This book demonstrates how introverted people are misunderstood and undervalued in modern culture, charting the rise of extrovert ideology while sharing anecdotal examples of how to use introvert talents to adapt to various situations. At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled "quiet," it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society, from van Gogh's sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer. Filled with indelible stories of real people, this book shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie's birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, the author charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects. She talks to Asian-American students who feel alienated from the brash, backslapping atmosphere of American schools. She questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. And she draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the differences between extroverts and introverts. She introduces us to successful introverts, from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Finally, she offers advice on everything from how to better negotiate differences in introvert-extrovert relationships to how to empower an introverted child to when it makes sense to be a "pretend extrovert." This book has the ability to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how introverts see themselves.
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The bulk of this book was less personally relevant to me than I was expecting, since in my adult life I've consistently gravitated towards environments where my own introversion is much more the norm than it is in the world of business and law that is Cain's primary focus. But I can tell that her points on the subject are important and well-made, and I appreciate the way that she bases them in actual scientific research and takes the time to carefully explain the psychological details. I also appreciated the last two chapters, in which she offers some practical and fairly insightful advice on dealing with relationships between introverts and extroverts, and on parenting introverted kids. I'm not a parent, myself, but I was a painfully unsocial kid, and I wish the adults in my life had read something like this back then. In fact, while this is almost certain to appeal primarily to introverts, I rather hope that extroverts will read it, especially corporate leaders, teachers, and anyone else who has to deal with introverts on a day-to-day basis.
The book offers some good information; Cain has done a fair job of setting out many of the issues that affect introversion/extroversion--"Is Temperament Destiny" and "Beyond Temperament" are two good example chapters. However, anyone picking up this book and expecting an anecdote-filled, easy, self-help read will be disappointed. One of the blurbs on the back of the book is from Naomi Wolfe (The Beauty Myth) who calls the book a "readable page-turner." That's pretty much exactly what I wouldn't call this book. I received this book in December, and I gave myself until the end of January to finish it. I didn't make it. I think looking at a long upcoming chapter titled "When Should You Act More Extroverted?" was what ultimately did me in. Maybe if I were younger I would feel a need to "act" more extroverted and would want some tips on when I should do that, but after a lifetime of living with my introverted self, and frankly being just fine with that, a chapter with tips about acting is simply off-putting.
I also didn't particularly appreciate her insertion of politics into the book. What was the point of that? Frankly, she pretty much lost me with her "sensitive" introvert Al Gore and global warming example.
Who is the audience for this book? I can't speak for Ms. Cain, but I think that if you're an extrovert who wants to go beyond the "shy" stereotype in understanding what it means to be an introvert, then probably you would find this book helpful. If you're an introvert (or think you are) and haven't yet read anything that's been published about what it means to be introverted, and you want to read such things, then this is not the book I would recommend, at least not as a place to start.
I was truly captivated by Susan Cain's forthcoming nonfiction book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. In this fascinating tome, Cain synthesizes the results of scientific studies, interviews, and personal experience to explain the
Society in most of the contemporary Western world is a "Culture of Personality" that values the "Extrovert Ideal", that is, the notion that traits like magnetism, personability, attractiveness, boldness, and energy are more favorable than attributes like integrity, honor, reputation, duty, and work. The latter are the buzz words of the "Culture of Character" that existed in the United States before the rise of industry:
"In the Culture of Character, the ideal self was serious, disciplined, and honorable. What counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved... But when they embraced the Culture of Personality, Americans started to focus on how others perceived them. They became captivated by people who were bold and entertaining" (pg. 21).
Cultural historian Warren Susman attributes this shift to the rise of industry in the United States. As people moved from their agricultural communities where they were "interacting with people they'd known since childhood" to crowded cities full of strangers, they struggled with how to make a good impression on people who didn't know and respect their father, grandfather, great-grandfather, etc. "Americans responded to these pressures by trying to become salesmen who could sell not only their company's latest gizmo but also themselves" (pg. 22).
And so began the admiration of boldness, loudness, and general extroversion over quiet introversion. Nowadays, words like "shy", "introvert", even "alone" have negative connotations. A child who is shy in class needs to "overcome" this "weakness" because reality is that it's difficult to be successful at anything anymore without at least a semblance of extroversion. In the business world "verbal fluency and sociability are the single most important predictors of success, according to a Stanford Business School Study" (pg. 48), and people presume that "leaders should be vocal" (pg. 51) because, after all, "we perceive talkers as smarter than quiet ones" (pg. 51).
