and I continually come back to John T. Spencer’s post from November of 2010 that first got me thinking about all of this.
Recently, I led a conversation about introversion at Educon 2.4 as a way to begin the discussion of how schools may or may not favor introverts. I want to thank Ariel Sacks for continuing the conversation here. I truly think we are at the beginning of understanding how one’s temperament may play a role in their learning and, more importantly, our ability to teach them. As a way to extend the conversation further, allow me to offer the following thoughts:
Introverts are not necessarily shy,
although they can be.
But, so can extroverts.
A very good extroverted friend of mine who is a gifted 5th grade teacher, gets incredibly nervous when she has to speak in front of groups of adults. It’s an incredibly anxiety ridden event for her. She gets nervous, her voice cracks and stutters, and she often becomes emotional, in part because she knows that the manifestation of her internal pain does not allow her to adequately share her beliefs. Which leads me to…
Being an introvert is not painful.
While being shy can be incredibly painful for either an introvert or an extrovert, being an introvert alone is not. In fact, the difference between being an introvert or an extrovert is found in how one rejuvenates their energy. While extroverts recharge by being with others, introverts do so by being alone. As Marti Olson Laney offers in her book, The Introvert Advantage: Making the Most of Your Inner Strengths,
the primary difference between introverts and extroverts is how they recharge their batteries. Extroverts are energized by the outer world…Introverts, on the other hand, are energized by the internal world—by ideas, impressions, and emotions. Counter to our stereotypes of introverts, they are not necessarily quiet or withdrawn, but their focus is inside their heads. They need a quiet, reflective place where they can think things through and recharge themselves.
That is not to say that introverts can’t be with others, or that extroverts can’t be alone, but doing so can be draining for both. And, while that doesn’t rise to the level of pain that being shy does, being alone for an introvert (or being with others for an extrovert) is all about healing. The pain and anxiety felt by a shy person when put on the spot, is not felt by the introvert seeking to recharge their batteries. Shyness is painful. Introversion is not. The space that an introvert seeks out is soothing, not full of pain.
introverts seeks space,
and I don’t just mean physical space. As Katie wrote here, sometimes that space is created by just putting in one’s earbuds. Sometimes that space is created by moving to another table. Sometimes that space is provided by opening a book or a laptop.
Interestingly, space is often more easily found in larger groups where anonymity is guaranteed for most of us. I’ve always said that one of my bigger regrets was not living in a large city after college. In addition to drawing on the energy found in a large city, I really think the appeal to me is the fact that I would be able to blend into the cultural kaleidoscope of a large city. In many ways, its very easy to find space within the mass of people that a large city provides.
Similarly, it was very easy for me to find space at ISTE12 when I ran my little “experiment” as Dean Shareski called it. You can read more about my ISTE12 experience here, but in essence I actively sought solitude at ISTE12, which wasn’t hard in the huge Philadelphia Convention Center.
Conversely, Educon, in it’s intimate setting, intense conversations, and jam-packed scheduled doesn’t inherently provide the space that introverts often seek. As a result, there were definitely times when I had to purposefully create that space for myself. I often ate upstairs away from the larger crowd, I sat out one session just to try to gather, reflect and decompress, and I made sure to return to my hotel for at least 60 minutes at the end of the day before heading out for evening activities.
But, here’s the thing: I saw others doing to same. I saw others carving out space to within the walls of SLA. Before my presentation, I walked around and took pictures of people seeking the space that introverts crave. Truthfully, I have no idea if those folks are introverts, but what I know is that they needed to step away from the crowd to be alone. They found their space, even within the relatively cramped confines of SLA.
But, even though they seek out space,
Introverts come back
Yes we do.
Our need for space is not permanent and, in fact, we enjoy seeing and being with friends and colleagues – once we regain our energy. Of course, that time when we seek space can vary depending on who we are or how extensive the recovery needs to be, but we come back. We are incredibly loyal and while we perhaps don’t say it enough, we truly appreciate the willingness of others to give us our space.
But, we don’t always come back to face to face interactions first, because
introverts love social networking
As tiring as face to face social interaction can be for an introvert, the asynchronous interaction found in social networking sites is very appealing to introverts and may provide the bridge back to friends and relationships during times “away”. As I have shared about myself before:
Some describe me as being “distant”during those times and while I assure them that I am here (and that nothing is wrong) it’s a time that fulfills a deep rooted need inside of me to be introverted… to be mentally alone. …I need “silence”- and by that I don’t mean quiet. I need the unclutteredness that solitude brings. It’s not always fair to those that want me share and I recognize that, but that time heals me. From what, I’m not sure, but I know that when I emerge I am better for it.
Yet, even when I am introspective, I crave the interactions I have with my growing network of friends. Twitter has become my faculty room, Google Reader and Delicious have become my library, and my blog has become the window into my professional soul.
Those comments were verified by Susan Cain in her book, Quiet:
Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read, to say that they can express the “real me” online, and to spend more time in certain kinds of online discussions.
This virtual space, perhaps, as Pete Cashmore suggests, because the computer screen acts as a barrier between introverts and the world, is the ideal place for introverts. By providing the time and space introverts crave along with the ability to socialize that we all need, web2.0 tools provide the best opportunities for introverts to participate and be heard.