Joanna Rawbone has spent more than 24 years working with thousands of international clients and during this time, and through her own earlier experiences, she has seen just how problematic the Extraversion bias in organisations is. It negatively impacts employee engagement, retention and productivity. It also impairs the physical and mental health & well-being of employees with the obvious consequences.
As a result, she founded Flourishing Introverts, a platform to:
support those who want to fulfil their potential without pretending to be something they're not
educate and inform organisations about the true cost of overlooking their introverts
promote positive action and balance the extraversion bias
Here Joanna explores what this means in an education context, and outlines how teachers and school leaders can address introvert misconceptions in the classroom.
How often have you noticed children like Carlton sitting quietly on their own during morning break? Is he OK you ask yourself? Should I go out and check? And then there’s Samina with her head in a book seemingly not noticing the rumpus going on around her. How can she be so engrossed that she’s able to shut out the outside world?
These young people probably identify as introverts and sadly there are still too many myths and misconceptions about introversion for them to be adequately supported in the classroom environment.
Because of the bias towards extraversion so evident in the workplace and society, people can obsess about socialisation of children to the detriment of those who need quiet space.
A quick straw poll of what comes to mind when you think of an introvert brings forth words like:
Loner, lonely, sad, anxious, depressed,
unsociable, shy, reticent, reserved etc.
So, it’s no wonder people worry about introverts. But what is the truth?
Introversion and Extraversion explained
Carl Jung explained that the difference between introverts and extraverts is where they get their mental energy from; what drains and what charges their batteries. And we all rely on a good charge in our mental batteries to focus, do our best work and be at our best.
Introverts are already over-stimulated mentally so can find the busyness of the playground or a noisy class draining. They recharge quietly, on their own or in companionable silence. This explains why many introverted children don’t flourish in classes where bad behaviour distracts them.
Extraverts on the other hand are recharged by social interaction, active experiences and change so will probably be the ones playing noisily and readily offering their ideas or answers.
The unfortunate irony here is that what drains one, charges the other. And our education system tends to be geared towards the extravert ideal; push yourself forward, speak up, join in. These are often mistakenly identified as leadership qualities but where is the listening & empathy?
The truth is Introverts are not broken or in need of fixing. They don’t lack social skills. They are not weird, but according to the neuroimaging studies, they’re wired differently. The bias and conditions we impose on them lead them to feel broken though.
How to address the bias in your classroom
Firstly, introverts tend to have a think-say-think communication process, so they typically take longer to answer a question or contribute their ideas. Unless this is understood, and space made for that, introverts may not get to the ‘say’ part of their process. This is often misinterpreted as they don’t know the answer or are shy or tongue-tied.
Tip #1 Ask the question early to give introverts the time to get their thoughts clear and give them the time to answer. Please don’t pick on them by using the Pose, Pause, Pounce technique though, as that just puts them uncomfortably on the spot and has the potential to damage their growth mindset.
If you want to hear their views or need to know that they’ve understood the work you’ve set them, ask quietly on a 1:1 basis.
Secondly, introverted children find noise and distractions very off-putting and once completely drained may react uncharacteristically as they may not yet know how to recharge rapidly.
Tip #2 Rather than having a quiet table for the naughty ones or as punishment, have a quiet table where the introverts can choose to work if they’re finding it difficult to concentrate. I know from my early experiences just how distracting it can be when the child next to me is always messing around.
Thirdly, when you see one of the quieter children taking time for themselves, they’re desperately trying to hang on to what little charge they have left or trying to recharge.
Tip #3 Don’t push them to mix with others or be part of a group. Introverts crave alone time, behaviour beneficial for their mental health and wellbeing. Don’t assume that there is a problem with their social skills as they are selectively social dependent on the charge in their mental batteries.
If this seem like you’re being asked to make a lot of allowances, just remember that up to 50% of any population identify as an introvert. The last thing introverts want is special attention as we’re uncomfortable in the spotlight unless its of our choosing. What we do deserve though is a level playing field so we’re being given the same chances to shine as the more extraverted students.
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