Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

By Susan Cain (2012)

This book is about introversion as seen from a cultural point of view. Its primary concern is the age-old dichotomy between the “man of action” and the “man of contemplation,” and how we could improve the world if only there were a greater balance of power between the two types. It focuses on the person who recognizes him- or herself somewhere in the following constellation of attributes: reflective, cerebral, bookish, unassuming, sensitive, thoughtful, serious, contemplative, subtle, introspective, inner-directed, gentle, calm, modest, solitude-seeking, shy, risk-averse, thin-skinned. Quiet is also about this person’s opposite number: the “man of action” who is ebullient, expansive, sociable, gregarious, excitable, dominant, assertive, active, risk-taking, thick-skinned, outer-directed, lighthearted, bold, and comfortable in the spotlight.

My Notes

💡 Be calm. Talk slowly, thoughtfully. You can be mild mannered and be strong and aggressive, and still come across as perfectly reasonable.

Ask lots of questions and actually listen to the answers.

💡 Learn to distinguish between shy and introverted, and work on the shy part:

Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not. One reason that people confuse the two concepts is that they sometimes overlap (though psychologists debate to what degree). Some psychologists map the two tendencies on vertical and horizontal axes, with the introvert-extrovert spectrum on the horizontal axis, and the anxious-stable spectrum on the vertical. With this model, you end up with four quadrants of personality types: calm extroverts, anxious (or impulsive) extroverts, calm introverts, and anxious introverts.

Desensitisation training:

Exposing yourself (and your amygdala) to the thing you’re afraid of over and over again, in manageable doses.


They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.

Peter Drucker on charisma and leadership:

“Among the most effective leaders I have encountered and worked with in half a century,” the management guru Peter Drucker has written, “some locked themselves into their office and others were ultra-gregarious. Some were quick and impulsive, while others studied the situation and took forever to come to a decision.… The one and only personality trait the effective ones I have encountered did have in common was something they did not have: they had little or no ‘charisma’ and little use either for the term or what it signifies.”

💡 James C Collins:

His hypothesis was that extroverted leaders enhance group performance when employees are passive, but that introverted leaders are more effective with proactive employees.

The most effective teams are composed of a healthy mix of introverts and extroverts, studies show, and so are many leadership structures.

💡 Balance:

Once you understand introversion and extroversion as preferences for certain levels of stimulation, you can begin consciously trying to situate yourself in environments favorable to your own personality—neither overstimulating nor understimulating, neither boring nor anxiety-making.

The trick for introverts is to honor their own styles instead of allowing themselves to be swept up by prevailing norms.


In fact, the very thing that many high-reactives hate most about blushing—its uncontrollability—is what makes it so socially useful. “Because it is impossible to control the blush intentionally,” Dijk speculates, blushing is an authentic sign of embarrassment. And embarrassment, according to Keltner, is a moral emotion. It shows humility, modesty, and a desire to avoid aggression and make peace.

Sounds like foxes and hedgehogs:

Extroverts are more prone than introverts to overconfidence…


“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s that I stay with problems longer.”

Perceptions of quiet:

A software engineer told me how overlooked he felt at work in comparison to other people, “especially people from European origin, who speak without thinking.” In China, he said, “If you’re quiet, you’re seen as being wise. It’s completely different here.

“Remember, in Silicon Valley, you can be the smartest, most capable person, but if you can’t express yourself aside from showing your work, you’ll be underappreciated. Many foreign-born professionals experience this; you’re a glorified laborer instead of a leader.”

💡 Tips:

“I’ll host parties because it puts you at the center of things without actually being a social person.”

Here’s a rule of thumb for networking events: one new honest-to-goodness relationship is worth ten fistfuls of business cards.

Don’t mistake assertiveness or eloquence for good ideas.