Appreciating ‘Hidden’ Diversity: A Book About Introverts

By Cynthia C. Mercado, EMBA, MA
Office of Educational Development

Cynthia C. Mercado, EMBA, MA

Many times in the daily rush, amid piles of scholarly journals and academic readings, interesting books that could have augmented one’s knowledge of human diversity, “color the imagination,” and perhaps bring a deeper perspective on others and oneself are pushed aside. With this column, my intention is to bring such books to light which may have gone unnoticed or deserve a second look.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, 
Crown Publishers, New York, 2012

Surely you have come across people who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create, but shun self-promotion; and who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. These are the introverts. 

At least a third of the people we know are introverts. Susan Cain’s book Quiet shows how introverted people are misunderstood and undervalued in modern culture. The book tells the stories of real people such as Asian-American students who feel alienated from the brash, backslapping atmosphere of American schools; a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks; and a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. 

Cain explores the rise of the “extrovert ideal” in the 20th century and its effects on society on a journey that takes in Dale Carnegie’s birthplace, Harvard Business School, a seminar led by motivational speaker Tony Robbins, and an evangelical mega church. Drawing on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience, she reveals the core differences between extroverts and introverts.

The American business culture, Cain contends, often impedes innovation and overlooks the leadership potential of introverts. In that world, practices such as forced collaboration may negate the chance for the genius of the individual – and introverts – to flourish. Often dismissed as “quiet,” introverts have made great contributions to society, Cain reminds, from Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” to the invention of the personal computer.

Quiet offers practical suggestions for introverts as well as others who live or work with an introvert, such as how to effectively negotiate differences in an introvert-extrovert relationship and how to empower an introverted child to be a “pretend extrovert.” A must-read book, it gives the reader the capacity to permanently change how they view introverts and in the same vein, change how introverts see themselves.