I really wish I had a book like this when I was younger.
See, I was a quiet kid in the early days of my life. During my secondary school and college days, I kept to myself a lot, speaking mainly to a few good friends or people I was truly comfortable with. I was happiest when reading books or playing video games, free of the trappings of social interaction, which I found really tricky.
Society, however, seemed to favour extroverts over introverts, and I found that out the hard way. Preferring to be by yourself somehow equalled having no friends: this made people worry about me, although I saw nothing wrong with anything. And in college, you’re suddenly graded on “class participation”, which somehow meant it didn’t matter if I could write a correct answer on paper, I wouldn’t get any marks if I couldn’t raise my hand and say it out loud. Urgh.
Quiet little me had to work hard to overcome these strange social barriers and, eventually, I did become vocal, to the point that I would consider myself an “ambivert” today: I am equal parts chatty and quiet, and I love all parts of me. But Cain’s book, Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths Of Introverts, would have been a godsend in the past, when I wasn’t so sure of myself.
Quiet Power offers valuable tips to help young introverts cope with situations they may find difficult, whether it is with their peers, their elders or even on social media. Most importantly, it tells them that there is nothing wrong with being quiet – in fact, it is part of what makes a person special.
“Being introverted is not something to outgrow; it is something to accept and grow into, and even to cherish. The more you notice how special your introverted qualities are, and how some of the things you like best about yourself are probably connected to your introverted nature, the more your confidence will flourish and spread to other areas of your life,” Cain writes.
A Princeton and Harvard lawyer by training, Cain first shot to prominence in 2012 when she published Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking. In that book, she argues that modern Western culture misunderstands and undervalues the traits and capabilities of introverted people, leading to “a colossal waste of talent, energy, and happiness”.
Her book was a sensation, selling over two million copies in the United States alone (since 2015) and hitting many bestselling lists, including The New York Times’ paperback nonfiction one, staying there for almost 140 weeks. It was even voted the top nonfiction book of 2012 in the Goodreads Choice Awards at the online readers site.
Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths Of Introverts is a “for teens” version of that first book, repackaging it for a younger audience. Here, Cain teams up with journalist Moroz and children’s book author Mone (Dangerous Waters, Fish) to deliver a fun, yet practical primer for young readers who might be struggling to embrace their quiet sides.
The book is divided into four sections: “School”, “Socializing”, “Hobbies”, and “Home”, and offers helpful, practical advice about how quieter people may be able in thrive in such situations. True to 2016, there’s a chapter on social media too, which I’m guessing many teenagers will feel is the most important part of the book!
The advice offered can be a little “common sense” at times, but it definitely suits a younger audience; besides, it’s nice to be reminded of some basic things from time to time. The writing is simple and engaging, and Cain often provides case studies to illustrate her principles, sometimes drawing on historical examples (like Eleanor Roosevelt, for instance).
As a bonus, interspersed throughout the book are delightful little cartoons from Grant Snyder, creator of the popular Incidental Comics!
If you’re an extrovert, there’s still much to like about this book: you could benefit greatly from the understanding it might give you about your less vocal friends.
Or you might empathise with some of its content – no one is completely extroverted or introverted, as the book reminds us, and you might gain some insight into your more contemplative behaviour.
Indeed, Cain’s book also gives advice on how extroverts and introverts can mesh their different personalities together to create lasting friendships or productive partnerships. Opposites attract, after all: Apple needed both its extroverted CEO Steve Jobs and introverted developer Steve Wozniak to succeed!
Cain reassures readers that in a room full of voices shouting to be heard, it’s all right to be the one listening at the back.
“There’s a word for people who are in their heads too much,” she says. “Thinkers.”
It’s OK to be quiet, and it’s OK to be yourself – I can’t think of better advice to give a young person today.
Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths Of Introverts
Authors: Susan Cain, Gregory Mone & Erica Moroz
Publisher: Dial Books, nonfiction