Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

I listened to a podcast this weekend with Susan Cain, the author of the book about introverts. She was at a book signing and discussed her book and answered audience questions. I think this has big implications for international educators and I listened intently. There was much I learned about introverts and how they do in school.

I thought all introverts are shy, but they are two different things. Shyness is a fear of social judgement or the reactions of others. Introversion is defined by how someone reacts to social stimulation. An extrovert craves stimulus and enjoys lots of interactions with small and large groups of people. They feel bored and restless without it. In opposition, an introvert prefers to be alone or 1-on-1 interaction. There is a continuum and some people are “ambiverts.” In thinking of my personality, I would say I am mostly in the middle with a shading over to the introverted side. Yes I am loud and enjoy being with people, but to recharge my batteries and on weekends, I prefer to be alone or with family.

Cain mentioned in the interview her observations in US schools. She said so much of school today is group work and collaborative projects. Introverted students still do well in school because of summative formal assessments value studiousness, and reward careful observation, but American culture does not. This is in contrast to Asian cultures. The author gave the examples of the Western axiom of the “squeaky wheel gets greased” versus the Asian axiom, “the wind howls but the mountain remains.” This causes problems for American students in that few people can do both – that is excel in social groups as well as find the time to be quiet and studious. There is definitely a lot more that needs to be explored with this topic in schools. For ISB, I will bring this up at a faculty meeting today and see what the reaction  will be. I will ask the teachers how much group work they do versus individual activities.

Susan Cain refers to the work of psychologist Erickson about the 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. I first read this in Malcolm Gladwell’s book. What Cain brought up however, is that it is 10,000 hours of sustained deliberate practice in solitude or 1-on-1 instruction/coaching.

There is an entire chapter for parents of introverts. This trait is highly inheritable and studies with babies show this is from birth. Finally, I thought it interesting that extroverts prefer Facebook and introverts prefer blogging.

I will try to get a copy of the book and read this spring. Here is a link to the podcast from the Slate.com web site.

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