"Yet today we make room for a remarkably narrow range of personality styles. We're told that to be great is to be bold, to be happy is to be sociable. We see ourselves as a nation of extroverts - which means that we've lost sight of who we really are. Depending on which study you consult, one third to one half of Americans are introverts - in other words, one out of every two or three people you know" (pg. 4).
Cain's book is more than a discussion on introversion; it's a discussion about education, business, politics, parenting, leadership, psychology, economics, marriage, communication, religion, neuroscience, and much more. It's amazing how many areas of everday life the introvert/extrovert dynamic informs. This book is well worth reading because
- It's well-researched. Cain shares results from real studies, examples from history, etc.
- It's interesting. Quiet is no endless litany of facts and jargon; Cain makes the "dry facts" come alive and intersperses them with personal stories and anecdotes.
- Even if you're not an introvert, "you are surely raising, managing, married to, or coupled with one" (pg. 4).
To give you an idea of some of the points Cain addresses, here is her "Manifesto for Introverts":
1. There's a word for "people who are in their heads too much": thinkers.
2. Our culture admires risk-takers, but we need our "heed-takers" more than ever.
3. Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.
4. The next generation of quiet kids can and must be raised to know their own strengths.
5. Sometimes it helps to be a pretend extrovert. There's always time to be quiet later.
6. But in the long run, staying true to your temperament is the key to finding work you love and work that matters.
7. Everyone shines, given the right lighting. For some, it's a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.
8. One genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards.
9. It's okay to cross the street to avoid making small talk.
10. "Quiet leadership" is not an oxymoron.
11. Love is essential, gregariousness is optional.
12. "In a gentle way, you can shake the world." - Mahatma Gandhi
I truly enjoyed reading Quiet. I learned a lot and got to know myself better. I now understand why I hate small talk and feel exhausted after a particularly people-filled day. It's all in the science of introversion.
Unfortunately I think Ms Cain is preaching to the converted and the organisational world will
We had a feminist revolt but I don't think there will be an introvert one.
We'll just have to continue looking for the niche where we can earn enough to live on without being driven crazy by the daft demands of organizations.
These are some of the words that might come to mind when the average person thinks about introverts. Most of us think of them as immersed in their own worlds, unable to cope with social situations, and less likely to contribute ideas and innovation compared to their
Susan Cain's "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" seeks to explode these myths about introverts by examining the overlooked gifts that they bring to the office, the classroom, and society at large while understanding the underlying science behind introversion.
The book is composed of four parts. In the first, Cain begins, not with neuroscience or psychology, but culture. Specifically, she explores how modern western society came to embrace the "extrovert ideal." This ideal embraces the outspoken, the fearless, and the gregarious over and above the quiet, the timid, and the intimate. Yet, as studies have shown, it is the gifts of introverts that actually lead to greater creativity and productivity in the workplace.
In the second part Cain explores the biology of introversion, highlighting research demonstrating that introverts actually process sensory input differently from extroverts. She also talks with experts researching the interaction between a person's genetic makeup and environmental factors that may influence their temperament.
The third part explores extroversion and introversion in other cultures, while the fourth gives concrete strategies for introverts and extroverts for dealing with the differences between the two. This includes chapters on how parents and educators can help introverted children discover and nurture their particular gifts.
Cain includes an impressive amount of interviews and anecdotes which serve to illustrate the research and studies she discusses. Cain talks with Harvard business students, an evangelical pastor, children, a beloved psychology professor, and others. These help to flesh out some of the drier academic content and put real human faces to the struggles introverts overcome.
If you have an introvert in your life you want to understand better -- or if you are an introvert and want some strategies for living in an extrovert's world -- "Quiet" is the book for you.
Disclaimer: I recieved a free advance reader's copy of this book from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.
Much of what Cain describes resonated with this introvert reader, showing me "myself" from the outside, sometimes to a surprising amount. She covers the questions of how to encourage your introvert kids and when to let them be, and how much and when to push yourself as an introvert adult. For example, if an introvert is in a career that necessitates them acting extroverted all the time with no time to recharge, they are going to burn themselves out. But if they can balance their time, and if the reasons they are taking on an extroverted role is for a purpose that resonates with them, then that should be fine.
Sometimes books about introverts can make extroverts look like the dominant boorish counterpart. I appreciated that Cain does not paint with too broad a brush. She talks about the benefits and troubles that both types have, and what they can learn from each other.
