Susan Cain

self-help writer

Susan Cain (born 1968) is an American writer and lecturer, and author of the non-fiction book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (2012) which argues that modern Western culture misunderstands and undervalues the traits and capabilities of introverted people. Her follow-on book, Quiet Power (2016), was adapted for children and teens, and for their educators and parents. Cain's Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole (2022) encourages readers to accept feelings of sorrow and longing as inspiration to experience sublime emotions—such as beauty and wonder and transcendence—to counterbalance the "normative sunshine" of society's pressure to constantly be positive.

We've known about the transcendent power of solitude for centuries; it's only recently that we've forgotten it.

QuotesEdit

  • To me, one of the best things in the world is that sublime moment when a writer, artist, or musician manages to express something you’ve always felt but never articulated, or at least never quite so beautifully.
    • "About", SusanCain.net, May 2022.
  • There’s something about writing books that gives us the permission to discuss things that aren’t as easy to talk about in everyday life. To me, the whole point of writing books is to look at the unexamined, the unspeakable, and the unarticulated.
    • Mineo, Liz (interviewer), "That feeling you get when listening to sad music? It's humanity", The Harvard Gazette, May 11, 2022.

QuietEdit

 
Our lives are shaped as profoundly by personality as by gender or race. And the single most important aspect of personality … is where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum.
 
