3250 – Power of Introversion

TED Talk video: Power of Introverts

In the Ted Talks video, Susan Cain shares her insight into the power of introversion.  This is a beautiful talk and it goes beyond just speaking about introverts and their talents, abilities and inner power.  To me, it speaks about the general beliefs and trends in our society with respect to the personality types that we tend to gravitate to – the personalities that we ‘adore’ and value.  She discusses the current ‘push’ in our community, work and school settings for group activities.  We seem to like being around extroverts. We ‘dominantly follow the opinions of most famous persons in the room even though there is no correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas’.  By doing this, we are taking a chance that the best talker has the best ideas. This may or may not be true.  Introverts comprise half to third of the population. Their difference makes them who they are and should be encouraged and celebrated as much as the characteristics of extroverts.  Cain closes her talk with three beautiful calls of actions that respect both personality types: one, stop the madness of constant group work, two, go to the wilderness, and three, take a look at what’s inside your suitcase.

Upon watching the video above, I was shocked to find I had tears half way through the video.  So, I turned it off, regrouped and watched the video again.  By the end, the tears started again.   I thought, “yes, someone gets me!”, “someone who likes their alone time thinks it’s ok to be alone and not be social all the time”, “someone else likes to think about ideas and thoughts before making decisions and that’s ok”, and “here is someone who sees differences in personality and is speaking to the world that the differences are ok”.

My gut reaction came from my own challenges as an introvert. I like being social and having social interaction.  Like Cain mentions, being shy is the fear of social interaction.  Family has asked me many times about my shyness and this has always confused me.  I like people but I also like alone time. Much like Cain, I like learning and reading. I like being alone with my thoughts and use this time to ‘recharge’ for my social interactions.

Cain’s states that people dominantly follow the opinion of most famous people in the room even though there is no correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.  Although I think the best talker may in fact have the best ideas, I prefer to follow what Cain refers to in her talk.  I prefer to be aware of my own ideas and opinions. I prefer to do my own research and problem solve and then come together with a group to discuss my findings. I like hearing the findings of others and want to know more about the basis of their findings.  I love discussing and tweaking ideas to devise a better plan or a group agreed plan – if possible.

Cain does a great job of opening up the world’s perception from an introvert’s point of view.   The societal push, encouragement and judgement felt by introverts needs to be understood in order to help us understand those around us. If someone is an extrovert, they are happy being social and living life the way they do.  If someone is an introvert, they are happy being who they are and need to be valued as such – not made to feel different or odd.  Unfortunatley, society seems to value extroverts.  However, there is value and beauty in introverts.  By shutting them down, we are missing out on the impact that half to third of the population could contribute to our culture and society.    As an introvert, this has been one of my biggest frustrations.  I find those around me are extroverts and if I choose to spend alone time, it is viewed as a problem.  I usually am greeted with, “are you ok?”, “why don’t you want to go out?”, and “why are you spending your time reading when you could be out drinking with us?”.  I get energy from alone thinking time and resting time. They are energized from social time.  I don’t judge them and ask them to do something different.  This is where Cain’s talk comes into play. We are all different and exist somewhere along the introvert-extrovert spectrum.  This is ok.   Our position on the spectrum should be accepted and valued – regardless of the position of others.

Cain’s video was eye opening for me.  It made me look back at my life and my preference for individual activity and my exhaustion with socializing.  As a result, I have taken many steps to ‘protect myself’.  My career allows me to seek alone time and study time in order to read, evaluate and treatment plan procedures.  It has allowed me to have short interactive sessions where I know there is an end in the socialization coming.  I know the consultation and treatment appointments are set for a designated time frame.  Cain’s video has actually helped me see how lucky I am to do what I do for a living, even with respect to teaching and lecturing.  I have lots of alone time reading and preparing for course hours.  I prepare handouts and resources for students on my spare time.   This excuses my need for alone time.  I know the lectures and labs are confined to a set time schedule.  I feel safe as I know my presentations and topics very well and do not feel anxious presenting my knowledge to others.  In fact, I love it.  I think in a way, it helps me prove to myself that I can be social.

With Cain’s video, the distinction between the two personality types has brought a new light to my teaching.  It has brought an awareness for me that I need to foster a learning environment that will allow students to flourish regardless of their personality type.  Perhaps I can help teach respect and tolerance of others’ being and needs to my students. I hope to be able to role model such behavior and respect for my students.

The last part of Cain’s talk is especially helpful for teaching.  She leaves her talk with three calls of action: first, stop the madness of constant group work.  I have to say ‘YES!’ to this.  I really like group collaboration and group work but they are always geared for extroverts who I feel dominate the group.   Strong extroverts are intimidating and overpowering at times.  They seem to make up their mind quickly and groups seem to gravitate towards them.  Teachers need to still encourage group work as individuals must be able to work together in all settings. However, activities need to be adjusted to allow introverts to be contribute and feel safe and valued.   The other part of this first call of action is that extroverts will gain a lot from not working in a group setting.  There are times when we all have to work alone and this skill needs to be developed and strengthened in extroverts.  Just as introverts need to work in group settings, extroverts need to learn how to work alone.  There are some great reference ideas that teachers can use in their classroom teaching in order to involve introverts and extroverts.   I really like the one in (lsaacs, 2009) which recommends the use of group activity with designated student leader (through rotation of classroom students) and at home preparation of questions.

Cain’s second call of action refers to meditation and solitude: “go to the wilderness”. In other words, she is asking listeners to unplug and go inside their own head and thoughts more often.  Cain’s third call is to look at what’s inside your own suitcase and why you put it there. If you are an introvert, don’t be worried or embarrassed to share your suitcase.  After all, it is who you are and what makes you, ‘you’.  I think a teacher can help students come to acceptance of who they are by providing a respectful, positive, and encouraging learning environment.  Helping adults feel safe will help them be themselves and share their thoughts openly.

There are a few ideas that I would like to take into my teachings to address the needs of all students regardless of their personality traits.  Group discussion is still important but there should be a balance of group and individual activities.  Individual activities will help the introverts showcase themselves and extroverts learn to work by themselves.  Group activities should include everyone and give an opportunity for everyone to participate and express themselves.    Allowing students to research topics in advance of the session will allow introverts to prepare for group activities.  Rotation of student leaders will give a chance to everyone to ‘step up’ and lead.  I think peer marking one another’s support and participation will encourage introverts to participate more in activities.  In order to create a safe learning environment for everyone, I am a believer of setting class expectations at the beginning of all courses.  This is a list of expected behaviors where I as well as students contribute to devising.  I think this will create a safe environment for the introverts where everyone will be helpful, respectful and supportive.

I like regular muddiest point evaluations to help me hear from everyone in the class.  This is a quick and easy way to hear from everyone.  Even introverts who may be too shy to participate will be able to communicate their concerns and needs.   Anonymous I-quiz and polling programs are also a good way to allow everyone to participate in class activities without having to speak out loud.

I look forward to implementing these ideas and evaluating their outcomes accordingly.



Cain, S. (2012, March 2). Cain ted talk – Bing video Retrieved from https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=cain+ted+talk&view=detail&mid=5C6C8A8B8149973EEE635C6C8A8B8149973EEE63&FORM=VIRE1

Isaacs, T. (2009, July 27). Introverted students in the classroom: How to bring out their best. Retrieved February 28, 2016, from Teaching and Learning, http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/introverted-students-in-the-classroom-how-to-bring-out-their-best/


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