This book is clear, readable, and has discussable examples, and I am looking forward to sharing this book with all my fellow introverts (and the extroverts who love them) and their coworkers, and especially parents of introvert/shy/sensitive kids.
So Cain summarizes her experience as an introvert among
Her book is part history, documenting America’s move from the farm to the city and from an introverted “culture of character,” intelligence and creativity to an extroverted “culture of personality.” It’s part biology and psychology, exploring genes and environment toward a thesis that the amygdalas of introverts’ brains make them threat-avoidant while extroverts’ make them reward-seeking: “introverts like people they meet in friendly contexts; extroverts prefer those they compete with.” And it’s part how-to, with tactics to better involve introverts in the workplace, tips for parents raising introverts, and rehab (my word) for “expatriated” adults (“[T]hink back to what you loved to do when you were a child […] pay attention to the work you gravitate to [...and] what you envy”).
Written accessibly and for a wide audience, the book will be revelatory to extroverts who are confounded by quiet people. And for quiet people (like me, also formerly a workplace expat), the book feels like coming home.
(Review based on an advance reading copy provided by the publisher.)
I appreciate the author's drawing attention to a topic that is probably underattended. I also found some of the anecdotes and alleged statistics interesting.
However, I was repeatedly bothered by what sounded to me like faulty logic
I was also irritated by what struck me as a preachy or moralizing tone in a number of places, and I found the chapter about parenting and teaching introverted youngsters especially hard to swallow. For example, a parent is advised to consider whether her child is more comfortable playing with older or younger children and find the child an agreeable, friendly, nurturing play group that meets that criterion. Are the other children not to be regarded as real people? Are they just toys to be supplied and arranged to one child's liking? What if my little retiring flower is too insecure to play with older kids and wants younger playmates, but your younger child doesn't particularly want to be recruited as a manageable plaything for my kid's entertainment?
The most valuable portions of the book, it seems to me, are those that point out how American culture in particular encourages and rewards extroverted behavior in educational, social, and professional settings and how so many have adopted protective coloration as pseudo-extroverts that the introverted population appears to be much smaller than it is. The recognition that some of us are just not well suited to learning groups, team projects, and presentations before audiences is something that I would like to be able to go back and hammer home to my children's teachers and my own workplace managers.
Nonetheless, I have to give the book a low overall rating as shallow, verbose, and scientifically weak. Its greatest effect, in my opinion, has been to raise consciousness of the subject matter; but I think it remains for another author to do it justice.
The four sections of the book are “The Extrovert Ideal”, “Your Biology, Your Self?”, “Do All Cultures Have an Extrovert Ideal?”, and
The author doesn't break any new ground in this book. She just summarizes others' research. The value in the book is in the awareness it fosters and the conversations it stimulates. Introverted readers will realize that they're not alone in their experience of the world. Extroverts will realize that there isn't something “wrong” with introverts; they just process their experiences differently. Cain points out the gorilla in the room and gets readers to pay attention to it.
One of my favorite things about the high-reactivity theory was how Cain related it to our perception of low-reactive people as 'cool'. For a long time I've been trying to figure out exactly what makes something 'cool' (it isn't a term I use, so I wanted to understand what other people meant by it). This is the best explanation I've come across.
With regards to the way the book deals with introversion itself, I find it interesting that in spite of trying to address as many facets of this complex area of psychology as possible, the idea of the 'fiery introvert' never comes up. Repeatedly Cain describes introverts as 'slow', 'gentle', 'softly-spoken', etc. These might be common characteristics of introversion, but while I'm almost a textbook-case introvert in all other respects (especially in that social interaction and stimulation drains my energy while solitude recharges it) this is one thing which I can't relate to. If introverts are often high-reactive, it makes sense IMO that high-reactive introverts will also be fast thinkers/acters and generally 'run' at a higher pace and emotional intensity than low-reactive people, which could well preclude any such traits as slowness and softly-spokenness. Just a thought.
You know what really burns my biscuits? I had a long, insightful handwritten review all ready to post. Then, two weeks ago, I returned Quiet to the library. And where do you think I'd stuck that review for safekeeping? Uh huh. In the dang front flap of the book. Ugh. So now the
Onward to what I remember lovin' about Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking:
* An interesting examination of how our culture has adopted the "Extrovert Ideal."
