Book Review: Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference by Jennifer Kahnweiler, Ph.D.

tiffany_head_128The title alone should have prevented me from buying this book; I care about influencing people about as much as I care about the GNP of Kerblechistan. I felt compelled to give it a read, however, particularly after realizing it is geared specifically towards introverts in the workplace. I am one of those, I thought. This book is perfect!

“Quiet Influence” is designed to help introverts maximize six specific strengths in professional settings. They are:  taking quiet time; preparation; engaged listening; focused conversations; writing; and thoughtful use of social media. The author argues that introverts are just as capable of leadership, business development, and other executive functions as extroverts but approach these tasks differently from extroverts.

Diving in, however, I quickly realized we were not going to click. The author’s excessive reliance on a handful of executive coaches and corporate consultants was annoying, as was the constant self-promotion (as evidenced by the concluding section on how the author is available to do keynote speeches, in-house trainings, executive coaching, blah blah blah).

Additionally some of the examples used are downright silly. Someone made POSTERS and put them in the office kitchen! Oooh…way to go out on a ledge there. This may be too judgemental and harsh, but I expected more macro-level and, frankly, more compelling case studies of introverted leaders and how they influence, particularly from someone with an advanced degree in Corporate-Type Stuff (Kahnweiler holds a Ph.D. in counseling and organizational development).

Fortunately I don’t work in the corporate world. Maybe this is another reason why I didn’t connect with this book or its message.

In spite of the above there are three redeeming qualities introverts might find valuable. First, there’s a quiz designed to give you your “Quiet Influence Quotient,”  or QIQ. A series of simple questions and some easy math establishes your baseline QIQ, while a second sub-quiz tells you which of the six strengths you use most often.

As much as I dislike the idea of personality pop quizzes I understand and endorse the QIQ concept. It is useful when trying to identify where on the introvert scale you fall, and it is always helpful to be reminded of your core attributes, particularly if your work environment is geared towards emphasizing weaknesses rather than strengths. I use most, if not all, of these attributes every day in the office.

Second, each chapter discusses how to better develop each strength and provides realistic examples and illustrations of how tinkering with your abilities can improve your ability to influence.

One thing that occurred to me after wading through each section was how often I use core strengths simultaneously; for example, engaged listening and writing. In meetings where lots of people talk at once, talk over each other, and generally TALK A LOT, I listen, observe, and take notes. If needed I’ll summarize those notes in an email and send it to myself so I can better process what actually took place. At the risk of sounding like a simpleton, my brain needs more time to digest and think about things. This is helped immensely by reviewing my notes and addressing lingering issues after taking time to reflect.

Finally, hard-core introverts who work or aspire to work in a corporate or executive setting would benefit from some of the tips and strategies for getting ahead. If “getting ahead” is indeed one’s goal.

Extroverts who manage introverts could certainly benefit from “Quiet Influence” if only to get a better idea how to draw out employees they perceive as introverts. And to set these employees up for success by maximizing the skills introverts have and minimizing exposure to functions or tasks in which introverts might not perform so well.

Parents should read this book if they have an introverted child whom they consider an employee.

If anyone wants to borrow it I am happy to loan it out on a, ehrm, permanent basis.

— Tiffany

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