September is a month of anticipation, relief and anxiety. It depends on who you are (student, parent or teacher) and where you fall in the spectrum of introversion and extroversion.
An introverted child may find new teachers, group activities and speaking out in class incredibly uncomfortable and daunting. In fact, some parents choose to homeschool because of this.
Our place along the continuum of introversion and extroversion seems to be a hardwired aspect of personality and physiology. Although many are somewhere between the extremes of introversion and extroversion, at least a third of the people you know are introverted.
If you’re introverted, you may prefer reading a book at home to going out to a party. You need to reflect before you speak, and you may find social interactions with multiple people emotionally draining. You need time alone to recharge your batteries.
Extroverts on the other hand thrive on social interaction and in fact are energized by people. They may need to express themselves in order to figure out what they’re thinking.
In her bestseller, “Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”, Susan Cain outlines the neuroscience, psychology and sociology that explains the differences and relative strengths and gifts of introverts and extroverts.
She describes how our western society is biased towards an Extrovert Ideal. We favour charismatic leaders, people who speak out and control meetings, and the gregarious and outgoing.
Our classrooms and workplaces often favour extroverts who feel more comfortable working in groups and shouting out the answers to the teacher’s questions.
Beautifully written and researched, Cain’s book is a must read for teachers, employers, parents and partners of introverts. It will change the way you see and value introverts, and if you’re an introvert, it will change how you see yourself.
In workplaces with an open office design without privacy, more introverted employees will be more uncomfortable and less productive. If an organization relies on group brainstorming meetings, they may not hear the creative insights of the more introverted who do some of their best work alone.
In the classroom, group activities do not bring the best out of more introverted students. The brightest are not always the first to press the buzzer.
Susan Cain’s book offers practical advice for introverts on self-acceptance and appreciation, understanding extroverts with whom they live and work, when to act more extroverted, and the importance of finding restorative niches to recharge themselves.
The marriage of an introvert and extrovert can be both challenging and rewarding. Extroverts may say things they don’t mean and thrive on conflict; introverts can be more sensitive to their words. Each partner needs to understand how the other needs solitude or social engagement. Cain offers insights to improve mutual understanding and honouring one another’s natures.
Our society is enriched by a variety of cultures, temperaments and personalities. Introverts have great ideas, feelings and insights to share, and with better understanding, we can nurture their strengths at school, at work and at home.
Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician.