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Quiet: The Power of Introverts — Book Summary

If you prefer to listen than talk, don’t like to be the center of attention and prefer to work alone than in groups, you probably are an introvert. At least a third of the population is introverted. Author Susan Cain presents several strategies and ideas for introverts to excel in a world created for extroverts. She explains the challenges and advantages of being an introvert, gives valuable tips on how to behave in certain situations, and how to raise introverted children. Using the result of several types of research on the subject, the author seeks to help introverts understand why they see the world differently. If you are an introvert or know someone like that, this microbook will help you to get the most out of social and professional situations and relationships. Come on!


Susan Cain begins her book with a silent bang — presenting all the achievements and accomplishments reached by introverts. In general terms, introverts are people who prefer to think more than talk. They need to spend time alone, do not seek out loud social gatherings, and usually feel guilty about their less friendly nature. It is true that our Western society is very pro-extroverted. We encourage people to speak, to make their voices heard and to mark their place in history. Meanwhile, introverts have quietly secured their places. The likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Al Gore, Warren Buffet, Gandhi and Rosa Parks, have achieved tremendous changes while being introverts.

Even in adulthood, many feel bruised and embarrassed about having had an introverted childhood. Introverts feel as if they are wrong because they have suppressed feelings. Cain does an excellent job demonstrating that introverts have their place in the world and should not be ashamed.

In general, introverts prefer less external stimuli — noise, interactions, new experiences, social expectations — and extroverts experience as many stimuli as possible. As extroverts delve into problems and tasks, introverts are slower, investigating the situation and expectations before getting involved. Most extroverts prefer to talk; most introverts are excellent listeners. Introverts prefer small social circles of close friends and avoid conflicts and unnecessary conversations. However, it is not correct to relate introversion to shyness. Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is the preference for environments that are not over-stimulating. A person can be shy and introverted at the same time, but the two characteristics do not always go together. The categories of introversion and extroversion do not have definite limits. You can have traits of both and can respond differently to distinct situations. All of these definitions are useful, but Cain’s focus is on how research on these personalities can help lead a more productive life, regardless of its characteristics.


Child behavior specialists in the 1920s were concerned with helping children develop winning personalities. Psychologists, social workers, and doctors focused on children with “misfit personalities” -, particularly shy children. “Shyness can lead to terrible results,” they warned, “from alcoholism to suicide,” while an extroverted personality would bring financial and social success.

At the beginning of the 20th century, experts changed how they studied personality traits. An excellent example of this was Dale Carnegie, who transformed the vision of social expectations with his lectures and books, how to have a winning personality and how to become a successful extrovert. Newspaper columns, advertisements, and government campaigns were created to help develop a ‘healthy personality’ — to become someone who was confident, articulate, and socially engaged. Quiet children were labeled as ‘timid.’ In the 1950s, one of the best-selling drugs in pharmacies promised to solve the problem of ‘anxiety generated by not meeting behavioral standards.’

Even before that, Greeks worshiped great orators, the Romans loved their social lives, and Americans always spoke to audiences about freedom. The reserved facades of the European aristocracy were no longer a trend.

Nowadays, Carnegie’s book is still a bestseller and organizations and help groups everywhere promote ways to speak and be heard. Outgoing personality seems to be what everyone desires. Tony Robbins’ success is the best example of how an outgoing personality can make money. “We should be vibrant and confident; we should not seem hesitant, we should smile so that our interlocutors smile at us.” Being extroverted is associated with success and happiness. For decades the Harvard Business School has built its success upon the image of its confident and outgoing CEO. However, extroversion is not all that we think.

There are numerous successful introverted CEOs. Bill Gates is the best example. We tend to overestimate just how extroverted a leader needs to be. Many quiet leaders built Fortune 500 companies, listening, practicing humility, and making careful decisions. Introverted CEOs speak much less than their extroverted colleagues, but when they do, people pay attention. They are known to build great companies, not big egos. Introverts are the best people to lead creative and innovative employees. Because they prefer to listen to others and because of their lack of interest in mastering social situations, introverts are more likely to listen and implement suggestions. Introverted leaders seek the best from their employees. The exception happens when employees are more passive; in such cases, extroverted leaders do better.

Rosa Parks was introverted. She did not seek out trouble or engage in loud protests and demonstrations. Instead, a quiet ‘no’ when asked to vacate her seat on a bus was an important step for the civil rights movement. Parks did not join Martin Luther King Jr during his demonstrations, but she was silently fighting for her rights in the background. Her quiet, introverted strength had a great impact on the world around her.

These acts of introspective humanitarians are less noticeable but being an extrovert is still revered in every area, from sales to personal development.


Steve Wozniak, the maker of Apple’s computer prototype, did most of his work in his Hewlett-Packard cubicle. He arrived at about 6:30 in the morning and, alone, read engineering magazines, studied the chips manuals and prepared the drawings in his head. After work, he would come home, make a quick bite, and return to the office to work all night. He describes this period of quiet and lonely nights as “his best moment in life.”

