5 Lessons from Quiet | Susan Cain

An Introvert’s Guide to Introverts

Jack Yang
5 min readDec 13, 2020
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking


When I was little, I was uncomfortable making small talks, either with relatives or people I don’t know. I would feel a strange sense of anxiety and confusion on minute things, such as where my eyes are supposed to look and where I’m supposed to put my hands. Sometimes my agitation would overtake the conversation and there would be brief and awkward silences. As I grow older, I would intentionally study ways of making better small talks, and even chose Communication Arts as one of my college majors. My conversation ability would improve, but I still feel a sense of unease during small talks. I would be jealous of my friends who can speak to strangers so effortlessly yet wish I could be like them. Strangely enough, unlike other introverts that I know, I enjoy public speaking, especially when I can present my ideas or findings to a crowd. I never understand if my behaviors are a result of some type of mental illness until I read this book. Thanks to Quiet, I feel much better about myself not only because I know what’s causing my situation but also because I know that there are billions of other people just like me.

Score: 4.75 / 5

Recommendations: For introverts who want to learn about themselves, or extroverts who want to communicate with introverts better.


1. We Live In an Extroverted World

The reason I, among many others, never feel entirely comfortable in group conversations or small talks is that we are living in an extrovert-idea society. In workplaces, coworkers sit in an open-space office and perform group storming sessions. In schools, students are expected to take on group projects and join club meetings. In a family, parents are worried if their children are quiet or not making friends. There are many more situations like the ones listed. In other words, the traits of an ideal coworker/employer/student/etc should be collaborative, eloquent, sociable, confident in speaking up during meetings, and many more — the exact portrait of an extrovert. Under such influences, people often mistake competence for confidence. We think the people who appear to be the most confident as the most competent, and those who are not are lacking in skills. In a word, society endorses extroversion as the ideal.

2. What Causes Introversion?

Whenever there is a conversation about personality traits, there is always a debate between nature and nurture. However, the author suggests that the answer lies in the intricate interaction between the two. The same applies to the subject of introversion. The key to explaining introversion/extroversion is levels of stimulation. Usually, introverts have a higher level of sensitivity and react more toward a certain stimulation compared to their extrovert peers. The perception of stimulation is controlled by our brains, specifically the amygdala, which is responsible for receiving signals from the outside world. High-reactive people usually have a more sensitive amygdala, causing them to receive more information. Use me as an example, I am always very conscious of eye placements, poses, and many other minute details during small talks that cause me to feel overstimulated and anxious. On the other hand, extroverts are less sensitive to the environment and therefore can be gregarious and lively.

With that being said, most people are somewhere between the spectrum of extroversion and introversion and only a few people are at the end of the spectrum. I would label myself somewhere in the middle but leaning more toward introverts. Here is a quiz that the author uses to test if you are an introvert or an extrovert.

3. Extroverts vs. Introverts

In the previous section, we discuss the neurological differences between the two types of people. Here I will list some example of how the two differs.

  • Goals: Extroverts get a buzz from attaining their goals. Introverts downplay reward and scan for problems.
  • Risks: Extroverts are reward-sensitive and take more risks. Introverts tend to more calculated when taking risks.
  • Tasks: Extroverts perform better within pressure or multitasking. Introverts tend to focus on a single subject better.
  • Socialize: Extroverts like to interact with people whenever they can. Introverts prefer to be left alone.
  • Friendship: Extroverts tend to have a lot of friends, though many superficial. Introverts have fewer but deep connections.
  • Conversation: Extroverts like small talks. Introverts like deep conversations.

4. How To Become a Better Introvert?

As mentioned previously, the current western culture embraces extroversion by designing workspaces, schools, and many other environments to encourage socialization and collaboration. To survive and thrive in the environment, it is important for introverts to stretch their personality to meet the needs from time to time.

In the book, the author gives an example of an introverted professor who also needs to give lectures in front of an entire class. The professor uses an energy reserve to describe his approach. When he is teaching, something that he does not innately feel comfortable doing, he is draining his energy. After each lecture or between talks, he would find alone time to recharge himself to prepare for the next extroverted event. In doing so, he would balance his energy reserve and feel comfortable performing tasks that require extroversion. Introverts can mimic this approach by setting up “restorative reserves” to recharge their energy in preparation for extroverted events.

5. How To Become A Better Extrovert?

If you are an extrovert, this book offers insights into how the mind of an introvert works. As an extrovert, you need to acknowledge the importance of introverts and that, a good combination of introverts and extroverts is like 1+1=3. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak is a great example. While Steve Jobs is a charismatic and exciting extrovert, he needed an introvert like Wozniak who can quietly build their products with undivided attention. Extroverts can often borrow the thinking and skills of introverts to balance their decisions and maximize productivity. Another way to become better extroverts is to respect introverts’ choices. Typical introverts would retreat from unpleasant experiences or extroverted events. Extroverts should not mistake the retrieval as a sign of disrespect or disinterest but as a note to give them space to recharge.