Thoughts on “Quiet” by Susan Cain

There are some books that become so close to your heart that you cannot express how you feel about them. Writing a review for these books is very hard. Conveying the multitude of emotions in words feels almost impossible.

You try starting to review, but have no clue where or how to begin. You write something, become dissatisfied, edit it, throw it off and re-write the whole thing. You still don’t like what you’ve written. So, you give up temporarily.

Later, you get this sudden zeal to express your feelings about the book that meant so much to you. So, you try again. You pick the book and glance through it, thinking this will help, but it doesn’t. Finally, you realize that you can never really do justice to the awesomeness of the book. So, you whip up whatever you can. You don’t feel satisfied, but you learn to move on.

‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain is one such book for me. After watching the author’s TED talk, I wanted to read her book immediately. While the TED talk made me feel that she is talking about me and expressing my thoughts, the book induced some valuable self-realization and self-validation.

I am an INFJ (Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging) as per Myers–Briggs Type Indicator. So, I could relate to the book completely. I needed almost a month to complete it and still felt that I should have taken it up slower. I could not read more than a few pages at a time, because I had to constantly pause and reflect on what I read. Holding this book in my hand, I was either nodding my head in agreement or digging up and examining past memories. This is one of my favourite books because it made me understand myself better, accept my traits and encouraged me to face my fears.

I’ve been in an environment where I was constantly told that its wrong to be an introvert. Being quiet was perceived as incompetence and/or seen as a weakness that could be exploited. And since we live in an era where it is completely fine to blame the victim because “the real world is harsh”, I kept getting constant morally questionable advice on how to avoid and handle harsh situations.

I sometimes wished I was an extrovert. I often felt that I should not have been born in these times. If only I belonged to an older generation, I wouldn’t be made to feel bad for my traits. Reading this book was life-changing for me because it made me accept my traits when the whole world seemed to imply that something was wrong with me and needs to be enhanced.

There is a huge difference between saying “You are wrong here, here and here. So you need to fix this, this and this” and saying, “You are this way and that is okay. But it will help you if you improve this, this and this.” While both statements point to the same action items, they come from a different perspective.

The first statement does not even acknowledge that there may be a reason why you are the way you are. It does not even try to understand you. It simply sees that you are different from society’s expectations and asks you to “fix” your uniqueness. This can be annoying if you don’t want to lose your originality. It can be depressing if you start believing that something is inherently wrong with you. Unfortunately, this is the way it often works in real life.

This book is like a breath of fresh air because it followed the second line. The author shares her personal experiences, talks about different people and their experiences and in the journey assures us that it is okay to be quiet and reserved. After establishing this, she talks about some common traits of introverts that could be improved. So the reader is more likely to accept their shortcomings and work on them.

This book does tend to glorify introverts, so parts of it should be taken with a pinch of salt. I would still recommend it to everyone. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, if you ever wanted to understand people who are quiet, introverted or sensitive, this book is for you.

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