of others indicates a pathological need for it. Not all introverts are shy and reluctant, however, and not all extroverts are bombastic and impulsive. Moreover, expediency can also come into play. As Walt Whitman affirms in 'Song of Myself,' each person is 'large''and contains 'multitudes.'

When writing her book, Cain was guided and informed by research in social science (e.g. Carl Jung, Jerome Kagan, Elaine Aron, C.A. Valentine, David Winter) supplemented by what she had learned from her own observations. She examines the inadequacies of several concepts such as charismatic leadership, the New Groupthink, the "Extrovert Ideal" (i.e. "the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight"), being or at least seeming "cool," collaborative innovation, and being a more "assertive" student in the classroom. Historians' accounts and media coverage must share at least some of the blame for widespread but remarkably durable misconceptions about eminent persons such as Warren Buffett, Dale Carnegie, Albert Einstein, Mohandas Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Steven Spielberg, and Steve Wozniak. However great their impact on others may be, all are (or were) essentially introverted. What else do they share in common? They are renowned for being thoughtful, indeed reflective, tending to take more time than others do to make sound decisions and to reach correct conclusions.

Ironically, Carnegie is among the pioneers of self-help programs that emphasize "winning friends and influencing people," the title of a book first published in 1936 that continues to be a bestseller. According to Cain, Carnagey (who later changed his name "likely to evoke Andrew Carnegie, the great industrialist") was a good-natured but insecure high school student. He was skinny, unathletic, and fretful. His subsequent career from farmboy to salesman to public- speaking icon demonstrates a shift in America "from what influential cultural historian Warren Susman called a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality - and opened up a Pandora's Box of personal anxieties from which we would never quite recover."

By the end of the book, Cain seems to include in the introvert category almost anyone who is "reflective, cerebral, bookish, unassuming, sensitive, thoughtful, serious, contemplative, subtle, introspective, inner-directed, gentle, calm, modest, solitude-seeking, shy, risk-averse, thin-skinned." Surely many (most?) of those who are extroverts also demonstrate one (if not several) of these attributes, at least occasionally. How would she categorize, for example, Richard Feynman?

The much more important point, in my opinion, is that assigning a label such as introvert or extrovert to someone denies the human complexity to which Whitman referred. Obviously, some people are more or less introverted or extroverted than others. It's also obvious, that some situations (usually in a social context) require outgoing behavior whereas other situations (usually in an intellectual or spiritual context) require solitude, tranquility, perhaps even isolation.

For me, some of Cain's most valuable material is provided in Chapter 11, "On Cobblers and Generals" (especially pages 250-258) when she discusses the implications and consequences of many (most?) schools that are designed for extroverts. "The purpose of school should be to prepare kids for the rest of their lives, but too often what kids need to be prepared for is surviving the school day itself." She goes on to observe, "The school environment can be highly unnatural, especially from the perspective of an introverted child who loves to work intensely on projects he cares about, and hang out with one or two friends at a time." Cain offers several key points for teachers to consider (e.g. "Teach all kids to work independently"), followed by several key points for parents to consider if they able to select a school (e.g. one that hires and supports teachers "who seem to understand the shy/serious/introverted/sensitive temperament"). I agree with Cain that appearance is not reality...but the fact remains, that the misconceptions she repudiates in her book are no less "real" because they are wrong, nor are the "personal anxieties from which we would never quite recover."
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2012
As a young introvert, I have long wondered about myself. Why is it that I don't LOVE going to bars and clubs when all my friends have such a great time? Why is it that I am comfortable spending a weekend in the comfort of my own home with a good book, when everyone else seems to want to have a loud dinner and hang out?

The book is well-written and engaging from beginning to end. The information is relevant and applicable. The information is presented in a highly readable (and not overly academic) manner. Through reading it, I've gained insight into who I am and why I should accept my personality and all its idiosyncrasies.

I consider myself blessed to have read Ms. Cain's book. I would recommend this book to not just fellow introverts, but to extroverts as well. Everyone benefits from understanding introverts a little bit more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 2013
The sub-title of the book intrigued me because, as an introvert, I feel that so many people talk without really saying anything and yet they seem compelled to talk. I worked in an open space office for some years and the constant chatter almost drove me crazy. I would go home some nights very stressed. There was no way to shut it out. All my life I have never been able to talk just for the sake of talking or to fill empty air, yet I felt uncomfortable letting silence fall so I tried and it taxed my energy - I did not enjoy doing that. At some point, I decided that I wasn't going to do that anymore. There is nothing wrong with being silent but the rest of the world seems to expect constant talk, ironically called 'conversation'. It was hard at first, but I learned to be very comfortable with it. I came to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with being an introvert! I am articulate and am not hesitant to speak out with my thoughts and opinions when it's meaningful and I'm in an interesting conversation with someone or with a small group of people because we are all contributing to a real conversation.