For seven blissful years I had spent my time reading, writing and researching a book about introversion. But the publication date had arrived, the idyll was over and my metamorphosis was complete. I was now that impossibly oxymoronic creature: the Public Introvert.
  • Our culture rightly admires risk-takers, but we need our “heed-takers” more than ever.
    • Manifesto, ThePowerOfIntroverts.com, January 2012 (est).
  • Everyone shines, given the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.
    • Manifesto, ThePowerOfIntroverts.com, January 2012 (est).
  • Love is essential, gregariousness is optional.
    • Manifesto, ThePowerOfIntroverts.com, January 2012 (est).
  • Solitude is out of fashion. Our companies, our schools and our culture are in thrall to an idea I call the New Groupthink, which holds that creativity and achievement come from an oddly gregarious place.
    • "The Rise of the New Groupthink," Opinion section of The New York Times, online January 13, 2012; in print January 15, 2012.
  • It’s never a good idea to organize society in a way that depletes the energy of half the population.
    • Cook, Gareth (interviewer), "The Power of Introverts: A Manifesto for Quiet Brilliance," Scientific American, January 24, 2012.
  • Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, while introversion is simply the preference for less stimulation. Shyness is inherently uncomfortable; introversion is not. The traits do overlap, though psychologists debate to what degree.
    • Cook, Gareth (interviewer), "The Power of Introverts: A Manifesto for Quiet Brilliance," Scientific American, January 24, 2012.
  • We (introverts) are not anti-social; we’re differently social.
    • Cook, Gareth (interviewer), "The Power of Introverts: A Manifesto for Quiet Brilliance," Scientific American, January 24, 2012.
  • (In writing Quiet) I was fueled by the same mix of passion and indignation that I imagine inspired Betty Friedan to publish The Feminine Mystique in 1963. Introverts are to extroverts what women were to men at that time--second-class citizens with gigantic amounts of untapped talent. Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts, and many introverts believe that there is something wrong with them and that they should try to "pass" as extroverts. The bias against introversion leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and happiness.
    • Glor, Jeff (interviewer), "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking," by Susan Cain," CBS News, January 26, 2012.
  • We have a two-tier class system when it comes to personality style. To devalue introversion is a waste of talent, energy and happiness.
    • Bielski, Zosia (interviewer), "Giving introverts permission to be themselves," The Globe and Mail January 26, 2012.
  • Most introverts aren’t aware of how they are constantly spending their time in ways that they would prefer not to be. They’ve been doing it all their lives, so it just becomes second nature. I’m trying to give people entitlement inside their own minds to be who they are.
    • Bielski, Zosia (interviewer), "Giving introverts permission to be themselves," The Globe and Mail, January 26, 2012.
  • We moved from what cultural historians call a culture of character to a culture of personality. During the culture of character, what was important was the good deeds that you performed when nobody was looking. … But at the turn of the (20th) century, when we moved into this culture of personality, suddenly what was admired was to be magnetic and charismatic.
    • Cornish, Audie (interviewer), "Quiet, Please: Unleashing 'The Power Of Introverts'," NPR, January 30, 2012.
  • I look back on my years as a Wall Street lawyer as time spent in a foreign country.
    • "The quiet strength of the introvert," The Chicago Tribune, February 20, 2012.
  • We can stretch our personalities, but only up to a point. Bill Gates is never going to be Bill Clinton, no matter how he polishes his social skills, and Bill Clinton can never be Bill Gates, no matter how much time he spends alone with a computer.
    • "The quiet strength of the introvert," The Chicago Tribune, February 20, 2012.
  • Groups follow the most charismatic person, even though there is no correlation between being a good speaker and having great ideas.
    • "An introverted call to action: Susan Cain at TED2012," TED, February 28, 2012.
  • The key to maximizing talents is to put yourself into the zone of stimulation that’s right for you.
    • "An introverted call to action: Susan Cain at TED2012," TED, February 28, 2012.
  • I prefer listening to talking, reading to socializing … I like to think before I speak (softly).
    • "Susan Cain: Quiet revolutionary" speaker profile at TED.com, February 2012 (est.)
  • Solitude matters, and for some people it is the air that they breathe.
    • "Susan Cain: Quiet revolutionary" speaker profile at TED.com, February 2012 (est.)
  • Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Gandhi — all these peopled described themselves as quiet and soft-spoken and even shy. And they all took the spotlight, even though every bone in their bodies was telling them not to.
