ince its publication in January, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking — writer Susan Cain’s examination of what it means to be intro-
verted within a culture that prizes extroverts — has been one of the most talked-about books of the year. And Cain — a self-described introvert whose happiest days, she recently told Convene, are the ones she can spend with her laptop and a cup of coffee — has found herself and her work the subject of dozens of international magazine, news- paper, television, and online stories. She is much in demand as a speaker, addressing audiences ranging from economists at the U.S. Treasury, to librarians at the American Library Association, to engineers at Google and Microsoft. And Cain is a superstar in cyberspace: The video of her presentation at TED2012 this past March, which inspired a standing ovation, reached the one-million-viewer mark more quickly than any other video in TED’s history. That Quiet has resonated so deeply helps to underscore the points that Cain, a former corporate lawyer, makes in her writing and speaking: Although one-third to one-half
of individuals are introverts, neither introversion nor the contributions made by introverts are well understood. Intro- version, she writes, “is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology.” But, “[s]ome of our greatest ideas, art, and inventions — from the theory of evolution to van Gogh’s sunflowers to the personal computer — came from the quiet and cerebral people who knew how to tune in to their inner worlds and the treasures to be found there.” I talked with Cain about what her research and insight into introversion could mean for meeting organizers at a coffee shop in Manhattan, during a day filled with back-to- back interviews for the author. We didn’t have much time, and skipped the small talk, which was fine with Cain and a relief to me, I was surprised to find. One of the most common, and damaging, misperceptions about introverts, Cain writes in Quiet, is that they’re anti-social. And during our half-hour talk, I found the author to be anything but that — Cain was thoughtful, warm, and refreshingly candid.
‘I think that having quiet areas that are cool and inviting goes a long way [at conferences].’