Many introverts are creative geniuses. Whether writers, scientists, engineers or artists, introverts have produced some of the world’s most spectacular works. Introverts love to work alone, and this ‘solitude can be a catalyst for innovation.’ Many companies are built to ignore the benefits of solitude. Groupthink — the process in which a group follows the ideas of unvoiced extroverted leaders — is a process of group work, and introverts do not do well with it. From schools to corporations, teamwork always takes place. There are benefits to teamwork such as learning to work and communicating with others, but students and adults who do well in this type of work are all outgoing. When they have the chance to work independently, introverts tend to show their leadership with innovation and brilliance.

The transformation of offices — from rooms and cubicles to open work environments — has not been good for introverts. Noises, interruptions, and lack of individual space mean that they are forced to work with constant stimuli — and this does not allow them to stand out. This concept of ‘all working together’ is not supported by research. In fact, the most successful way of developing skills is individual study and practice. When a person is responsible for developing their abilities, they focus more on their weaknesses and improve their qualities.

Successful adults like Steve Wozniak, Madeleine L’Engle, and Charles Darwin spent countless hours of their childhoods in solitary meditation. Recent studies support the idea that loneliness increases creativity and innovation. In corporate environments, workers do better when they have their space, privacy in physical environments, and freedom without interruption.

Offices with an open concept ignore these facts. Constant interruptions — including office noises — hamper productivity and increase errors. Introverts know this intuitively. They expect to work in privacy environments and like to focus on their tasks without being interrupted.

Studies have shown that Groupthink does not just silence opponents — it also prevents people from changing their minds. The key is to have smaller groups and leaders who listen to everyone. Meetings can be more productive when all participants deliver their written ideas before they begin. Virtual collaborations seem to perform better than large, personally functioning collaboration groups.

The ideal work solution for many would be to have open areas for interaction and collaboration and individual private spaces, where employees can find isolation and fewer stimuli when needed.


There is a constant debate from which emerges the following question: is introversion and extroversion genetic characteristics or shaped by life? In fact, both situations are true, and both our genetics and the environment shape our traits. Cain’s validation of introverted tendencies is most welcome in our society so focused on extroverts.

Introverts are different. They experience stimuli differently, desire different kinds of social interactions and think differently; they grow in different circumstances as well. All these differences together make introverts bring different gifts to the world. The world needs introverts, and introverts need to shape their worlds so they can fit in.


Once you understand that introversion and extroversion are preferences for certain levels of stimulation, you can consciously try to situate yourself in environments that are favorable to your personality — that is balanced, not so boring, and not so agitated. You can organize your life at “optimum levels of stimulation” and what we call “sweet spots,” which will make you feel much more energetic and alive than ever.

This ‘sweet spot’ deals with the way in which you find the right balance for your personality type. For example, living in a house that has small hiding places for the introverts and that also has great open spaces for the extroverts. This balance is an excellent example of how both can coexist satisfactorily.

For introverts, there is an optimum level of stimulation. A demanding social context in the workplace (public speaking, for example) can be balanced with quiet time and environments, before and after the activity — even if the environment is a bathroom. It is also possible to practice desensitization, which consists of exposing oneself to fears in small quantities. Over time, the stimulus becomes less, and you take more advantage of the activity — or at least it becomes less stressful.

In addition to introversion, there is a classification for people who are highly sensitive. These are the people who use information from around the world more intensely than most people. They usually feel emotions stronger than others — reacting emotionally to music, art, and nature. Highly sensitive people usually do not care much for meaningless conversations, but they are highly linked to other’s mood swings and environmental stimuli.

Their thinking process is very complicated, and sometimes they develop excessive empathy for others. Eleanor Roosevelt is a great example of a compassionate person. She cared deeply about the people around her, but she did not like the superficial social requirements of her position. She became known as the woman who took on the responsibilities of Franklin Roosevelt.

Over time, she accepted public life, and this gave her the chance to change things for the better. She became known for the phrase, “I think shy people will always be shy, but they learn to deal with it.”


Introverts need to rely on their intuition and powerfully share their ideas. This does not mean that they should imitate extroverts. Ideas can be shared discreetly, can be communicated with texts, can be developed in well-produced lectures and can be used by allies. The trick for introverts is to honor their style and not allow it to be swallowed up by current standards.

Extroverts tend to respond better to external rewards. Therefore, extroverts prefer immediate prizes, while introverts are still analyzing the situation. Because the rewards system is less attractive to introverts, they prefer to pay more attention to their thoughts. That’s why extroverts need to learn to listen to introverts in group decisions. Introverts bring a valuable balance to the discussions when they have a chance to speak. Introverts are oriented to inspect and extroverts oriented to respond.

There is no difference in IQ between introverts and the extrovert average, but the way they see the world and how they react to it is very different. Having the contribution of both will ensure that the pros and cons are evaluated by the introverts and that the actions are taken by extroverts.

Ideally, introverts should seek deeper reasons for their attitudes. Einstein, a classic introvert, discovered this in his work — passionately pursuing the problems until he found the answers.


