November 16, 2014

“Quiet” by Susan Cain will probably go down in my personal history as one of the most pragmatically influential books I’ve read. With this book, Cain has launched a campaign to fight against the prejudice that is so ingrained in our culture that we don’t even recognize it as a prejudice. Extraversion is considered so superior to introversion that the latter is pathologized in our culture. Not only in our corporate culture but even at schools, we are relentlessly pressured to socialize. If a kid would rather read a book by herself in the corner when other kids are playing together, she is considered antisocial. If you would rather go home and listen to music alone instead of going out drinking with your coworkers after work, you are considered antisocial too. But this particular interpretation of socialization is based on extraverts’ style of socializing, and our culture fails to see that introverts have a different way of socializing—it’s not that they hate people. Trying to cure them of their introversion will actually make them ill, like trying to “cure” gay people.

One highly successful introverted salesman interviewed in this book said: “I discovered early on that people don’t buy from me because they understand what I’m selling. They buy because they feel understood.” If you want people to feel understood, you need to listen, not talk. This is one of many advantages of introversion that we overlook in our culture because we so blindly worship extroverts. Introverts are forced to learn the ways of extroverts but most extroverts do not bother learning the ways of introverts because they think extroversion is superior. But when some extroverts do respect and appreciate the ways of introverts, tremendous successes can be achieved like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak did.

The Kindle version of this book is only $2.99. I highly recommend it.