What this book does is to validate those introverts - myself included - that have been made to feel that there is something 'wrong' with them when they sit quietly in a group that is chattering madly. There is nothing 'wrong' with being an introvert - it's just a different way of relating to people and to the world in general. I think we do think 'deep' thoughts and we are interested in many subjects and want to learn about them in depth. We definitely do have a certain 'power' that extroverts don't have. And yet the world needs both kinds of people. So if you are an introvert and have felt alone in this classification, fear not. You are not alone and you are powerful. Value the strengths you have and don't feel compelled to join in when you don't want to.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2012
The book "Quiet" makes for an interesting read. The author, Susan Cain, goes to great lengths to remind us that perhaps we ought to take a second look at how we evaluate others, and ourselves. And she makes a strong and eloquent case for honoring the significant contributions of those who are introverts by nature. And the book, very much like the thesis it outlines, will likely take its place on our shelves like the quiet people she advocates for. But also, like those people,( Rosa Parks, Leonardo,and Michelangelo ), her book will seep into our collective thinking like the water which seeps unnoticed into our soil to cool and nourish the roots. And with time, thanks to her tender message, our views about the complicated business of dealing with who we are, will be a little more refined. What can we say about such an author? How about this. Thank you :)
Paul
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2012
I found this book to be very timely and it will help evaluate my own career and personal development. I totally related to the feelings and experiences articulated by the author. I agree that there is a systematic (likely unconscious) bias against individualism - starting in the school system and carrying over into office environments I have worked in. Of course most of us adapt to these 'rules' without much trouble, however it is very nice to know that there is nothing 'wrong' with my personality. It was very interesting to find out how our natures don't always conform to the 'ideals' of current society, and the historical 'personality' transformation that N. America underwent around the early 1900s. I've never felt comfortable around salesmen, sales pitches, assertions without solid foundation, or public speaking. I now have some fact based explanations for why I feel sensitive and often over-think. Among all the useful knowledge in the book, I think the main message I'm taking away is that it's OK to be YOUrself.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2013
A great read not only for the quiet thinker but also for us screaming extroverts. As a team leader I gained a better understanding of my quiet team members and will use this to information to lead not only them but all team members better.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2013
Easy to read, entertaining and, overall, very very well done. This book should be mandatory for anyone who has to deal with introverts, and for introverts who are looking for an insight on their personality. Definitely a must read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2013
This is one of the most important works of non-fiction published this in the last century. At times I almost wept when I came to understand that it's ok to be an introvert. I finally understand and accept myself. There is not something wrong with me. I wish i had read this twenty years ago. it would have saved me a lot of heartache and helped me make better choices.

I wish I could force every educator to read this. Not everything needs to be group work!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2012
This book should be required reading for all high school kids because it nicely summarizes and expands on the core difference in personalities, namely introverts versus extroverts. If everyone read this book, there'd be more peace and understanding, and goodwill between man (and woman). While introverts will naturally look this book, extroverts would do well to buy to help understand themselves and why extroversion-worship isn't all that it's cracked up to be.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2013
After seeing Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain at a local bookstore, my dad bought it for me. Having maxed out on the introvert score on the Myers Brigg personality test (a test that assesses your personality type) he thought it would be good for me to understand what being an introvert really means so that I could understand myself a bit more.

I went from thinking being an introvert meant you would go nowhere in life to realizing that maybe it is a good thing after all. Susan Cain admits that she is an introvert, which really helps prove her point, and adds a personal touch to everything she says. For example, she is a powerful individual, who speaks regularly and has presented a must-see TED Talk (on introverts). With all of this in mind, it is hard to believe that she is an introvert as she is doing some of the things it is said introverts are unable to do.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Even if it is a slow read, packed with facts and scientific studies, it is still a must-read. Even if you are like me, and do not usually enjoy books based on studies, this will surely change your opinion. This book can be life changing if you are an introvert or have a close relationship with one. It is not only introverts who will find pleasure and benefit in reading it. Extroverts can learn about their introvert friends, family members, and co-workers, helping make their relationships stronger.

This book is one that has had a great impact on my life. It changed how I thought about myself and others. It also allowed me to see some of the things I used to see as imperfections in a new light. After reading this book, I felt like a different person, filled with newfound confidence in myself. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone, especially the introverts in the crowd. I hope that, like it was for me, reading this book will be one of those important defining moments in your life.
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