Notes on “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” – Susan Cain

These are mostly personal notes for me since I find this book super intriguing and enlightening, and I want to remember all the key points, research, and arguments she has written.

  • Culture of Character:  integrity, modesty, reserves, quietness,  originated from farming, changed to Culture of Personality:  bold, outgoing, confidence, after the Industrial Revolution hit around the 1920s (at least in America) for business purposes.  Commercials encouraged confidence and more extroverted values… attracting other people and more about the image –>  amplified by social media
    • Women/men who were back  then seen as coming from an educated classy family background if more reserved, but then over time became perceived as too shy, maybe even prude?
  • Reason why introverts haven’t been wiped out by Natural Selection is because even though high sensitive babies seem generally to take up 20%, low-sensitive 40%, in-beweens 40%, circumstances change to benefit one or the other.
    • Example:  hunter-gatherers benefit extroverts with the “go-getter” attitude, survival of the fittest attitude.  But settlers with more farming, calmer detailed systems benefit, and animals who are more cautious are less likely to take risks that could get them killed.
  • Nature vs. Nurture:  studies following 4-month babies to high school age show that babies who have “high-reactive” reactions towards loud noises and other stimulants tend to grow up to be more susceptible to emotions, both negative and positive, and possibly more inclined to be introverts who study and are more academically strong
    • Two high school kids, the “low-reactive” student grew up to be a confident jock who admittedly flaws cheerfully and spoke to interviewer as an equal, not a person of authority.
    • 70% of more “sensitive” people are introverted
  • Solitude:  studies show that open-floor plans are actually more detrimental… having places to work alone in the office can help boost up creativity and allow employees to focus more on the tasks
  • Peer-pressure:  experiments have shown that people are more likely to succumb to majority influence, so in a classroom, they might even not be aware that their answer is more to conform, even if it’s wrong
  • Asian-american culture:  Asians come from a background that value more Culture of Character, modesty, reservedness, speaking only when there is value.  This clashes with things in American culture, particularly in classrooms and in the workplace where teachers or CEOs respect them more for speaking up and vocalizing opinions and equalizing them to confidence, even if the answer is not always the best, or the employee doesn’t have the most experience or knowledge
    • Cupertino has 70% Asian students – their culture revolves around the library and grades rather than the football field and sports. But students have struggled to conform to more extroverted outgoing culture once entering college

Questions:  Since Asian culture treasures Culture of Character (introversion) over Culture of Personality (extroversion), what would the test results yield for the proportion of introverts vs. extroverts, or rather high-reactive vs. low-reactive in the amygdala?  Since genetics of that can be 50% hereditary, would Asians tend to conform to their culture and biologically/physiologically have more than 20% population of introverts in Asia?  Over time, would they adapt to American traits that are prized and have less sensitive information signals in the brain?

  • Professor Brian Little:  Free Trait Theory – “born and culturally endowed with certain personality traits, but we can and do act out of character in the service of ‘core personal projects'”
    • Self-monitoring – good at adjusting own behavior in accordance to other people and surroundings/environment.  Introverts with high scores are better at pseuo-extroversion.
      • “more pragmatic than principled”
      • better at deception, conformist
  • Career: 
    1. What did you want to be when you grew up, why?
    2. What kind of work did you gravitate to?  Goals in pro bono work, etc. what motivates you?
    3. What/who do you envy?  (Susan Cain said writers and psychologists, not Wall Street lawyers)  
  • “Restorative Niches” -place to return to your true self.  Physical place, or brief time.  Evaluate presence/absence at new job as carefully as family leave policy or health insurance plans
  • Approaching requests at work empirically rather than psychologically works well to appeal for extroverts 😀  “nature of work required quiet time to concentrate, two days of work from home”
  • Extroverts:  “need people as a forum to fill needs for social impact; may influence how many friends you have, but not how good a friend you are” (pg. 227).
  • Introverts:  sincere, meaningful conversations .
  • Big Five traits:
    • Introversion-Extroversion
    • Agreeableness
    • Openness to Experience
    • Conscientiousness
    • Emotional Stability
  • The Communication Gap between Introverts/Extroverts
    • Introverts have two gears:  overwhelming feelings and detached self-possession.
      • How to show emotions without losing control?
      • More prone to cooperation, minimize aggression aka “receding emotionally”
    • Extroverts:  “confrontive copers” up-front, argumentative approach
      • more prone to competition
    • Hong Kong vs. Israeli MBA students
      • Asians prefer friendly business manager rather than hostile
      • Israelis equally likely to accept either – view disagreement not as sign of disrespect but that opposing party is concerned, passionately engaged
    • “Anger:  The Misunderstood Emotion”- Carol  Tavris.  Bengali cobra should hiss, but not bite.
      • “You’re so antisocial” –> rephrase:  “Can we figure out a way to organize our weekends that work for us both?”  (extrovert to introvert)
      • Introverts are better at observing social dynamics than participating in them (distracted by multi-tasking efforts)
  • Cobbler vs. General – providing space for introvert or extrovert to fulfill potential
    • ‘iatrogenic’ problem:  when the treatment makes you sick.
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