Google the word ‘introvert’ and about 11.5 million results appear in less than a second. Today there is a plethora of insights and advice available on introversion; much of the focus is on children and adolescents, but much applies to adults. Is being an introvert really the new black?
Cain’s (2013) book definitely expands the introvert discussion with a detailed account of cultural biases, the research, people’s experiences, and how to enhance introvert power; her TED talk has over 11.7 million views and her website, Quiet Revolution, provides support for quiet students, links with a Quiet Leadership Institute, and invites people to share their introverted experiences and knowledge. I feel encouraged to see this trend of beginning to honour wherever we land along the introvert-extrovert spectrum.
Really, it’s about finding balance. Our western cultural bias toward extroversion has gone on long enough and seeing the pendulum swing is exciting. Instead of screening ourselves out (Pannapaker, 2012), we are the new cool (Roy, 2013). We are learning from eastern cultures: “soft power… by water rather than by fire… soft power is quiet persistence… soft power wins you over” (Cain, 2013, p. 197). Nowadays, our attention is drawn to introverted leaders like Eleanor Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi, Bill Gates, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks (Kahnweiler, 2013), not just for their accomplishments but also as confirmation that introversion and powerful influence can coexist when people are passionate about their cause.
Rather than fixing the introverts, educators are encouraged to reconsider their judgments of the quiet students at the back of the room and recognize the academic strengths of introverts – they think before they talk, have depth of thought and conversation, are creative in solitude, are able to focus and concentrate well, work well alone or in groups of 2 or 3, have strong writing skills, are quietly persistent, and are big picture thinkers (Cain, 2013, Kahnweiler, 2013, Monahan, 2013).
As an educator, I believe it is my responsibility to engage all the learners in the room. Creating a more inclusive learning environment means balancing individual reflective activities with collaborative group work, acknowledging quality of participation rather than quantity, and actively listening for the quiet voices. In my next post on the role of educators, I will explore ideas to cultivate a teaching-learning environment where introverted participants feel welcome and appreciated.
Cain, S. (2013). Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. New York: Broadway Books.
Kahnweiler, J. (2013). Quiet influence: The introvert’s guide to making a difference. Retrieved from http://jenniferkahnweiler.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/quiet-influence-excerpt-with-cover.pdf
Monahan, N. (2013, October 28). Keeping introverts in mind in your active learning classroom. (web log comment). Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/keeping-introverts-in-mind-in-your-active-learning-classroom/
Pannapacker, W. (2012). Screening out the Introverts. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/Screening-Out-the-Introverts/131520/
Roy, S. (2015, July 30). The introvert strikes back? The newfound cool of being introverted. (web log comment). Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sandip-roy/introvert_b_3790923.html