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The Kindred Letters: The two most important words in the English language

Published 7 months ago • 8 min read

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The two most important words in the English language

Can you guess what they are?

Do you prefer quiet to loud, depth to superficiality, sensitivity to cool? Welcome to the
Kindred Letters - my (free) newsletter for 525,000+ kindred spirits drawn to quiet, depth, and beauty.

This is a space for finding a richer form of happiness: defining success on our own terms, and learning to thrive, as our deepest, truest selves.

If you love reading this newsletter as much as I love writing it, it would MEAN SO MUCH TO ME if you'd tell others about it, and share this link with your friends and social networks!


Dear Reader,

When you hear all that advice about how humans are deeply social beings, do you sometimes feel guilty, as if you should enjoy parties and get-togethers more, as if you should be doing more of them?

I do. I still do, even after all these years of advocating for the quiet life. I love my close friends and family; I love getting to know new kindred spirits; but I also love my solitude, beyond all reason. I love reading, writing, and coffee-sipping. I especially love the trees.

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And yet: I believe that the two most important words ever written in the English language are: “Only connect.” They were written by E.M. Forster (who was clearly a bittersweet introvert), in his masterpiece Howards End; I came across them when I was very young; they immediately became my mantra. It’s no accident that I call these weekly messages the “Kindred Letters,” or that I refer to you, dear readers, as my kindred spirits.

Because we have such a limited understanding of what “connection” really involves. Yes, it’s big weddings, it’s chit-chat at the grocery store, it’s even (sometimes) office birthday parties.

But we’re equally connected with the sky, with which we’ll never share a word. We’re connected with the first-century poet whose words give us goosebumps in the year 2023. And we’re connected with each other, through a series of endless and barely perceptible ripples, from you, to me, to her, to him, to them.

Today, I’ll share with you one such cascade of ripples.

  1. Once upon a time, during the siege of Sarajevo, 22 innocent souls, standing in line to buy bread at the bakery, were killed by a mortar shell. Vedran Smailovic, the lead cellist of the Sarajevo Opera, happened to be nearby at the time; he helped care for the wounded. Then, he returned with his cello, dressed in a tuxedo as if for a night at the opera. He sat amidst the wreckage, in the open air, exposed to the snipers who’d driven all sensible people deep into their bullet-holed apartment buildings, and he played Albinoni’s haunting Adagio in G minor. He did this every day for 22 days, one day for each of the taken. He sat there, by himself, sending his music up to the heavens.
  2. His gesture was solitary, but it soon became iconic, inspirational, known to all. Including to Allan Little, a BBC correspondent who created this gorgeous BBC segment, years later.
  3. The segment was discovered by my friend Susan David who, knowing my love of bittersweet music, texted it to me. I still remember where I was when I received her text – by the bathroom sink, getting ready for bed. I clicked play, and stood there transfixed by the music, by the story, by the jewel-like nature of the segment itself.
  4. The next day, I started writing Smailovic’s story into the opening passages of BITTERSWEET, the book I was working on at the time.
  5. BITTERSWEET came out in Spring 2022. Eighteen months later, one of its readers quietly visited Sarajevo, wishing to bear her own witness to Smailovic’s act of grace.
  6. Last week, she sent me this letter and photo, which is today’s “Reader Share”:

Hello Susan,
I am, right now, in Sarajevo. My only desire was to see the place where the cellist played. I found it. Thank you for bringing this story, and the people of Sarajevo, into my life. I am weeping, and laughing, and eating my way through this land of milk and blood: a new witness to their story.
It has been a bittersweet experience here….seeing the Tunnel of Hope, learning of the four year siege of Sarajevo, and learning about the genocide in Srebrenica too.
I have heard and learned a bit of the story of the people of Bosnia and what they endured. I am now a witness. There is power in having a witness…someone standing beside you…I can stand beside these people and hold a piece of their pain….
Thank you for your work with us bittersweet quiet ones…we’ve needed a champion for a long time….you are it!
With love, [name withheld, but letter shared with permission]

So by all means, enjoy your dance parties and your family reunions, your dinners out and even your team-building exercises.

But also notice the quiet ripples. Notice the way that each thought, each action, each step you take in the world, has vast and far-reaching effects that you never quite anticipated.

And notice how these ripples are forming at this very moment, in ever-widening circles, all around you.

That’s what connection truly means.


Speaking of BITTERSWEET: Some of you have asked for an update on the BITTERSWEET play. So I thought you’d enjoy this photo of the gorgeous front window of the ​Bated Breath Theatre Company​, courtesy of Starbright Floral Design (​star_bright_nyc​ on Instagram)

We're revising the script now -- and, as you know, we plan to give Opening Night priority to members of our forthcoming Kindred online community (more about the new community, soon!!).

