Monday, December 5, 2016

A brief book review of Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts

Earlier this year a wonderful book for introverted kids and teens was published. It is Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts by Susan Cain, with Gregory More and Erica Moroz. It follows-up her earlier book, Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. In 2012 she also gave a widely viewed 19-minute TED Talk on The power of introverts.

Each chapter in Quiet Power contains several brief stories, and ends with a summary of points and usually a page of instructive cartoons by Grant Snider. For example, Chapter 13: Quiet in the Spotlight is about performing and sharing your talents with others. It has:

Introductory stories about Carly and Liam, followed by A Shy Introvert shines (Ryan), The Fairy Godmother Sings Soprano, A Nudge from Mom (Victoria), Free Trait Theory, and An Audience of Dolls (Caitlin). The Summary is titled How to Shine in the Spotlight, and it has sections titled Prepare, Study the Experts, Slowly Build the Pressure, Familiarize Yourself, Breathe, Smile, Connect, and Look Outward.  

The four main parts of this book and their chapters are:

Chapter 1: Quiet in the Cafeteria
Chapter 2: Quiet in the Classroom
Chapter 3: Group Projects, the Introverted Way
Chapter 4: Quiet Leaders

Chapter 5: Quiet Friendship
Chapter 6: Quiet Parties
Chapter 7: # Quiet
Chapter 8: Opposites Attract

Chapter 9: Quiet Creativity
Chapter 10: The Quiet Athlete
Chapter 11: Quietly Adventurous
Chapter 12: Changing the World the Quiet Way
Chapter 13: Quiet in the Spotlight

Chapter 14: The Restorative Niche
Chapter 15: Quiet with Family


Quiet Power is not perfect. I disagree with her statement on page 249 in A Guide For Parents:

“But if your child is one of the many with stage fright - public speaking is the world’s most common phobia, afflicting extroverts as well as introverts - here are some ways to help him overcome it... “

That is an doubly inflated unsupported variation (both geographically and by fear level) of a statement in Quiet:

“...public speaking is the number-one fear in America, far more common than the fear of death.”

It would be much more useful to point out some real survey statistics on adolescent fears. Back on January 29, 2012 I blogged about Is public speaking the greatest fear for US teens? I discussed how in a 2005 Gallup poll it was not even in their top ten. On  June 11, 2012 I blogged about What social situations scare American adolescents, and what are their top 20 fears? In that post I discussed results for 14 situations from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). 24.9% feared speaking in class, compared with 13.3% for going out/dating. 

On February 18th NPR had an interview with Susan described in an article titled How Parents and Teachers Can Nurture the ‘Quiet Power’ of Introverts. It includes a discussion on public speaking.

I wish something like this book was around when I was a kid. How shy was I five decades ago, when I was in 10th grade? I was the second of five children - three boys Harry, Richard, and Thomas, and two girls - Ellen and Sally. After school Ellen was talking with a group of her girlfriends and waved to me to come over. I thought she might be playing matchmaker. No such luck. She had told them that her brothers really were named Tom, Dick and Harry (in reverse order), but they thought she was kidding. They all knew about Harry, the Eagle Scout who was a whiz at math and chemistry. And they all knew about Tom, the musical prodigy who became the lead cellist in the school orchestra while only in seventh grade. But I (Dick) was invisible. Until she introduced me, none of her friends believed that I even existed.   

Finally in 11th grade I really started to blossom. In trig class I got asked to put homework problems up on the blackboard and explain them. My classmates began to realize that I almost always got them right. I also was one of three 11th graders who took Advanced Placement (AP) chemistry, and got a 5 on the AP exam (meaning when I got to university I didn’t have to take either semester of freshman chemistry). On the qualifying test for National Merit Scholarships I was a semi-finalist, and also outscored a girl who later became one of four valedictorians (Later my sister Ellen got a National Merit Scholarship).

In 12th grade I  took both AP physics and calculus. I got a 5 on the AP exam for calculus, and a 3 on the one for physics. I began my freshman year at Carnegie-Mellon University with a semester worth of AP course credits. 

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