Are we fair to introverts? – Greeley Tribune

Are we fair to introverts? – Greeley Tribune


Who contributes most to your team, the introverts or extroverts? Which type makes for the better leader? Better producer? Despite challenging research to the contrary, conventional knowledge appears to favor extroverts.

You have heard this before: Extroverts are expansive talkers and presenters. With broad interests, and less fear of being put on the spot, they tend to be more relaxed in social situations.

In contrast, the more reserved introvert will ask more questions than offer opinions. To be asked for an “off the cuff” response is uncomfortable. Rather, introverts are naturally inclined to go deeper. They need time and space to process.

As a student expressed in an online discussion last semester, “Being introverted does not necessarily mean you cannot talk in front of a group or lead a team to success. You just may want to cut the small talk and get to business.”


Lately, recognizing that my own personality leans slightly toward E, I am on alert in the classroom. How to be fair to those dependable thinkers and excellent writers who rarely or reluctantly thrust a hand in the air (or onscreen) when I launch a discussion ?

During Covid constraints, I began to challenge my Introductory business students with excellent topical resources in print and video — precursors of their major study unit on leadership, management, and the human resources function in corporate enterprise.

On the list is a terrific TED (Technology, Education, Design) talk (2012) which readers can find on You Tube. (Ms. Cain’s related book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, ” was on the NYT best sellers list for eight years.)

For the balance of this column, I invite you to contemplate a class wherein one group of students consistently jumps at the chance to speak up. But not everyone engages.

How will you draw out those who are active listeners, prefer deep thought and consequently feel drained by a fast-paced, high-energy 75 minutes?

For these fresh, practical “learning management” tips, I am indebted to respected academic colleagues Mary Ellen Guffey and Dana Loewy, whose recent communication blog contains hotlinks for teaching introverts at different grade levels.

While this article speaks primarily to K-16 classrooms, one can imagine engagement opportunities in the workspace, as well. Consider several ways to include introverts:

Create awareness

Help them self-identify by taking a test (see box), viewing strong presentations, (eg, Susan Cain onstage), and engaging in respectful discussion.

Rethink participation

Because introverts often need more time to think through questions, extroverts often receive better participation marks. Why not ask everyone to read, watch and tackle a common resource on their own … so class discussion is more fruitful.

Create smaller groups

Introverts typically dislike group work—they do not have enough time to think them through. Keep groups to two or three, so introverts’ ideas will not be drowned out as they often are in larger group

Encourage brainwriting instead of brainstorming

A simple fix to the traditional brainstorming format, which encourages shouting out ideas, is to ask students to write down all their thoughts and then share them with teammates (my favorite tip, worthy of experimentation).

Have two-person teams share ideas before larger group discussions

Introverts are often lost amid class-wide discussions. However, if they talk through their ideas with one person, they are more likely to add those insights to a larger discussion. (I have instituted in my remote section of “business law lite,” positive drawing student feedback at mid-semester).

Beyond education and the business environment, let us also acknowledge the current “silly season,” when voters are bombarded with opportunity to sound off – with friends, co-workers, the press, or pollsters – about this or that candidate or ballot issue.

What should we make of those who refuse to engage at the drop of a hat? Are they simply too timid or shy to participate in needed “blunt talk” about politics? Or might they require still more time … to fully consider their options or to recover from yet more “exhausting” confrontation?

— Cartier teaches at Aims Community College, focusing on legal and ethical challenges facing business and the practical “soft skills” that underlie success. As a member of the faculty’s elected leadership team, he participates in college-wide planning and policy review. Views and opinions here are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of Aims.

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Jorge Oliveira