Exploring What It Means to Be Quiet

(A Friends Journal Book Club Installment)

Do you like quiet?

If so, you’re not alone. You may have thought you were alone, but Susan Cain’s new book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, is about quiet people who don’t get much recognition in our society. Cain claims that in America, we think talking is akin to leadership, that comfort in large groups is what it takes for people to succeed.

That might be true, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. In the beginning of her book, Cain talks about a different American ideal back in the early twentieth century, what she calls the “Culture of Character”:

In the Culture of Character, the ideal self was serious, disciplined, and honorable. What counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved in private. The word personality didn’t exist in English until the eighteenth century, and the idea of “having a good personality” was not widespread until the twentieth. (21)

Currently, Cain points out, we are in the Culture of Personality. Americans want to be entertained, so people like celebrities or motivational speakers get a lot more attention than they would have a century ago. The dominant culture has affected us so much that we start convincing even our young children to be more extroverted (if they’re not already), and we feel less acceptable in society if we want a little peace and quiet during the day, some time alone to recharge.

Questions for Discussion

Would you rather live in the Culture of Character or the Culture of Personality?

What are the benefits and drawbacks of either or both? 

What does it feel like to be outside of the cultural norm? 


Not sure if you’re an introvert or extrovert? Take the Quiet Quiz on Susan Cain’s website.

Buy the book. (Or borrow it from your local library for free!)

*This post is for the August/September book club pick, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. Feel free to comment whether you’ve read the book or not! (If you can’t join us this month, what about next month? We’re reading The Man Who Quit Money by Mark Sundeen in advance of our October issue about money.)

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