I was using the Myers-Briggs type indicator (MBTI) in the 1970’s in classes on problem-solving and design and in my consulting for a number of reasons, and I sure could have used this book. If you are not familiar with the MBTI, it is based on the theories of Carl Jung, and separates those who take it along four axes, one of these Introversion/Extraversion (an alternate spelling) . More details on the MBTI here if you want them.
I quit using the MBTI because it was becoming so popular that people were using it for purposes for which it was never intended, but I have been interested in cognitive styles ever since, and Quiet is a fascinating summary of what introversion and extroversion are, and of the strengths of those solidly in each camp (introverts in thinking and sensitivity, and extroverts in getting things to happen.) The author of Quiet feels that if we do not value both of them, we all lose but especially if we undervalue the quiet introvert.
Cain begins the book by discussing the high value that is placed on extroversion in the U.S., particularly in business and education, and why. She then discusses the nature and role of introversion and extroversion and the benefits of each. When I was using the MBTI, psychological theory believed heavily in nurture, rather than nature—we were born blank and programmed through our experience. Due to much research and focus on DNA, the theory has swung to believing that both are important, and in fact you often hear people talk of half-and-half. Cain is up on her theory and hypothesizes that as far as introversion and extroversion are concerned, most of us are naturally dominant in one, but able to do the other.
One viewpoint I found particularly interesting is based on experiments she describes showing that the dominance is probably built into our limbic system (the portion of the brain particularly responsible for emotions), but offset by the cerebrum (the “thinking part”). For instance, She feels that people who are naturally introverted learn to offset this because of educational, public, and professional values and pressure to the point that we may lose some of their valuable ability to think and to interact with other people—or at times lead extroverts when problems are particularly complicated and issues are subtle.
Part three of her book has to do with introversion and extroversion in different cultures, and the final part focuses on how one should balance introversion and extroversion, how members of the opposite type should communicate, and the raising of “Quiet” kids.
All and all a wonderful and timely book.