    • "Susan Cain: Quiet revolutionary" speaker profile at TED.com, February 2012 (est.)
  • The world needs you and it needs the things you carry. So I wish you the best of all possible journeys and the courage to speak softly.
    • "Susan Cain: Quiet revolutionary" speaker profile at TED.com, February 2012 (est.)
  • Our lives are shaped as profoundly by personality as by gender or race. And the single most important aspect of personality … is where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum.
    • "Why the world needs introverts," The Guardian, March 13, 2012.
  • Our culture is biased against quiet and reserved people, but introverts are responsible for some of humanity's greatest achievements.
    • "Introverts run the world -- quietly," CNN.com, March 18, 2012.
  • We've known about the transcendent power of solitude for centuries; it's only recently that we've forgotten it.
    • "Introverts run the world -- quietly," CNN.com, March 18, 2012.
  • Introversion — along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness — is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology.
    • "Revenge of the introverts: It's often assumed extroverts do best in life, but a new book reveals quite the opposite... ," The Daily Mail, March 25, 2012.
  • Where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum... influences our choice of friends and partners, and how we make conversation, resolve differences and show love. It affects the careers we choose and whether or not we succeed at them.
    • "Revenge of the introverts: It's often assumed extroverts do best in life, but a new book reveals quite the opposite... ," The Daily Mail, March 25, 2012.
  • One honest relationship can be more productive than fistfuls of business cards.
    • "Revenge of the introverts: It's often assumed extroverts do best in life, but a new book reveals quite the opposite... ," The Daily Mail, March 25, 2012.
  • For seven blissful years I had spent my time reading, writing and researching a book about introversion. But the publication date had arrived, the idyll was over and my metamorphosis was complete. I was now that impossibly oxymoronic creature: the Public Introvert.
    • Essay: "An Introvert Steps Out," "Sunday Book Review" section of The New York Times, online April 27, 2012 and in print April 29, 2012.
  • Persistence isn’t very glamorous. If genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration, then as a culture we tend to lionize the 1 percent. We love its flash and dazzle. But great power lies in the other 99 percent.
    • Hughey, Aaron W. (book reviewer), "Book review: ‘Quiet’ suggests introverts are undervalued by society," The Daily News (Kentucky; BGDailyNews.com), July 15, 2012.
  • This is the next great diversity issue of our time.
    • Walsh, Colleen (staff writer), "Women in the law" article re "Celebration 60" event, Harvard Gazette, September 30, 2013. (Quotation referring to introversion and extroversion)
  • There's no correlation between expressing an idea assertively or charismatically, and having a good idea.
    • Guerrero, Aaron (interviewer), "Introvert Susan Cain Explains Why Shy People Thrive at Work," U.S. News and World Report, October 3, 2013
  • We need systems that reward the best ideas, not the best presenters.
    • Guerrero, Aaron (interviewer), "Introvert Susan Cain Explains Why Shy People Thrive at Work," U.S. News and World Report, October 3, 2013
  • I'm seeing businesses embrace the Quiet Revolution as the next great diversity issue of our time.
    • Guerrero, Aaron (interviewer), "Introvert Susan Cain Explains Why Shy People Thrive at Work," U.S. News and World Report, October 3, 2013
  • Embracing their quiet nature does not cause introverts to flee to a shack in the woods. It empowers them to engage with the world – but on their own terms.
    • Cain's second TED Talk, "Announcing the Quiet Revolution," March 2014.
  • There is zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.
    • Downey, Maureen (interviewer), "Teaching introverts: Do schools prefer big talkers to big thinkers?", The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 5, 2016.
  • Today we know that the reality is far more complex. For one thing, the ARAS doesn’t turn stimulation on and off like a fire truck’s hose, flooding the entire brain at once; different parts of the brain are aroused more than others at different times. Also, high arousal levels in the brain don’t always correlate with how aroused we feel. And there are many different kinds of arousal: arousal by loud music is not the same as arousal by mortar fire, which is not the same as arousal by presiding at a meeting; you might be more sensitive to one form of stimulation than to another. It’s also too simple to say that we always seek moderate levels of arousal: excited fans at a soccer game crave hyperstimulation, while people who visit spas for relaxation treatments seek low levels.*
    • Quiet at p. 123

