Book Review: Quiet by Susan Cain.

“It was called the most important book published in a decade, and I completely agree.”

I have always questioned why I felt different to the majority, until recently. I was always quiet. Thoughtful. I preferred the company of books to that of people, so my school life was rather difficult. For this reason, Quiet by Susan Cain resonated with me in a way that left me speechless. I don’t think I ever quite fathomed the amount of research that had gone into the world of introversion and extroversion. I always thought I was odd, and was often made to feel that way, but it turns out that I was just one among many.

Quiet explores the strengths of the introverted among us. Susan Cain delves into the subject, and without fear, questions how change can be made to schools and workplaces to cultivate those strengths. You see, we live in a world that has adapted to the extrovert. In school, we’re taught to work in groups and speak among crowds. At work, we’re expected to be able to make presentations and enjoy team building activities. In our personal lives, we’re expected to attend every social event we’re invited to or be in a perfectly adapted relationship. These are all extroverted ideals that have been popularised by those that speak the loudest, without thought for those that need the quiet.   

Cain’s research in this book is deep. From interviews with academics and professors, to personal views and experience, Cain has incorporated a vast amount of knowledge into Quiet. One of my favourite chapters was about the research done with how we grow to be introverted (or extroverted), and how it can be predicted from a very young age. It brings into question the nature versus nurture discussion. Is it biology or experience? Turns out, studies have shown, it’s a combination of both, but we can predict the probability of either. High-reactive children are more likely to be introverted, and low-reactive are more likely to be extroverted.

About the writing style; Cain’s ability is flawless as she switches between fact driven article and personal perspective. Despite it bearing a considerably heavy subject, Quiet is both easy to read and understand, and is thoroughly entertaining. I like how open Cain is about herself and her own experience. This adds much to the overall charm of the book. Cain is clear about her mission and what she wants to achieve through her research. She is a voice of reason among those that may not be willing to speak up.

And I know that many of you reading this can probably relate to Cain, and myself, so here are some strengths that you should consider, if you too are Quiet:

  • We may not speak as much, but we listen intently. This makes us great empaths and absorbers of spoken knowledge.
  • We read a lot. From this, we learn at an increased rate and have a greater ability for imagination.
  • From art, reading and writing, we have a learned focus, that we can apply to other elements of our lives.
  • We think a lot and have a greater ability to analyse and apply logic.
  • We are generally more creative.
  • We find joy from simpler things.
  • We’re not afraid to be alone.
  • When we do speak up, it’s for a reason, and we are listened to more intently.

These are just a few to consider and are inspired by the works of Cain and her research. Learn to lean into your strengths, and not fight against them. Realise your weaknesses, but don’t let them hold you back. This is something that I learned a few years ago and will never look back to who I was. In all my quietness, I have learned that I am a strong leader. I push myself because I am passionate about people and life. If you’re introverted, just be yourself. Find your passion and everything else will fall into place. If you’re extroverted, then remember that some of us just enjoy the quiet.

Quiet is an incredible book. It was called the most important book published in a decade, and I completely agree. I say this book left me speechless, and it did at first, but after absorbing so much information, I find myself with a lot to say on the subject. Quiet is a book that spoke to me on many levels, and is a book that should be read by most. Of course, without hesitation, I give Quiet 5/5.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Book Review: Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson.

Ever read a book that forced your hand to write notes on everything that just didn’t sit quite right with you? This was that book. So, buckle up, because this is going to be more of an analysis than a review.

The premise: Written by a consultant and communications expert, Surrounded by Idiots is an attempt at separating human behaviour into four personality types, each given a colour. Red’s are the leader types. Yellow’s are the creatives. Green’s are the passives. And, finally, blue’s are the logical. There’s a lot of descriptors that go with each one, but I’ve simplified it for you, so you don’t need to read the book.

The conclusion: we’re not actually surrounded by idiots, and you will only probably think so if you’re red or yellow (the extroverted… although I don’t recall Erikson using the word). And, of course, you need a versatile group of individuals if you want to get a job done.   

I’ll begin by saying that this took me a long time to read. Not because it was hard to understand or poorly written, but because it wasn’t overly interesting or entertaining. It was in fact relatively well written. I cannot fault the writing style of Erikson, his deliverance of his thesis or his attempt at humour (I’m sure it was amusing to someone out there). That may seem very bold of me, but allow me to explain some key points here:

This book could have easily been translated into just one chapter. It’s just very very repetitive. The problem is that the premise is a very simple one and can be explained simply. Instead, we have multiple explanations of the same subject (albeit, in slightly different scenarios) and many examples that are drawn out.

Much of Erikson’s research seems to have taken place in a working environment, and this is an issue for this behavioural model. The main reason being that the majority of us show a different behaviour in a working environment. As a learned behaviour, we fall into a “personality” that the job requires. As an ambivert myself, that has worked in a varied selection of job roles, with diverse groups of individuals, I can confirm this. I have adapted to roles because that was needed for the role. As a manager, I would be an extroverted leader (Red). As a writer, I would be introverted; passive, logical and creative (Green, Blue and Yellow). As a customer care assistant, I would adapt to the customer, and probably combine all of those traits. So, did I crack the code of human potential before I read this book? Of course not… adaptive and learned behaviour is very normal.    

And this is where Erikson’s formula falters, as he proposes, “No one has four (of these traits).” I counter propose with; we all have these four traits, or colours, or behaviours. We are adaptive creatures. We learn from experiences and events, and are able to emulate behaviours that are required, from other individuals or groups. There are far too many layers to the human psyche for us to be able to categorise it into four behaviour types, and few before Erikson have tried. For example, Hippocrates with the four temperaments and the Aztecs with the four elements. Sure, it made sense for the ancients to try to make assumptions of human behaviour or psychology in a simple form, but we have so much more understanding now, and still have much more we can learn.

I could probably go deeper into this subject and book, and might one day, but for now I will conclude this review. For the fact that is written in a way that could be read, I give this book 1/5 stars. This might seem harsh, but for a non-fic book, I learned or gained nothing in return for my time. If you want to read an interest insight into the human psyche and behaviour, I would recommend reading Quiet by Susan Cain instead.  

Rating: 1 out of 5.

(I’m not going to add a “buy here” link for this one, instead it will take you to Quiet by Susan Cain.)

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