So, please stay tuned. Plays usually take a while, sometimes a long while, to be born. But, it shall happen!


IN THE MEANTIME. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with “only connecting.”

You can share, just by hitting “Reply” to this e-mail. I’ll do my best to read as many of your replies as I can, and to answer some of them.

Btw: I treasure ALL your letters, and pick the ones I reply to at random. So, if you’ve written back but haven’t yet received a reply from me, please don’t take it personally!

And, if you’re not signed up for the Kindred Letters yet, please do that now!

You may also want to check out my BITTERSWEET and QUIET books and courses (info below), all of which deal deeply with the mysteries of human connection.

I’m always very glad you’re here, and do not take it lightly,


Do you know someone who wants to live a life of quiet, depth, and beauty? If so, please share this Kindred Letters newsletter! It's meant for them!

If you were forwarded this email, click here to sign up!

Want more like this? You might love my books and courses.

Do you react intensely to music, art or nature? Do you love sad songs? Do you draw comfort or inspiration from a rainy day?

If this sounds like you, you might like to check out my book, BITTERSWEET: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole, which was an instant #1 New York Times bestseller and has been translated into 43 languages!

The book explores the power of a bittersweet outlook on life, and why we’ve been so blind to its value.

Bittersweet Course

For those who've signed up for my interactive SMS course (audio and written texts from me, delivered straight to your phone–see below for more info!) I hope you're loving it so far! If you finished the course and wish to take it again, simply hit "restart" on the last text message you received. Here's what some of you have had to say:

"I treasured the was life-giving...I looked forward to Susan's offering every day. The course helped me anchor into the beauty and goodness all around me."

"Susan's course transformed my mindset to one of total acceptance of the world as it is: a beautiful combination of dark and light."

The course is the perfect companion to the Bittersweet book, which was named a Best Book of 2022 by Amazon and Audible!

The course is designed to help you turn pain into creativity or healing, and to incorporate more joy and beauty into your daily life. The best part? It’s delivered straight to your phone, via text message or WhatsApp. You’ll get audio and written texts from me: my voice in your ear, my words on your screen, every morning for thirty days. Join me for 30 days of exploration, through audio lessons, guided meditations, reflections on art and music: all curated and designed to help you unlock the transformative power of bittersweetness.

Public Speaking for Quiet Speakers

A 24-day Interactive Journey with Susan Cain

In my book Quiet, I wrote about my intense fear of public speaking – and how I overcame it. This touched a chord with people all over the world, because public speaking is one of humanity’s greatest fears. And quiet people especially wonder how to excel at an activity that seems to require loudness.

In this course, I want to help you tackle one of the world’s most dreaded activities for quiet people—public speaking.

I understand the fear and anxiety that often comes with public speaking, because I’ve been there myself. But over the last decade, I’ve given hundreds, maybe thousands, of talks, including a TED talk with over 40 million views. And I’m excited to share that public speaking is a fear you can overcome, and a skill you can master.

“The best business / management / leadership book of the century.”
— Tom Peters, legendary author and management thinker

Read the book that started the Quiet movement, spent nine years on the New York Times bestseller list, and has been translated into over 40 languages.

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.

Quiet at Work Course

I'm excited to share my SMS course designed to empower you at work (at home or in the office): as an employee, as a colleague, and as a leader. Every morning for 30 days, through a combination of exercises, strategies, and audio teachings from me, all of which I’ll send directly to your phone, you’ll get the tools you need to communicate, to network, and to lead as an introvert – without having to pretend to be someone else. Instead, you’ll learn to tap the unique and powerful gifts you already have. Would you like to join me? If so, you can sign up below (and choose your own start date)! If you finished the course and wish to take it again, simply hit "restart" on the last text message you received.

The purpose of my work is to help you to make changes in and to better understand your life, through supportive guidance. The information I offer is for educational purposes only, and is based on my life and work experience as a writer, researcher, and speaker. By participating in my talks or consulting sessions, joining my courses and podcasts, or reading my books, newsletters or other writings, you acknowledge that I am not a licensed psychologist, medical doctor or mental health care professional, and that my services don’t constitute medical or psychological advice; they also don’t replace the advice offered by these professionals! Thank you so much for being here, and I wish you all good things.

The Kindred Letters: Join 525K Subscribers

by #1 NY Times bestselling author Susan Cain

For introverts, and all kindred spirits who prefer quiet to loud, depth to superficiality, and sensitivity to cool.

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