Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts

Image of Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts
Release Date: 
May 2, 2016
Dial (Children)
Reviewed by: 

Introducing Quiet Power, Susan Cain writes to her kids and team audience, “Through the stories and experiences of other young people like you, I’ll address questions that introverts often wonder about: How do you carve out a place for yourself as a quiet person? How can you make sure that you’re not ignored? And how do you make new friends when it feels hard to muster the confidence to be chatty?”

She suggests, “Think of this as a guidebook. I won’t teach you how to turn yourself into someone else. Instead, it will teach you to use the marvelous qualities and skills you already have. And then . . . look out, world.”

We all—and most especially parents—know how expectation and the subsequent reality of an experience can diverge. Departing for summer camp with a suitcase full of books, a young Susan Cain anticipated a joyous quiet summer, reading with similar-minded nine-year olds. Sadly, Susan learned that exuberant extroversion was the norm/preferred way, as she was forced by the counselor to join in chanting about “ROWDIE! Let’s get ROWDIE!”

As Cain recollects, “this was not what I was expecting. I was already excited to be at camp—why the need to be so outwardly rowdy?” The counselor’s insistence that the word should be spelled R-O-W-D-I-E prompted the quiet nine-year-old to wonder, “Why do we have to spell this word incorrectly?”

Rather than perceiving introversion as a personality shortcoming or some inadequacy, Susan Cain champions the power of quiet temperament, urging “accept and treasure yourself—just as you are.” For “the world needs you, and there are so many ways to make your quiet style speak volumes.”

Cain explains how the concepts of introvert and extrovert, advanced by prominent psychologist Carl Jung, are relative rather than absolute. Most everyone is a combination, with those possessing considerable amount of both labeled “ambivert.”

Among the attributes of people who tend to be introverted are liking being with fewer than many people, preferring to expressing ideas in writing, favoring being alone, avoiding conflicts, working best alone, feeling “drained” after considerable interaction with others, sustaining focus for extended period of time without being bored, and asking questions rather than answering them.

While TV guru Dr. Phil McGraw proclaims, "Put me in front of an audience and I don't get nervous at all,” he admits, "To tell you the truth, I’m very shy." An introvert, he states, “a cocktail party is my hell."

Highlights of “Manifesto for Introverts.” include:

  • There’s a word for “people who are in their heads too much, thinkers.”
  • Most great ideas spring from solitude.
  • Two or three close friends mean more than 100 acquaintances (though acquaintances are great, too.)
  • It’s okay to cross the hallway to avoid small talk.

Quiet Power has four primary parts, each developed in two to five chapters in which she describes, discusses and applies the quiet principles.

  1. School—cafeteria, classroom, group projects, leadership
  2. Socializing—friendship, parties, social media, opposites attract
  3. Hobbies—creativity, athletics, adventure, social action, featured in the spotlight
  4. Home—restorative role, plus family time.

Key themes are developed through a mix of research distillation together with her own first person experiences and third party stories. Featured stories are “based on interviews with more than 100 kids, parents, and teachers,” relate the backgrounds, experiences, learnings and triumphs of various quiet kids and teens.

Chapters conclude with action step checklists applying Quiet Power principles to that particular aspect. Thus, the “athlete’s game plan” includes practice alone, study your game, visualize success, shrink your world, exercise solo.

This book can be read most advantageously by an audience far beyond targeted quiet teens and kids. Those kids and teens who are exuberant extroverts can gain insights that can enable them to be more empathic and therefore more effective by speaking quietly with those who will not hear a message that is screamed.

Many, many audiences might benefit from Quiet Power. Beyond kids and teens, Quiet Power is must reading for all adults—parents, coaches, teachers, etc.—who interact with teens and kids. Consider how many police officers might misinterpret a kid's quiet demeanor as insolence with tragic consequences of escalating conflict when none really exists?

Quiet Power is the affirming, motivating, inspiring, instructive guide parents will want their kids and teens, their classmates, and all adults who might interact with them, to read.