An Introvert in an Extrovert World

I’m an introvert. There, I said it. If you know me, maybe you don’t believe it.  Let me explain.

In Quiet: the Power of the Introvert in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain brilliantly explains the large body of research and her own personal experience around introverts and extroverts. She makes a convincing argument about our North American culture and how it often values and rewards extroverts. Cain also points to how introverts often learn extroverted behaviours to be successful in society and at work.

This book has sparked many conversations with colleagues and friends.  Fellow self-identified introverts feel supported and vindicated. There’s a feeling of “finally, someone gets me.” I know some extroverts too – in fact, I live with one – who found the tone of the book faintly negative towards extroverts. One of them told me she thought Cain painted extroverts as “happy, dumb partiers.” That might be a bit extreme, but I get her point.

Cain has a handy little quiz here that helps pinpoint your preferences. Human beings are complex and we all have some combination of introvert and extrovert tendencies.

Being an introvert does not mean that you don’t like people. It doesn’t mean that you’re particularly shy. It doesn’t mean that you’re some kind of weird hermit. It does mean that you recharge your batteries from being alone. Introverts enjoy social occasions, but in small groups or one on one.  I always wondered why others around me were up for socializing late into the night, but I was ready for some alone time. As I’ve matured, I know that I need to prepare myself for large gatherings, whether a party or a professional conference. It’s really a form of rehearsal. John Spencer, a very thoughtful education blogger at Education Rethink, recently wrote a post about this very thing. He has some great strategies – you should read it. It might help you understand us introverts a little better.

Understanding yourself is always valuable. Quiet helped me peel back a couple more layers. I love the diversity in humans, whether introvert, extrovert or somewhere in between. We have more in common than we are different.

3 comments on “An Introvert in an Extrovert World

  1. adunsige says:

    Thank you, Sue, for writing this post! I think it surprises many to know that I’m also an introvert: I do like to talk, and I can be social, but I’m definitely the person that prefers those small gatherings with people I know, and needs the downtime alone. I am going to read John’s post now. I’d love to learn some new strategies for dealing with being an introvert at times when we need to be more extroverted.

    I can’t help but think about the students in my class, and wonder what more I can do to give the students that need it, this quiet time. I’ve tried to break the room apart into areas, and have that quiet/alone area and/or table for students that want it. Dimming the lights also makes things that much quieter/calmer, which can also seem to help some students (although I don’t think always related to being introverted or extroverted). Having the choice about working alone, with a partner, or in small groups, I think can also help, as well as preparing students for more social situations. If you, or others, have additional suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

    Thanks, as always, for a thought-provoking post!
    Aviva

  2. Kristi bishop says:

    I think there are many bloggers who are introverts, don’t you? Maybe twitter is our wild socializing party. It is good for us to know our strengths and strategies to compensate for our weaknesses. I know that as a shy introvert (at least with adults) technology has been a key asset for me. I see it in some of our students too. I wonder what the introvert/extrovert balance is in teachers and how well we model for and support all of our students regardless of our own leanings?

    • Sue Dunlop says:

      Agreed! The value of staff knowing themselves and how they interact and model with students is huge. John Spencer just blogged about whether we shortchange extroverts too. Meeting the needs of our students is complex.

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