Book notes: Quiet, by Susan Cain

“Why shouldn’t quiet be strong?”

1/3 to 1/2 of adults are introverts 

“Introversion ... is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology.”

“Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, said Jung. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough.”

Introverts work more slowly and deliberately. 

Extroversion is the American cultural ideal.

Dale Carnegie’s first book: “Public Speakng and Influencing Men in Business.”

“Carnegie’s metamorphosis from farmboy to salesman to public-speaking icon is also the story of the rise of the Extrovert Ideal.”

In the culture of character, the ideal self was serious, disciplined, and honorable.”

We moved to a Culture of Personality.

Promotions and social snubs were no longer based on favoritism or family feuds. In the new metropolitan, corporate, post-ag society, so people became salesmen who could sell themselves. 

Consumer advertising also shifted, in the 1920s, to preying upon people’s new fears of social judgement. 

Dating changed, from ceremonial calls on women by men with serious declarations of intention to verbally sophisticated courtships in which men needed to be witty and crafty with their words. 

Men who were too quiet around women risked being though gay. 

Yale president 1950: “...we find the best man is the one who’s had an 80 or 85 average in school and plenty of extracurricular activity. We see little use for the “brilliant” introvert.”

Anti-anxiety meds also surfaced in the 50s and 60s. 

Campaign slogan from 1828: “John Quincy Adams who can write / And Andrew Jackson who can fight.” (The fighter won.)

John Quincy Adams is considered to be one of the few presidential introverts. 

# of Americans who considered themselves shy jumped from 40% in the 70s to 50s in the 90s, probably due to ever-higher standards for fearless self-presentation.

Harvard Business School, whose graduates have outsized influence on American business, is structured completely around extroversion, grades around extroverted actions, and tries to “fix” introverted tendencies, such as not speaking up enough, or studying alone. 

“The business world,” says a 2006 article from the Wharton Program for Working Professionals, “is filled with office environments similar to one described by an Atlanta area corporate trainer: ‘Here everyone knows that it’s important to be an extrovert and troublesome to be an introvert. So people work real hard at looking like extroverts, whether that’s comfortable or not. It’s like making sure you drink the same single-malt scotch the CEO drinks and that you work out at the right health club.’ ”

Business culture tends to follow the highly verbal, and mistakes good presentation skills for true leadership ability. 

Introverts, because of their inclination to listen and lack of interest in dominating social situations, are more likely to hear and implement suggestions. 

Introverts are more likely to express intimate facts about themselves online. Digital is an easier communication form. 

“In Christianity, the evangelical culture ties together faithfulness with extroversion.” - Adam McHugh

Book - “Introverts in the church: finding our place in an extroverted culture.”

Prayer has always been about contemplation and community. 

An aside: Rick Warren suggests CEOs read Jeremiah over and over, because Jeremiah was a genius CEO. 

Evangelicalism takes the extrovert ideal to its logical extreme—we must love Jesus out loud and display our own spiritual connection to the divine publicly. 

Steve Wozniak referred to his period of quiet work at HP — in early, quick dinner at home, then back to work until late at night—as “the biggest high ever.”

Woz says inventors are like artists—and artists work best alone. 

Cain refers to society’s drive to do everything in teams—work, education, religion—as “The New Groupthink.”

Space per employee has fallen from 500 sq feet/employee in the 70s to 200 sq feet in 2010

Introverts tend to attain leadership in theoretical and aesthetic fields. 

Leadership isn’t just a social situation—it also occurs in solitary work where new techniques, philosophies, content, and scientific breakthroughs occur. 

College students who study alone learn more than group studiers. 

Serious study alone is the strongest predictor of skill for tournament-rated chess players. 

“Deliberate Practice” is the key to exceptional achievement and is best conducted alone, because it requires intense concentration, deep motivation, and involves working on the task that’s most challenging to a particular individual. 

Jason Fried, cofounder of 37signals, calls meetings “toxic,” preferring passive collaboration via email, text, etc. 

Alex Osborn, founding partner of BBDO, created brainstorming. It took over corporate culture. But it doesn’t actually work. Forty years of research supports this, but brainstorming continues. 

“The evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups.” - Adrian Furnham 

Online brainstorming is an exception—it works. 

The key to effective workplace collaboration may lie in making it informal (coffee and donut breaks) with a balance and recognition that we also need alone time to knock things out.  

In an experiment, babies who were highly reactive to stimuli (balloon popping, Q-tips swabbed with alcohol) turned out to be the introverts later in life. Introverts are highly sensitive to their environments 

Intro and extroversion are about 40-50% heritable