* I never felt the author was saying, "Introverts are better; therefore, everyone should be an introvert." Instead, throughout the book, there were repeated messages of BALANCE. I really dug that vibe because the world really does need both.
* Tons of research. You could tell the author did her homework and not just for a year or two, but several years of focused research. Plus, there were 45+ pages of source notes.
* The content was structured in an accessible way. Research findings would be introduced and then a real world example would follow which illustrated the thesis of that research.
* Empowerment for introverts! My whole life I'd heard all the comments probably most every introvert has heard: "You think too much;" "You analyze too much;" "Why does your face turn red when you talk to people;" "Why don't you go to more parties or have more friends;" "How can you stand to work at home, be alone, for so long;" and on and on. After reading Quiet, for the first time ever, I embraced those comments, appreciated them. They were just recognizing the person I always knew I was but thought wrong in some way, even though I loved those things about myself (well, except for the blushing).
My only teensy complaint would be I wish there had been more elaboration on raising introverted children and how to enhance/improve relations between introverts and extroverts, especially in personal relationships.
Quiet's definitely on my must-buy list.
Especially valuable to me were the sections pertaining to the work place, including qualities of leadership and physical surroundings. In my workplace I have observed again and again that it is the extroverts who get promoted. With promotion goes added leadership duties. Until I read this book, I assumed that even if I were promoted against all odds that I would make a lousy leader because of my introversion; this book explained how an introvert can be a very effective leader, because and not in spite of personality characteristics. As far as physical surroundings in the office, the author was spot-on about the introvert’s need for a private space and for minimal noise stimulation.
Fortunately, a year ago, I got a private office for the first time in my career, although more than half of the employees in my office have “open plan” workstations. However, I really wish those in my chain of management could read this book, especially the passage, “Some thoughts for teachers: Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured.” A couple annual reviews ago, I got many glowing words regarding the quality, attention to detail, and timeliness of my assigned tasks; however, my manager suggested that I write on my professional development plan to stop always staying in my office, blocking everyone out, and working hard and start walking around to coworkers’ cubicles and visiting with them. I kid you not.
Some points discussed in the book were particularly fascinating to me, such as a genetic basis for the introvert orientation, and being able to tell already in infancy whether children are introverted or extroverted. Much collaborative work and brainstorming can be proven to be ineffective or non-conducive to creativity (I *so* appreciated learning this). One-third to one-half of us are introverted—the “condition” is not as fluky as I’d thought.
I got a little bit bogged down reading one or two sections of the book, such as that on the world of finance, but mostly I found it fascinating and I quickly devoured the pages. I highly recommend the book, particularly to parents, teachers, career counselors, employers, the clergy—OK, to everyone, so you can understand and appreciate the characteristics of that 1/3 to 1/2 of the people you encounter who are introverts, and help them fulfill their potential in their own quiet way.
It is full of different studies, all of them with fascinating information about the differences between introverts and extroverts.
It really makes you stop and think about how people interact with each other, and a lot of it turns out to be biological.
“But the catharsis hypothesis is a myth – a plausible one, an elegant one, but a myth nonetheless. Scores of studies have shown that venting doesn’t soothe anger; it fuels it.
On happiness and overcoming:
“We all write our life stories as if we were novelists, McAdams believes, with beginnings, conflicts, turning points, and endings. And the way we characterize our past setbacks profoundly influences how satisfied we are with our current lives. Unhappy people tend to see setbacks as contaminants that ruined an otherwise good thing (‘I was never the same again after my wife left me’), while generative adults see them as blessings in disguise (‘The divorce was the most painful thing that ever happened to me, but I’m so much happier with my new wife’).”
“Now that you’re an adult, you might still feel a pang of guilt when you decline a dinner invitation in favor of a good book. Or maybe you like to eat alone in restaurants and could do without pitying looks from fellow diners. Or you’re told that you’re ‘in your head too much,’ a phrase that’s often deployed against the quiet and cerebral.
Or course, there’s another word for such people: thinkers.”
“Finland is a famously introverted nation. Finnish joke: How can you tell if a Finn likes you? He’s staring at your shoes instead of his own.”
“Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read, to say that they can express the ‘real me’ online, and to spend more time in certain kinds of online discussions. They welcome the chance to communicate digitally. The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice.”
“Introverts, in contrast, are constitutionally programmed to downplay reward – to kill their buzz, you might say – and scan for problems. ‘As soon as they get excited,’ says Newman, ‘they’ll put the brakes on and think about peripheral issues that may be more important. Introverts seem to be specifically wired or trained so when they catch themselves getting excited and focused on a goal, their vigilance increases.”