BittersweetEdit

  • This book is about the melancholic direction, which I call the "bittersweet": a tendency to states of longing, poignancy, and sorrow; an acute awareness of passing time; and a curiously piercing joy at the beauty of the world.
    • Bittersweet Introduction at p. xxii (April 5, 2022)
  • The tragedy of life is linked inescapably with its splendor; you could tear civilization down and rebuild it from scratch, and the same dualities would rise again. Yet to fully inhabit these dualities—the dark as well as the light—is, paradoxically, the only way to transcend them.
    • Bittersweet Introduction at p. xxiii
  • I've concluded that bittersweetness is not, as we tend to think, just a momentary feeling or event. It's also a quiet force, a way of being, a storied tradition—as dramatically overlooked as it is brimming with human potential. It's an authentic and elevating response to the problem of being alive in a deeply flawed yet stubbornly beautiful world.
    • Bittersweet Introduction at p. xxiv
  • Longing is momentum in disguise: It's active, not passive; touched with the creative, the tender, and the divine.
    • Bittersweet Introduction at p. xxvi
  • The secret that our poets and philosophers have been trying to tell us for centuries, is that our longing is the great gateway to belonging.
    • Bittersweet Introduction at p. xxvii
  • It doesn’t matter whether we consider ourselves "secular" or "religious": in some fundamental way, we're all reaching for the heavens.
    • Bittersweet Introduction at p. xxviii
  • In fact, you could say that what orients a person to the bittersweet is a heightened awareness of finality.
    • Bittersweet Introduction at p. xxxiii
  • Upbeat tunes make us want to dance around our kitchens and invite friends for dinner. But it's sad music that makes us want to touch the sky.
    • Bittersweet, Chapter 2 at p. 36
  • We like art forms that express our longing for union, and for a more perfect and beautiful world.
    • Bittersweet, Chapter 2 at p. 36
  • Whatever pain you can't get rid of, make it your creative offering.
    • Bittersweet, Chapter 3 at p. 56
  • It's not that pain equals art. It's that creativity has the power to look pain in the eye, and to decide to turn it into something better. ... The quest to transform pain into beauty is one of the great catalysts of artistic expression.
    • Bittersweet, Chapter 3 at p. 61
  • The very highest states—of awe and joy, wonder and love, meaning and creativity—emerge from this bittersweet nature of reality. We experience them not because life is perfect—but because it's not.
    • Bittersweet, Chapter 4 at pp. 92-93
  • How did a nation founded on so much heartache turn into a culture of normative smiles?
    • Bittersweet, Chapter 5, title, at p. 117
  • "Expressive writing" encourages us to see our misfortunes not as flaws that make us unfit for worldly success (or otherworldly heaven), but as the seeds of our growth.
    • Bittersweet, Chapter 6 at p. 151
  • We think we long for eternal life, but maybe what we're really longing for is perfect and unconditional love; a world in which lions actually do lay down with lambs; a world free of famines and floods, concentration camps and Gulag archipelagos; a world in which we grow up to love others in the same helplessly exuberant way we once loved our parents; a world in which we're forever adored like a precious baby; a world built on an entirely different logic from our own, one in which life needn't eat life in order to survive.
    • Bittersweet, Chapter 7 at p. 178
  • Our difficulty accepting impermanence is the heart of human suffering.
    • Bittersweet, Chapter 8 at p. 181
  • Living in a bittersweet state, with an intense awareness of life's fragility and the pain of separation, is an underappreciated strength and an unexpected path to wisdom, joy, and especially communion.
    • Bittersweet, Chapter 8 at pp. 183-4
  • We’ve unwittingly taught (children) a delusion—that things are supposed to be whole; that real life is when things are going well; that disappointment, illness, and flies at the picnic are detours from the main road.
    • Bittersweet, Chapter 8 at p. 184
  • Seneca suggested that each night we tell ourselves that "You may not wake up tomorrow," and that we greet every morning with the reminder that "You may not sleep again." All of these practices are meant to help us treat our lives, and each other, as the precious gifts they are.
    • Bittersweet, Chapter 8 at p. 192
  • (T)he bittersweet tradition spans centuries—it spans continents. And it teaches us that we are creatures who are born to transform pain into beauty. It also teaches us that our feelings of bittersweetness are some of the greatest gateways that we have to states of creativity and connection and love.
    • Griscom, Rufus (interviewer). "Susan Cain on the Beauty of Sorrow and Longing (interview)". NextBigIdeaClub.com. April 7, 2022.
  • We listen to sad music for the same reason we go to church or synagogue or the mosque. We long for the Garden of Eden, we long for Mecca, we long for Zion because we come into this world with the sense that there is a more perfect and beautiful world to which we belong, where we are no longer.
    • Mineo, Liz (interviewer). "That feeling you get when listening to sad music? It’s humanity". The Harvard Gazette. May 11, 2022.
  • Being able to exist in a place where light and dark meet is actually not a recipe for unhappiness. It is a recipe for a deeper kind of happiness.
    • Bastian, Jonathan (host). "Bittersweet: Susan Cain on the joy of sweet sorrow". KCRW.com (Los Angeles). May 21, 2022.
  • When you listen to music, you can transcend your own pain and turn towards another and feel bonded with the whole of humanity because you know that they have felt that grief and love. By expressing it, by communing with that song or picture, you realize you are not alone.
    • Walker, Suzy (interviewer). "The Big Happiness Interview: Susan Cain on how embracing sadness can make us happier", Metro, June 5, 2022.
  • Human beings are a meaning-making species.
    • Walker, Suzy (interviewer). "The Big Happiness Interview: Susan Cain on how embracing sadness can make us happier", Metro, June 5, 2022.
  • There's a reason that so many religions and wisdom traditions counsel meditating on death, and it's because there's almost nothing that delivers you so quickly to the preciousness of life than to think about death.
    • Meraji, Shereen Marisol (interviewer), "How to be OK with your sadness and know when to embrace it", NPR, August 15, 2022.
  • Longing is the great human state.
    • Meraji, Shereen Marisol (interviewer), "How to be OK with your sadness and know when to embrace it", NPR, August 15, 2022.
  • The tyranny of positivity is the cultural message that all of us are sent that no matter what is happening, we should be putting on a happy face, that we should be soldiering through it and whistling cheerfully. I call it the tyranny of positivity and some people call it toxic positivity. What it really is, is a cultural directive that says, Whatever you do, don't tell the truth of what it's like to be alive.
    • Cording, Jess (interviewer), "In New Book, NYTimes Bestselling Author Susan Cain Explores The Value Of Bittersweetness In A World Of Toxic Positivity", Forbes, September 9, 2022.
  • The place where you suffer is the same space where you commit yourself to act.
    • Sabater, Valeria (author of article), "Accettare l'imperfezione della vita" ("Accepting the imperfection of life"), La Mentee Meravigliosa (The Wonderful Mind), October 5, 2022.

Quotes about Susan CainEdit

  • 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 as well as disasters like Enron, she claims.
    • Warner, Judith (February 10, 2012). "Inside Intelligence / Susan Cain’s Quiet Argues for the Power of Introverts", The New York Times.

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