Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain (2013), New York: Broadway Books

August 2013

I grew up as the youngest of six siblings in a household of eight people. We were a cacophonous bunch as we competed for the attention of our parents. If you spoke to my older siblings, they would say I received all of the attention; and, of course, I would say the opposite. I knew that in order to get attention I had to be as rugged and as outgoing as they were, but what I really craved in a small house of eight was my own private corner of solitude. What I was seeking was quiet.

Susan Cain writes about those who are introverts who mask this characteristic in order to assume the traits of an extrovert. The Extrovert Ideal is what American society views as the dominant characteristic of commerce and success. She provides countless examples from education, psychology and business in which this trait is favored, but she counters this favoritism with other examples of scientists, philosophers, authors and others who accomplished monumental tasks as introverts.

There are many compelling lessons to be learned from this book, but the one I found to be most enlightening was how collaboration can be the enemy of creativity. She shared studies in which brainstorming as a means of generating copious creative responses can lead to groupthink in which individual creativity is shut down because the loudest and most extroverted of ideas are championed and the quieter, more introverted ideas are still percolating in the heads of the most creative. One problem with brainstorming is that some members exhibit social loafing in which they sit back and let the others do the work. The second concern is production blocking in which only one person can produce an idea at once while other group members are forced to sit passively. The third concern with brainstorming is evaluation apprehension. Participants are afraid to place their ideas in the running because they think that the idea may be criticized. I found this research interesting because I was a classroom teacher who frequently used brainstorming as an activity of engagement.

After reading this book, it truly solidified my belief that I am an introvert masquerading as an extrovert and that the ENFJ (extrovert, intuitive, feeling, judging) result that I was labeled with when I took the Myers-Briggs personality assessment during my graduate program should be cast aside as I embrace my inner quiet through reading, writing, reflecting and responding.

Dr. Dwight C. Watson, Dean

College of Education

University of Northern Iowa