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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking (2013)

ISBN 978-0-307-35215-6

by Susan Cain

–Review by Doug Balzer


Introvert or extrovert personality types and the space in between the extremes are a fascinating experience, as well as a study. How can we measure or define another person’s personality? The most common way is to figure out where a person is positioned on the introvert to extrovert spectrum. As a Pastor and Professor, the conversation about this broad spectrum is important to my personal understanding of the people I minister to and or teach every day. Understanding others is a necessity, especially in the current cultural environment we presently abide within. It is the reason why I recommend Susan Cain’s book Quiet to you. It was recommended by a friend who understands that sometimes my extroverted personality can come across stronger than I imagine, really only at times. So, here we go with a review of Quiet.

Extroverts are positioned more toward the sociable and outgoing side of the spectrum. Extroverts enjoy being surrounded by people and like to interact with others whenever they get the chance. It is not uncommon for extroverts to connect social status through social connections and therefore, are open to a sizeable number of acquaintances. Extroverts are also prone to being exuberant and euphoric. Now that I have done a fair job of describing myself, what does Susan Cain share about Introverts to assist the extrovert to understand and relate to their introverted counterparts?

In comparison, Cain states the introvert personalities have a preference to be in calm situations and like to think long and hard about life and the situations they encounter. They possess a tendency to contemplate experiences and sensory stimuli to help complete a project or activity. While to some degree, introverts do enjoy spending time quietly by themselves, or with a small group of people. There is a tendency to for introverts, in a comfortable setting, to easily talk about personal and social problems. But, it must be amid a trusted environment. Extroverts, I understand, tend to have many and more superficial acquaintances, while, introverts prefer fewer, though deeper, friendships.

Introverts, according to Cain exhibit a characteristic trait that is rarely observed in extroverts: they are highly sensitive to their environment. They process information from their environment in an unusually thorough way. It results in a complex manner of perceiving. Due to this intense processing trait, events may present a noticeable emotional impact on them. Cain points out that their skin seems thin, giving them less protection from the deluge of day-to-day impressions and perceptions. Therefore, many introverts often respond strongly to their environment.

Knowing this about introverts is critical. It helps distinguish between introversion and shyness. There is a difference because shy people are afraid of negative judgments, while introverts, because of their high level of sensitivity actually just prefer quiet environments and limited stimulation.

Why the difference? Cain goes into the reason for the difference; it is cerebral. Yes, you read that correctly. Introverts’ brains show a stronger response to external stimuli. The differences are dramatic. Psychologists and researchers observed how children, infants, respond to stimuli. What they found is due to the sensitivity of the amygdala. It is referred to as the first-place sensory organ in the brain. The amygdala of highly-reactive people is extremely sensitive.

Susan Cain goes into some greater depth concerning the process of what it takes to raise an introverted child. Her perspective is biology and genetics shape our temperament, as well as the experiences we gather over the course of our lives do, too. She places great importance on the environment for an introverted child to thrive in. For example, different cultures value different temperaments. Extroverted behavior is generally preferred to introverted behavior in Europe and America; the exact opposite is the case in Asia.

Part of my goal in reading Quiet was to answer the question of how can I lead both of these temperaments as a Pastor and professor to elicit their cooperation in the mission of Jesus? Cain effectively uses some narratives from the lives of some prominent people to establish it can be done. What I have found is bringing together these temperments is worth the effort, why, because each possesses unique characteristics and qualities. Each possesses unique qualities – qualities they can share with each other and with the church as a whole.

The main message of this book is both introverts and extroverts have qualities that can be extremely valuable to the people in their environment. Both personalities should be given the space they need to realize their potential. Cain answered a lot of my questions concerning working with introverts. What it means for introverts to face the challenges of an extroverted world. Ultimately, it is through cooperation we find our way to bringing out the best in people for the work of the Kingdom of God.

Gain some understanding today. Please, check out Quiet and read it. There is a lot more information that will help you in your journey of dealing with people and our unique makeups.