“These findings suggest something very important: introverts like people they meet in friendly contexts; extroverts prefer those they compete with.”
“We often marvel at how introverted, geeky kids ‘blossom’ into secure and happy adults. We like it to a metamorphosis. However, maybe it’s not the children who change but their environments. As adults, they get to select the careers, spouses, and social circles that suit them. They don’t have to live in whatever culture they’re plunked into.”
On introversion as it relates to work:
“…when he analyzed what the highest-performing companies had in common, the nature of their CEOs jumped out at him. Every single one of them was led by an unassuming man like Darwin Smith. Those who worked with these leaders tended to describe them with the following words: quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated.”
The lesson, says Collins, is clear. We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.”
This from Steve Wozniak, in a section that cites studies showing open-plan offices to reduce productivity, impair memory, and lead to high staff turnover:
“Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me – they’re shy and they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone where they can control an invention’s design without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other committee. I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has been invented by committee. If you’re that rare engineer who’s an inventor and also an artist, I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone. You’re going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you’re working on your own. Not on a committee. Not on a team.
And on being true to oneself:
“I enjoyed practicing corporate law, and for a while I convinced myself that I was an attorney at heart. I badly wanted to believe it, since I had already invested years in law school and on-the-job training, and much about Wall Street law was alluring. My colleagues were intellectual, kind, and considerate (mostly). I made a good living. …
It took me almost a decade to understand that the law was never my personal project, not even close. Today I can tell you what is: my husband and sons, writing; promoting the values of this book. Once I realized this, I had to make a change. I look back on my years as a Wall Street lawyer as time spent in a foreign country. It was absorbing, it was exciting, and I got to meet a lot of interesting people whom I never would have known otherwise. But I was always an expatriate.”
Lastly on reading, and on oneness, I loved this one:
“Events like this don’t give me the sense of oneness others seem to enjoy; it’s always been private occasions that make me feel connected to the joys and sorrows of the world, often in the form of communion with writers and musicians I’ll never meet in person. Proust called these moments of unity between writer and reader ‘that fruitful miracle of communication in the midst of solitude.’”
Cain approaches this book from a scientific perspective and uses many sources and surveys as well as personal experiences to back what she is saying. Cain continues throughout the book to remind us of introverts throughout history who have made a difference and has made a powerful impact in the world. This book is research based and focuses primarily on introverts and how they are succeeding in an extroverted world. Cain offers advice for introverts, but it can be advice for anyone.
I recommend this book for anyone to read, especially for those self-proclaimed introverts, this book will open your eyes and help you to realize and understand some of your thought processes as an introvert and why you may feel uncomfortable in certain circumstances.
I received this book complimentary from Waterbrook Multnomah through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Cain does a good job at looking at the history, context and idealism which caused character to lose out to personality. She also does a good job of demonstrating that introversion cannot function without extroversion - the two personality types need to work in tandem. I liked the incursion into high and low reactivity, the importance of nurturing and the multiplicity which come from imported cultural values.
This book can be applied to any situation: home, work and play, helping talents and ideas come together to build a society where each can express herself comfortably.
Introverts have God given gifts such as: attentive listening, less risk taking, perseverance, conscientiousness, faithfulness, empathy, and creativity (there are many more).
If you are an introvert, read this book. You will learn a lot about yourself (things that you may not have even imagined) and this will change your life completely. I guarantee!
If you are an extrovert, you too will learn a lot about yourself and about your introvert friends.
Thank You, Susan, for writing such a wonderful book. Add me to your list of quiet revolutionaries.
I am usually not a fan of nonfiction. These books tend to lose my interest relatively quickly and no matter how interested I am in the subject if the book isn't done in a style more populistic than academic I have to force myself to concentrate. So when I opened Quiet for the first time I braced myself for a laborious experience. Imagine my surprise and pleasure when Susan Cain started the book with an anecdote, signaling that it was going to be about people, not abstract concepts. Anecdotes like the one in the first chapter kept the book going for me, alternating stories about historical figures such as Rosa Parks, Dale Carnegie and Eleanor Roosevelt with stories about people Ms. Cain met in the course of her research. These stories provided the reprieve needed to keep the academic sections about studies and the science of it all from taking over, as well as an insight into the making of our high-energy environment.