There is a widespread idea in Western culture that negotiators, lawyers, politicians, and anyone with power must have an extroverted personality and aggressively pursue their goals. What the researchers have discovered is that there is another way to also achieve success without the damage that can be caused by aggressive behavior. ‘Soft power’ is skillfully used by some introverts. This power involves the process of asking questions, understanding your opponent, and chasing your way calmly. Gandhi is probably the best example of using this power.

Sometimes he was enraged by the injustices he suffered, but instead of reacting, he “negotiated patiently,” eventually getting what he wanted. Gandhi’s passivity was by no means weakness. It allowed him to stay focused on his goal and kept him from expending energy with unnecessary conflicts. Gandhi believed that this passivity was one of his greatest qualities. And it was born of his shyness.

This ability to silently persist in a task also contributes to the success of Asian students and their future successes in professional settings. A person who exercises this ability listens carefully, plans in detail with excellent research, and prepares for situations involving interpersonal interactions.


At times, introverts need to behave as extroverts, especially when the reasons are personal. However, having to ‘pretend’ for the sake of a job or a relationship can be exhausting and discouraging. It is important to balance these extroverted activities with times of tranquility and isolation.

At times, no one knows that you are not the kind of person you are pretending to be. Many successful introverts have learned to adapt to these extroversion moments. Those who do best in this have an innate ability to self-monitor or are ‘highly empowered to change their behaviors to the social demands of a situation.’

Cain emphasizes that while there are times when you pretend to achieve a goal, doing so all the time can be very unproductive for an introvert. To identify your passions, you may wonder what you loved to do as a child, what kind of work you usually prefer, and what you envy. Although jealousy may seem like an unusual issue to find your passions, you often envy those who have what you desire. So looking for the things you crave can help you figure out what you want.

A restorative niche is ‘the place you go to be yourself.’ This place will be almost the opposite for introverts and extroverts, but looking for the appropriate restorative niches is an excellent strategy for enjoying life.


Because they are different, introverts and extroverts are usually attracted to each other. The resulting relationships can be very challenging as each of them looks for various things. While introverts want a quiet night at home with a book and a silent spouse, extroverts want to throw a party. It is important to learn to understand each other, how each person communicates and responds to different communication styles and engages.

Introverts may need to work on their communication, and extroverts may need to slow down a bit. Introverts can learn to argue a bit too, letting their partners know when things are not right.

When you commit, you will need both to “give in” a little and look for solutions that will give both personalities a chance to take advantage of situations.


Cain recommends a gentle and balanced approach to raising introverted children. It is clear that introversion is a personality trait and has its advantages and disadvantages. Shy children need to be respected and valued for what they are — often quiet and introspective. In the same way, they need to be encouraged to take some social risks.

Letting them be introduced gradually to new situations and respecting their limits will help them have more confidence without being forced to be who they are not. Teach by using examples of appropriate social skills, giving them opportunities to make new friends in small groups.

Make sure these social gatherings are enjoyable, select non-aggressive children and groups that are friendlier. Never force friendships between children. Practice before responding to social situations such as birthday parties or celebrations. Introverted children will appreciate gentle introductions to new environments. Before you start school, take them on a school tour and meet some of the adults who will be in touch with them on a daily basis. Bring them to the bathroom, library, and the school office. Help them design body languages ​​that portray confidence, even if they do not feel that way. Smile, have good posture and make eye contact. For children who are struggling with this, take them to a pediatrician for future support and further education.

School can be a challenging environment for introverts. As adults, they will have control over where they spend their time, but will not have many choices in school. If possible, look for a smaller school that teamwork with individual projects. Children learn best when they are in an environment where they feel safe.

Introversion is not a problem that needs to be fixed. It is a personality trait that requires adaptations and training. Parents need to understand that there is no problem in having a quiet child who prefers individual interactions to group activities.

If your child has a specific interest or talent, encourage him or her, even if it is not something that is very much accepted or valued. Their confidence will grow as you explore their interests and passions. Let them know that it’s okay to spend their time thinking before speaking. Teach them the importance of this peculiarity and discuss how they can share their vision and innovative ideas with others.

The most important thing is not to worry if your child is not ‘famous.’ Introvert children develop one or two reliable friends and not a huge amount of casual friends.


Quiet people are introverts by nature. They take time to understand life and are often slow to speak and do not get along in noisy, crowded environments. The way they lead life brings balance and diversity to the extroverted world, and their contributions are precious.

Be proud if you are an introvert — you are part of a group of excellent people who have made history! Seek the best of your introverted nature by following your instincts as you listen, think, and question. Use the opportunities of restorative niches so that you can balance between extroverted challenges and your introverted preferences.

Remember that the relationships between extroverts and introverts are challenging and require work and commitment.

It is also worth noting the author recommends a balanced approach to raising introverted children: while they should be valued for their more introspective personality, they must also be introduced to new social situations.

12min tip: If you liked this microbook, how about watching Steve Wozniak’s TEDx, one of the today’s most famous introverts? Besides that, we also recommend that you check out the TED Talks microbook! =D



Big ideas. Short form. All you need is 12min…

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