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Review of “Quiet” by Susan Cain

Quiet by Susan Cain:

Welcome to another guest article on Gen Z Conservative. This book review of the book “Quiet” by Susan Cain is an excellent take on a book that has become well known as of late. The writer, Beyond Reasons, also wrote an excellent review of “Dreamland” that you should definitely check out. Enjoy! -Gen Z Conservative

Daily we are force-fed a diet of intentionally biased “news”.  Our children, our next generation, re indoctrinated in government schools with “creative” history textbooks. We watch man-on-the-street interviews of college students who cannot answer which side won the American Civil War but are able to assign a bad Obama policy to Donald Trump.  So we know much of the information we receive is questionable. Now we can add “non-fiction” books to our list. 

It is important, and evidently a skill no longer taught in high schools and colleges, to source materials from several reputable places before forming our opinion on any subject.  We need to know what is factual before we can shape our thinking on anything from buying sneakers to voting.  Yet, the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, a book touted for its research, contains mostly opinion and only examples from Democrats. 

Most of the book is based solely on stereotypes i.e. Asians are reticent, Rosa Parks was brave, Obama is wise. The book is simply societal manipulation trying to convince all self-proclaimed introverts that American society is made for only loud extroverts.  Oddly, (and this happens a lot in Democrat circles) Cain states outright that the book is a work of opinion while deceptively marketing it as a researched non-fiction work. She writes, “I did not fact check the stories people told me about themselves, but only included those I believed to be true.” She then uses these non-fact checked stories to weave her narrative.

Cain’s book rests on stereotypes.  If only reading her book, we would believe that:

  • all Asians are quiet and are unimpressed with the American college approach
  • only Democrats have anything to offer historically (Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Barack Obama)
  • Harvard Law and Business schools are just plain mean to quiet people
  • Few corporations value a quiet thinker in their organization
  • Plus, Gandhi was a quiet genius

Of course, these stereotypes are false. It is stereotypes today which help keep us politically divided and polarized, labeled and categorized into the very groupthink “communities” (does community organizer sound familiar?) she derides.  What is really lost here is the individual.  The individual, who is balanced with both quiet and active personality traits, is not found in Quiet.  A person who has likes and dislikes because of who he is not a victim of some phantom society forcing us to be who we are not is a no-show.

Cain lists herself as a graduate of Harvard Law School, but complains about the way she was taught there as a reserved person.  Yet, to get into Harvard one must show on their application ways in which they have excelled, groups to which they belong and achievements they have made.  All these things take involvement which most likely requires speaking up. Then there is her choice of Harvard Law. Studying law isn’t a cookie-cutter.  The USA offers hundreds of law schools all structured differently to fit different students.  A Harvard lawyer is only one approach.

She makes a similar complaint against Harvard Business School (HBS).  Again, there are hundreds of US business schools, all providing their own approach to leading and prospering at an organization.  Yet, Cain chastises HBS by focusing on the sensibilities of Asian students not being valued within the HBS model.  It is obvious that the student chose HBS and was well aware of its approach prior to attending.  If that was not a fit for their personality type why choose it?

It is the same complaint she cites of Asians students who choose to study at American universities and then complain that the American model – which they sought out – does not massage their Asian quiet sensibilities.  How many universities around the world are there which would?  If there is difficulty with an alleged requirement of speaking up, why not choose a different path?

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Choosing a different path is a question you will be asking throughout Quiet. The book chronnicle people choosing careers that do not seem to match their personality traits.  There are hundreds of career workshops, books, tests and advice available to help a person find the right career based exactly on these factors!  It is as if Ms. Cain was told to go to Harvard and force herself into a mold with which she was extremely uncomfortable.  Yet, there are thousands of careers some of the most lucrative that greatly value a quiet, thinking mind.  And with this she also assumes that the more or louder a person talks the less they think through the details.

Ms. Cain belittles those who champion speaking up for oneself and to help learn how to exert their ideas within different frameworks such as business meetings.  Is it not obvious that for a person, quiet or not, to get their ideas heard one must speak up?  Cain scolds the teacher of extroversion. Tony Robbins, Toastmasters, even brainstorming all get the thumbs down for the quiet person.  These workshops at learning to value salesmanship for yourself as well as your product, improving the comfort level of speaking and presenting in front of others, all have a place in our world, but not for the quiet person evidently.

She then vaults to the power of non-violent resistance and uses the myth of  Rosa Parks (mentioning her nearly 40 times throughout the book) as its poster woman.  Parks’ problem on the bus that day had much more to do with the issue she had with that particular bus driver rather than a statement on race relations. Likewise, she throws in Gandhi as a beacon of non-violence resistance again relying on the myth and stereotype of Gandhi rather than fact.

In Quiet, Cain writes, “We need leaders who build not on their own egos but the institutions they run.” Her opinion is that those leaders of large organizations simply got there because they are louder than others and provide better presentations. Then, once they are in charge, they only listen to others who are just as loud. There is a random case of an introvert making it to the CEO table, but it seems they got there by accident. She does not, however, acknowledge that for a person to become the leader of a large organization, it does take ego (even for the introvert) and if they value the institution they run, they must value the teamwork which includes those who are quiet as well as those who are loud.  It is easy to see that running a corporation or even a small business takes both introspection and high energy.

Cain’s book Quiet is not a balanced, well-researched look at personality traits but an intentionally biased personal story of a self-described introvert.  She evidently had trouble in school and in her career because she did not want to speak up or give presentations.  She writes that giving a presentation made her physically ill.  Yet she drove herself to do it anyway and blames society-at-large for the headache. 

Quiet became a best seller and is widely heralded. Perhaps it is a beacon of society that we ask so little from our literature.  We want something easily understood, not necessarily true, relies on stereotypes, falsely deified historical figures and the latest labels? If this is the future of learning, we must be extra careful about what we read and take extra care to cross-reference material that doesn’t ring true.  Cain’s book, with its small dose of factual material about extroverts vs introverts, elicits little for discussion.  It encourages the reader not at all to strive to live an individual, balanced life.

By: Beyond Reasons