Bar News - September 16, 2015
Book Review: A Lawyer’s In-Depth Analysis of Introverts and Extroverts
By: Review by Kathleen Fortin
Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
By Susan Cain
Broadway Books, 2012
Paperback, 252 pages
Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Jung’s study of introverts and extroverts is the thesis for Susan Cain’s spotlight on these two distinct personality types. Her book, Quiet, is a New York Times Bestseller. Cain, an introvert turned lawyer, turned internationally known author, has created a buzz about the quiet power of introverts. Her 2012 Ted Talk has received 11 million views.
Cain’s book opens with a comparison of two US historical figures, Rosa Parks and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Rosa Parks was a quiet woman who became extraordinarily extroverted when faced with a specific circumstance. In quietly refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery Alabama public bus, she sent shockwaves throughout the country. King, who was an extrovert and an activist, used Rosa Parks’ example to protest civil rights abuses. Both went down in history as symbols of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.
Cain offers other examples of introverts, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, Eleanor Roosevelt and Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland. Even though Cain’s title might suggest that her book is about introverts only, it equally addresses extroverts. Perhaps her best example of an extrovert is the guru of self-help for success-seekers Tony Robbins, who is known for his charismatic personality.
So, what does this comparing of well-known introverts and extroverts mean? Cain’s message is to recognize that our culture has been based on “The Extrovert Ideal.” She tells us that the creation of this “Ideal” goes back to Dale Carnegie and his famous institute, books, and teachings in How to Win Friends and Influence People. The ability to self-promote shined a spotlight on extrovert abilities, creating a culture in which it was believed that one had to be extroverted to succeed in life.
Cain follows this standard to present day, where Harvard and Stanford Business School students are taught that success requires gregariousness. Where does this leave introverts? The short answer is, introverts excel and achieve equally as much success, yet do so differently. Another insight she offers is that introverts can become extroverted, when necessary, like Rosa Parks.
Cain covers a lot of ground, all of which makes for interesting and engaging reading. An informal quiz of 20 questions, requiring true or false answers, is designed to give an idea about where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. Characteristics include being soft-spoken, enjoying solitude and preferring one-on-one conversations to group activities.
The author focuses on how the characteristics of the two personality groups differ in today’s workplace. The popular “group brainstorming,” for instance, does not favor those who work best in solitude, which allows them to intensely focus on the matter at hand. She cites early pioneers of computers, including Stephen Wozniak, the builder of the first PC, as introverts, working alone in their home offices or garages.
In the chapter “Why Did Warren Buffet Prosper?” one expert makes a fascinating observation; the 2008 global financial crisis was the result of high-powered “reward-seeking,” aggressive extroverts. Working alongside them were “low-reward-seeking” introverts, who raised the flags of caution, to no avail.
In 1999, when speculative investing in dot-com companies was at a fever pitch, Buffett (a self-described introvert) warned the bubble would burst. At the time, he was accused of missing the boat. According to the author, Buffett avoided the risks others were taking, due to certain attributes that are characteristic of introverts: “intellectual persistence, prudent thinking, and the ability to see and act on warning signs.” The obvious suggestion is that actions like his can be advantageous to us all. As we observe the present political climate, reading Cain’s book gives us much to consider.
Finally, Cain appeals to parents of introverted children. Sometimes seen as sensitive, odd or different, these children need nurturing of their softer sides. She urges that parents should not force them to be something they are not, but rather embrace the value of a child who happens to be “quiet.”
Kathy Fortin is a law firm consultant with Arthur G. Greene Consulting. She is also a nonfiction writer of articles, essays and book reviews. She can be reached at email@example.com.