Book review: Quiet

I am trying something new in my blogging life… Book reviews. We’ll see how it goes I suppose and I’d love to hear from you as I share them to see if they are helpful to you. Oh and I pretty much solely read non-fiction, so that’s what you’ll likely find here.

My thoughts for this doing this are many.
…I love to read. And I love to be able to talk about a book with someone, and most of the time my husband gets to hear all about it – lucky him (don’t ask him if he thinks that’s lucky!).

…I also really appreciate getting book recommendations from others – it’s so much better than pulling a book out of a hat (though that way can be fun too). In turn, I am going to share my recommendations with you.

…As an aspiring children’s book author, I just am really in awe of those who make books for a living – whether the book turns out to be something I like or not, I respect all the hard work that went to the process.

…And if you read about me on my About page, you’ll find that I always have a stack of books by my bedside. More than I can ever get to before they are due back at the library. I figure if you’re out there in blogland ever-so-eagerly awaiting my next book review, I might get to them a bit faster (we’ll see how that plays out).

…I could go on, but the point is for me to get to the book review, so here it begins.



(ok, so I made up this rating system – a score out of FIVE cameras – you know, since I’m a photographer and all…)

Ok, ummmm, hmmm. Well. Those are the things I just said out loud when trying to figure out where to begin. Let me begin by saying I LOVED IT! And not in the “I love pretty much every romantic comedy movie I see, no matter how bad it really is because I love love stories” way (I don’t have high standards for movies I guess).

Starting with the outside – I love the name of this book by Susan Cain: Quiet, the Power of Intoverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. It’s long and wordy, just like I tend to be. And it shows insight before you even open the book. Truthfully, the entirety of this book is so very insightful. Not to mention that author Susan writes with this ease of storytelling that makes you read even scientific information in a way that is simple and easy to digest – AND interesting! She tells stories from historical events and present day – even sharing the cultural shifts that happened in history. Even if I had not learned a ton from this book, her storytelling was fun and engaging to read.

I read this book with many points-of-view in mind… my very introverted husband, my children who may or may not be introverted, myself who sways on the introverted side of the extrovert-introvert spectrum, as a business owner thinking about my clients, and folks in general – people I meet, friends, family – everyone is somewhere on this spectrum and it was fun to think about the people I know and where they seem to fall, what their tendencies are.

Let’s break it down.
We’ll start with reading this with my husband in mind, lucky him (see I told you already he is lucky)…
Oh man, he’s an introvert. I am pretty sure it took him a few months to even talk to me when we first met way back when. I call him the man of few words. I, on the other hand, am almost never without words. So you can imagine, that when he is gone for work during the day and arrives home, I tend to burst with excitement wanting to talk about the million things I thought of during the day that I wanted to share with him, and of course, hear about his day too. And I think I knew this instinctively based on his demeanor when he gets home, but Susan Cain shares that for a highly introverted person, just the act of working and communicating with people all day long can be exhausting and introverts need some down time to recharge before they can really engage fully again. So on a practical note – I need to give him more space, more recharging moments (and then bombard him – haha).

Susan talks about how present day society favors extroverts and how folks are continually trying to help introverts come out of their shell. That if you want to advance in the workplace for example, it helps immensely to be extroverted in your pursuits. I know that on occasion, I’ve prodded him to be more _______ (insert extroverted word here). And while we can’t change where society is at right now, I can choose to be more aware of introverts and what they can and do add. And I now have an even better appreciation for his quiet. And for him.

Now onto being a parent and thinking about my children…
Most importantly, I want to be observant and aware of their introversion/extroversion and embrace and support it. Susan tells heartbreaking stories about children who’s parents seek psychiatric treatment for their children, children who are actually just introverted in an extroverted society, and the emotional stigma that places on a child to grow up thinking there is something wrong with being quiet on the outside. My heart aches even thinking about those children. And though I know I will support my children always, it was really eye-opening to think about watching for the cues my children will inevitably share about how they live in this world. I want to be sure I am always helping them as they are. Susan says “If you’re a teacher, enjoy your gregarious and participatory students. But don’t forget to cultivate the shy, the gentle, the autonomous, the ones with single-minded enthusiasms for chemistry sets or parrot taxonomy or nineteenth-century art.” Exchange teacher/student for parent/child in that sentence and that rings true for us as well.