One of the beauties of this book is the fact that it examines introversion and extraversion from a variety of angles, taking into account the significance of nature and nurture, societal norms and situational pressures, ability and desire to adapt and mimic traits necessary to succeed. It talks about introversion and extraversion at all stages of development, from childhood to old age, describing second-grader Isabel and the author's own grandfather as examples. It takes a look at how cultures affect temperaments of the majority, discussing differences between Asia and Europe and challenges people of both descents face. Best of all, it does all this in a language that is easy to understand.
It still took me a week to read Quiet because of the sheer amount and quality of the information. I would turn off my e-reader with thoughts and ideas clamoring for my attention, my mind trying to process everything I've just read at the same time. It's not a particularly exciting book, in the usual sense, but I was extremely excited to read it, sometimes for the validation it provided and sometimes for ideas on how to make it in a world where it literally pays to speak up, and loudly, without wearing myself out trying to be a polar opposite of who I am. I'm still excited about it and I think that everyone should read this book, regardless of temperament. After all, at least a third of us are introverts, and it's time we started really paying attention to and harnessing the power of quiet.
Susan Cain has put the introvert/extrovert issue in perspective, using situations and experiences all of us can relate to. Whether you are an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere in between, this book will help you to better understand yourself, your friends, and the world we live in.
One weakness of the book is that Cain, an introvert herself, writes with a bias toward introversion from the book's beginning. This lessens the impact of some of the scientific and anecdotal evidence she presents to show the differences between introverts and extroverts. Another problem that I had personally with the book was her treatment of Dale Carnegie. In Chapter 1, she puts some of the blame for our society's bias toward extroversion on Carnegie and his teachings. However, although she attends several programs in the course of writing the book (such as a Tony Robbins seminar), she didn't take a Carnegie class. As an extreme introvert, my personal experience taking a Carnegie class 25 years ago was that it certainly wasn't intended to turn introverts into extroverts or even to get them to act like extroverts most of the time. Instead, it was intended to teach some simple truths about public speaking and interacting with other people. The most important of those truths were:
- When you are speaking in front of an audience, the audience is not your adversary. Think about when you are in the audience and the speaker is having difficulty. It is a painful experience to sit through. Nearly everyone in the audience wants the speaker to do well.
- When you are talking about something you care about and know well, you won't have difficulty telling someone, even a large audience, about it. Cain gives lots of examples in the book about introverts overcoming their introversion when speaking about subjects they care deeply about. This is one of the lessons Dale Carnegie taught me. Again, think about your bad experiences speaking to a crowd in school. You were probably assigned to speak on a subject you didn't care much about--maybe a book you didn't want to read or some European royalty you had never heard of. No wonder you had difficulty! But if the teacher had asked you to speak about baseball or your favorite author or your dog or whatever you were passionate about, you would have found yourself speaking without a lot of difficulty.
I went into the Dale Carnegie class as a complete cynic, sent there by my company because someone probably decided my ability to interact with people didn't match up to the technical ability which had rapidly advanced me to a management position. What my company didn't know was that all through school and even into college, I suffered from severe stuttering. I was absolutely terrified to speak before a group. But in the Carnegie class, surrounded by others who shared some of my problems, I was able to overcome my fears. Because Carnegie let us choose our topics, and placed an emphasis on short impromptu speeches each week as well, I had lots of opportunities to talk about things that interested me. For my longest speech, I even felt comfortable enough to talk about a period in my life when my Father and I went several years without speaking and the incident that finally resolved the separation. When I was given the top award (voted by my classmates) at the end of the course, it was truly one of the proudest moments in my life.
25 years later, I am still an introvert who doesn't care much about going to parties and is likely to stand in the corner by myself if I can't find a kindred spirit to latch onto. But in my work, I am confident in my ability and never feel any hesitation or have any difficulty in speaking my mind to the top executives in the large multinational company I work for. And I feel that I have Dale Carnegie to thank for a lot of this. It was truly a class that changed my life.
So excuse me for the rant, but I do wish Cain had done a little more investigation before she wrote the part of her book about Carnegie. I'm not sure Carnegie and Tony Robbins would have gotten along at all.
In any case, this comes near the beginning of the book, and it is a measure of Cain's success that by the end of the book, I had forgiven her and appreciated all the research she had done and the way she had conveyed it in a slightly disorganized, but easy-to-digest style in this book. I would especially recommend it to mixed introvert/extrovert couples or to parents with an introvert child that they want to understand better.