Susan Cain Spills The Inspiration Behind "Quiet" & How She's Changing The Landscape For Introverts
Join Susan Cain, author of Quiet and Quiet Power, and mindbodygreen for a live Facebook chat this Thursday, 6/23, from 2-3:00 PM EST. Look for the Chat post in the mindbodygreen Facebook page to join the conversation!
Welcome to your summer book club! Our first book, Quiet, is a masterwork by Susan Cain that’s changing the perception of introverts in the Western world. Two weeks ago, we introduced the book (and all the reasons we love it). Now, we’re digging deeper in an interview with the inimitable Susan Cain herself. Prepare to be inspired. And, if you’re ready for your next read, our full summer book list here.
If you haven't read Quiet, you've heard of it—probably in reverent-but-animated tones from one of your more dreamy, contemplative friends. And that's not just because this is a generation of self-exploration and a proclivity for navel-gazing (although, let's be honest—it definitely is). It's because Quiet does what few books can—it addresses an incredibly personal experience with an overwhelming breadth of scope, leaving every reader with a more well-rounded understanding of both themselves and the world and better equipped to exist in modern Western culture.
And, perhaps most important of all, because it invites us to start asking questions about the way we perceive ourselves and others, the way we interact, and the traits we value. Fortunately, we got the chance to sit down with Susan Cain to ask her a few of these questions ourselves. As with most brilliant minds, her thoughts did the opposite of satisfying our curiosity (which is why we'll be rereading Quiet and Quiet Power ourselves this summer). Just keep reading. You'll see what we mean.
1. How and when did you first become interested in the idea of inward- versus outward-facing energy?
Oh, I’ve been interested in it all my life, though I didn’t really focus on the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” until I was in my 30s and working as a corporate lawyer. That was when I discovered the Myers-Briggs personality test and thought about all the introverts and extroverts in my law firm and how the two types excelled at their work but in completely different ways.
Introverts—from J.K. Rowling to Bill Gates to your best friend since kindergarten—contribute to the world because of, not despite, our quiet, reflective temperaments.
I’ve considered myself a feminist since I was in college and had been confused that the study of gender dynamics seemed to illuminate so much—but not everything. There was this whole swath of human experience that has little to do with masculine and feminine but everything to do with inward- versus outward-facing energy.
2. What was the research/writing process for "Quiet" like?
I basically walked around the world for a few years with all my apertures open, looking at everything through the lens of introversion and extroversion. Everything I read, every conversation I had, was grist for the mill. I also pored through the academic literature, spoke with countless professors, did tons of interviews, toured the country observing schools, workplaces, and university life…like that.
It was a pretty obsessive process! Oh, and then I wrote a first draft, which my editor rightly declared crappy (she put it much more nicely). She told me to take all the time I needed to fix it. I was thrilled because I really wanted to get it right. So, I started again from scratch.
3. What do you think is the most damaging misconception about introversion and/or introverted people?
That we’re unkind/misanthropic/anti-social. In fact, there is no correlation between introversion/extroversion and being warm or loving. We just express our social impulses in quieter ways.
4. How can we change it?
By raising awareness, by talking about it, by starting a national conversation and keeping it going. Just as we’re doing right this minute! And just as we’re doing at quietrev.com, where we talk about this stuff all the time within the context of a very warm and loving community.
5. What’s the one new idea you hope people take away from reading "Quiet" and/or "Quiet Power"?
That introverts—from J.K. Rowling to Bill Gates to your best friend since kindergarten—contribute to the world because of, not despite, our quiet, reflective temperaments. I want people—especially children—to appreciate their natural superpowers. I’ve heard from so many adults who told me that if only they’d understood these powers when they were kids, their whole lives could have been different.
That’s why I wrote Quiet Power—I want to reach all these humans while they’re still young and it can make a profound difference in their lives.
Quiet by Susan Cain is available for purchase here.