I also want to help my children be observant to the world of extroverts and introverts and how they are both worthy characteristics. For them to be thoughtful and respectful of those they meet at both ends of the spectrum, without judgement. In chapter eight, Susan talks about “soft power” and the differences of introversion/extroversion by culture. For example, she says “In China, if you’re quiet, you’re seen as being wise. Here [America] people like to speak out. Even if they have an idea, not completely mature yet, people will still speak out.” And it’s fascinating to break it down by culture and explore how that plays into our interactions with each other. And of course, since I hope to foster little world travelers, I want them to be cognizant of those dynamics.

Susan also mentions that part of those cultural differences extends even to the type of people we want to be friends with. Asia is introverted, and US/Europe are extroverted, and she references a study where “Chinese high school students prefer friends who are ‘humble’ and ‘altruistic,’ ‘honest,’ and ‘hard working’ while American high school students seek out the ‘cheerful,’ ‘enthusiastic,’ and ‘sociable.'” I don’t care what culture my children are from – one is not superior to the other, but I hope that they will choose friends with the first set of characteristics. And knowing we live in an extroverted society, I want to really help them see these other values that are more easily lost otherwise.

Reading it for myself…
There was a point in the book that I felt like I was reading about myself. In chapter six, Susan shares the work of psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron on sensitivity and its intimate relationship to introversion. Some of the attributes she named about sensitive people… “sometimes they’re highly empathetic. It’s as if they have thinner boundaries separating them from other people’s emotions and from the tragedies and cruelties of the world. They tend to have unusually strong consciences. They avoid violent movies and TV shows…” Wow, that is me. I have friends that will say “oh, that’s not an Emily movie” when we’re picking something to watch because they know it will be too violent. Or when I cry when others cry, or how the news sometimes upsets me so much I try not to read it often. Or how I prefer to only hear the good news stories. There was more, but since I’m already so long winded, I’ll stop. You’ll have to read chapter seven for the rest of that story.

Reading it as business owner me…
Susan had a great segment of the book about uber-successful introverted folks in business/sales. Being a photographer is part sales, of course. Sales is an art. And one of the stories she shared about a Cutco kitchen products salesman who, as a junior in high school, became one of the top salesmen in his company that year. He was an introverted teenage boy (she called him a ‘socially awkward guy who hid inside the library at lunchtime’) looking to make some money and he made tons. Why, she says? Because he didn’t do a song and dance in a way that didn’t suit him, he listened to his clients and made them feel understood. I wish I could sit in on one of his early sales and hear just how he did that so naturally. But it made me think about how I interact with my clients. Do I listen more than I talk? Do I make sure they feel understood? Business or not, all of us can stand to do that more in our relationships with others. I also loved her section about how collaboration kills creativity and how true creativity comes in moments of private reflection. As someone who creates, I know that I feel most creative when I step away from what everyone else is doing, and do what feels right. Her points on creativity are part of her TED talk (see below) and one of the more well known points she shares in her work.

And thinking of folks in general…
It was funny to read this book and think about people I know. And just appreciate them more. Introversion/extroversion is only one part of a person but it’s a wonderful new way to try to understand them. And since I’m always trying to understand people, I just had a ball thinking of people in this context.

Susan Cain did a very popular TED talk on this very topic and while the TED talk was really engaging, the book is waaaayyyyyyy better! So here’s the talk if you want to watch it, but I would highly recommend the book to everyone. It was such a great peek into learning more about people and what makes them tick – introverts and extroverts.

And I love this quote from the conclusion:

Everyone! I truly believe everyone could gain insight from this great book.

And if you’ve made it this far (whoa, I am long-winded but it’s only because I loved the book so much), I figured I’d share a few of my instagrams from when I was reading this book. My oldest daughter was impressed I read a ‘big’ book and was checking it all out. And there were a few times we had snuggled-up book reading time together. And once or twice I even read a bit aloud to them… Susan (as though you are reading this), you’ll be happy to know that a two month old now knows about your fabulous book!

Cheers to books!

PS – I’d love to hear what you think if you’ve read it too, or just what you thought about my review! Did I persuade you to go check it out at the library?