Too often denigrated and frequently overlooked in a society that’s held in thrall to an “Extrovert Ideal — the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha and comfortable in the spotlight,” Cain’s introverts are overwhelmed by the social demands thrust upon them. They’re also underwhelmed by the example set by the voluble, socially successful go-getters in their midst who “speak without thinking,” in the words of a Chinese software engineer whom Cain encounters in Cupertino, Calif.
Many of the self-avowed introverts she meets in the course of this book.. ape extroversion...some fake it well enough to make it, going along to get along in a country that rewards the outgoing...Unchecked extroversion — a personality trait Cain ties to ebullience, excitability, dominance, risk-taking, thick skin, boldness and a tendency toward quick thinking and thoughtless action — has actually, she argues, come to pose a real menace of late. The outsize reward-seeking tendencies of the hopelessly outer-directed helped bring us the bank meltdown of 2008...she claims....it’s time to establish “a greater balance of power” between those who rush to speak and do and those who sit back and think. Introverts — who, according to Cain, can count among their many virtues the fact that “they’re relatively immune to the lures of wealth and fame” — must learn to “embrace the power of quiet.” And extroverts should learn to sit down and shut up.
Her accounts of introverted kids misunderstood and mishandled by their parents should give pause, for she rightly notes that introversion in children (often incorrectly viewed as shyness) is in some ways threatening to the adults around them. Indeed, in an age when kids are increasingly herded into classroom “pods” for group work, Cain’s insights into the stresses of nonstop socializing for some children are welcome; her advice that parents should choose to view their introverted offspring’s social style with understanding rather than fear is well worth hearing.
A...problem with Cain’s argument is her assumption that most introverts are actually suffering in their self-esteem. This may be true in the sorts of environments — Harvard Business School, corporate boardrooms, executive suites — that she knows best and appears to spend most of her time thinking about. Had she spent more time in other sorts of places, among other types of people — in research laboratories, for example, or among economists rather than businessmen and -women — she would undoubtedly have discovered a world of introverts quite contented with who they are, and who feel that the world has been good to them.