Written by: Robyn D. Shulman
“Quiet people have the loudest minds,”- Stephen Hawking
About two weeks ago, via LinkedIn, I shared Josh Steimle’s book review of Susan Cain’s bestseller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Within 48 hours, the update had over 43,000 views, and over 130 people shared it. The fascination over the differences between extroverts and introverts, how they communicate, and what they need, is by far, one of the most compelling topics over the past decade.
Although we talk about the phenomena quite often in our personal lives, we have yet to see tangible changes in the workforce and within schools. There is no better time to recognize and make accommodating adjustments in both ecosystems. In a globally competitive world, we must support extroverts and introverts working together in balance to provide better outcomes. Since the movement from rural to urban cities across the country, society continues to judge deep thinkers while loud voices continue to be encouraged. We must advocate for introverts in ways that enhance personal growth, nurture their needs, and foster innovation.
Quite often, in the classroom or the boardroom, introverts are forgotten, especially when the loudest person always runs the show. Naturally, this begs to ask the question: Is the most vocal person always the one with the best ideas?
In her book, Cain explains, “At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones, who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.”
Cain also defines introverts as, “those who have a preference for a quiet, more minimally stimulating environment. Introverts tend to enjoy quiet concentration, listen more than they talk, and think before they speak, and have a more circumspect and cautious approach to risk. Introverts think more, are less reckless and focus on what really matters—relationships and meaningful work.”
Last year, I had an enlightening conversation with Paul Scibetta, Chief Operating Officer of Quiet Rev, he defends, “Extroverts and introverts can accomplish great things together; they are the yin-yang balance of energy that can flourish between the two personalities.”
How to Recognize and Encourage Your Young Introverted Entrepreneur at Home
Far too often, in my life as a parent and educator, I’ve listened to parents who have strong concerns about reserved children. For example, a friend states, “My child is quiet, and doesn’t like to socialize often. He would rather read, study bugs or work on his computer instead of playing with friends. He’s too shy.” There are differences between shyness, introverted behavior, and red flags of isolation, which are cause for concern and worry. Shy children have social fears and anxiety, while introverts simply prefer to work in environments with less stimulation, noise, and conversation. Young introverts flourish when they are let alone to think, write, build and innovate.
There should be cause for concern if a child seems unusually withdrawn and quiet, and has no specific interest or hobbies.
Provide Quiet Opportunities: Provide introverted children with opportunities to thrive. Quite often, introspective deep-thinkers are happy at home working on things of interest. They may also enjoy quiet trips to a museum, visiting the local library, taking music lessons, painting, and quiet reading spaces.
Advocate: Young introverts need parental advocacy for public school. Set up meetings to chat with your child’s teacher to explain unique concerns and necessary accommodations. Put any concerns in writing before school begins to ensure your child starts off on the right foot.
Transforming The Classroom to Support Innovative Introverts
Given the role of education and its close connection to entrepreneurship and the corporate world, schools often give praise and attention to extroverts. Most education institutions encourage quiet children to participate more in class, join extracurricular activities and try out for competitive sports. Unfortunately, most educators are unaware of student personality differences, levels of social comfort, chatting brain drain, and the need for quiet time to rejuvenate.
Teacher training is similar to influential groupthink, focusing in on design thinking, group discussions, meetings and project collaboration. As the boardroom is parallel to classroom design, it unfairly favors extroverts.
Contrary to the needs of an introvert, as noted by the National Education Association, collaboration is emphasized as an essential skill students need to succeed in the 21st-century. In fact, most teachers still judge students based on social skills, class participation, and collaboration. Extroverts are recognized as the next top leaders given their outspoken nature, sense of confidence, and comfort interacting with large groups.
Given these current ideals, we must support and advocate change for the quiet students who bring life-changing ideas to the table.
We can begin shifting mindset toward these biased assumptions. Here are six tips teachers can use to transform classrooms and support introverted entrepreneurs.
1. Spread Awareness
The first step in helping young introverted entrepreneurs succeed in the classroom is awareness of the problem. If you are a teacher who specializes in this topic, you can advocate for students, share workshops and articles about the topic, and when it comes to professional development, encourage other teachers to learn about personality differences.
2. Create Student-Centered Classrooms
Provide students with different options for how they want to learn. If your school allows for electives, let students focus on what they want to learn. All students should be able to gravitate toward their passion. When schools run this way, all kids enjoy learning as well as do their best work. You can also provide students with different options for evaluation and growth. For example, students can write a report, create an art project, use technology to build a program, or incorporate music as a tool for expression.
3. Change Participation Requirements
Participation is often confused with students who speak out loud regularly, and that’s something at which extroverts excel. However, introverts don’t tend to talk out loud or raise their hands often. Schools can change the definition of participation and offer different ways to meet the needs of introverts. For example, as a teacher, you can ask detailed questions, find ways for students to pair up and help others, provide volunteer opportunities, and use digital means for projects.
4. Adjust Classroom Spaces For Introverts And Extroverts
Reconfiguring schools for various personalities in the class is no easy task. However, teachers and students who work together can change the basic layout if allowed. Consider balancing social spaces with quiet zones where students can zero in on a task. Think beyond the classroom to other nearby areas in the school. Make use of open class areas, resources and computer labs, libraries, and when weather permits, take a group of students outside to encourage creativity through nature. Provide opportunities for students to reach teachers by using mailboxes for little notes and support conversations through journaling. Provide different learning areas with beanbags to read, quiet spaces with individual tables, and give students brain breaks during the day.
5. Embrace Reflection Time
Give students space where they can question, comment, and discuss during and after classroom activities. Reflection is a crucial component and necessary life-skill for all learners. Give students the time they need to think which can result in incredible outcomes, while giving them a safe, comfortable and confident space to speak up when the time comes.
The impact and interest in the introversion topic continues to grow. As I, along with many of my introverted colleagues, can finally identify and understand our traits and accommodate our needs. Most of all, many of us finally feel appreciated. Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution is underway in schools, corporations, and startups. However, she cannot make these changes alone. It is critical to understand the nature of young introverts and provide them with tools and comfortable environments they need to succeed to become innovators and entrepreneurs.
If we don’t make changes to accommodate the great thinkers of the next generation, we may lose out on some of the best inventors, scientists, poets, writers and innovators of our time.
Let them think. Let them build. Let them lead, quietly.
Are you a teacher or parent of a young introvert with an entrepreneurial spirit? Please share your tips and success stories.