07 January, 2012


"Americans responded to these pressures by trying to become salesmen 
who could sell not only their company’s latest gizmo but also themselves." 

QUIET: The Power of Introverts in an World That Can't Stop Talking
By Susan Cain

This morning, I caught a segment on CBS Sunday Morning about charisma. The angle being: are American's voting for our presidential candidates based on their charming smile and twinkling eyes, rather than the substance of what they're saying, what they stand for?

They make a fair argument that we are. And sadly, I'd agree.

I think, as a country, we are suckers for a good salesman. Someone who can make us feel at ease, make us feel good about ourselves and our situation (or at least make us feel that we can trust them to improve our situation). And even if we all don't want to be the salesmen ourselves, we do want people to like us - and more and more, that's starting to mean having this charismatic type of personality that we've come to covet. There are even people who've built an object called a sociometer which can, supposedly, measure your degree of charisma. Seems a bit obsessive to me.

Are we - as a culture - choosing to elect our government officials, our employees, even our friends based solely on this idea of charisma? And is it just America doing this? Or the world over?

In Susan Cain's exploration of Quiet, she quotes a highly successful venture capitalist who seems to have this same concern:
“I worry that there are people who are put in position of authority because they’re good talkers, but they don’t have good ideas… It’s so easy to confuse schmoozing ability with talent… we put too much of a premium on presenting and not enough on substance and critical thinking.” 
This is something that makes me stop and think. Have I done this? Have I, personally, hired co-workers who I thought would be outgoing and friendly over applicants who were just as qualified but perhaps a bit more reserved? Have I always based my opinions of politicians on what they say and what they stand for - or have I been swayed by how they say it and how they present themselves while saying it?

For more quotes collected from this book, visit Borrowing Wisdom. 

Disclosure: I received a copy of Susan Cain's QUIET to read and discuss as a member of the online book club From Left to Write. The thoughts and opinions expressed above are my own.  Click here to purchase your own copy of this book.


  1. Hello Rachel,

    I started reading your blog and getting to know you almost 2 years ago (how time flies!).

    As I've been away for the holidays, I read your last couple of posts just now, one after the other, and it hit me how much you have changed, but all the while remaining the same.

    Since the first entry I read, I noticed your sensitivity, how you never stop believing in making things better: from the entire world to just yourself.
    I think it's rare for someone to have such stability and constance inside (regardless the doubts and fears which you surely have).

    But you've grown so much, you've become so much more aware, so involved, less concentrated on yourself, more loving.

    You are a beautiful person, never doubt that.
    I wish you and you family a splendid 2012.


    (and yes, in Europe we're all more and more into appearances too. maybe on a smaller scale than in the US, but give us a couple of years and we'll be right where you are).

  2. As a person whose business is in sales, I agree with you. The personality and charisma can affect how my clients perceive me. Even when they are not in the right.

  3. I couldn't agree with you more! I am learning from reading this book, to take a little more time in considering whether I'm attracted to a sparkling personality or if the salesman/politician/coworker is really offering something of worth. Many times it's both, but it's still worth thinking more about. Good post!

  4. I do think people who seem outwardly extroverted stand an easier chance getting a job - it's tough to be an introvert!

  5. The "Salesman" is such an iconic American figure - reading this book helped me see why.

    Great post!

  6. Throughout history, many world leaders have been charasmatic. Not necessarily attractive, but definitely charasmatic. There have been leaders that did something positive for the people they led and others that led their people to the most horrific depths. Yes, as Americans we are suckers for a pretty package. But, I think as a society, the more exposed we are to different versions of humanity whether in person or through the interwebs, our viewpoints of what is 'pretty' is expanding. At least, I hope so.

    Interesting take on the book! I think many of us will be going down different roads on Quiet. Off to read some more! :>

  7. I work in sales and I see that people naturally gravitate and trust a person that makes them feel that they can solve all their problems. Just put your trust in me!

    You know that old saying, "Never judge a book by it's cover"? Well people just do, perhaps they can't help it and that's why business people dress as they do. Would you want to buy an insurance policy from a nicely dressed, well spoken woman in a suit or from a woman with a spaghetti strapped blouse and tight leather skirt with tattoos and piercings and speaking in slang terms? Both would have to have secured the same license and have the same training, but you would trust one over the other.

    I guess that is why politicians play the game and dress in suits and kiss babies and why their wives are always perfectly coiffed with frozen smiles on their faces. That is what we trust and what we want to see in our leaders.

    I've always liked that Michele Obama was not a Jackie Kennedy Cookie Cutter First Lady! She dressed like one of us.

  8. It's so true! I see this all the time in my professional life. In reading this book, it helped me realize when I "turn on the charm" too.

  9. Very interesting post! I agree...sadly!

  10. I agree with you. I'm an introvert and I love a good salesman. I love being made to feel completely comfortable, or amused by someones ability to schmooze. As a business owner, I also try not to overlook the quiet introverted ones. All that glitters isn't always gold but it can surly divert your attention.