Quiet people have the loudest minds

How do good trainers run great training sessions that are inspiring for different types of attendee?

As far back as I can remember I have been made to feel somewhat guilty about my introverted personality. I was that child that preferred spending the summer holidays inside reading a book, drawing or making a fabulous princess palace out of old cardboard boxes and toilet rolls. Most of my friends would be outside on their bikes or up the hills playing games but for me, it was never as appealing. I think my parents found this somewhat unusual and I was always gently encouraged to go outside and play. Sometimes I did, but all the time longing to get back inside doing something creative on my own.

As an only child I grew up enjoying solitude and seeking out activities that I could do on my own or with one other trusted person. I always felt different to others. I didn’t really understand when I was younger why I didn’t enjoy being around lots of people or partaking in social activities. I felt weird. I felt that there was something wrong with me. If this rings true for you, then you are not weird, you are an introvert.

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So what is the difference between an introvert and an extrovert? It relates to where you gain your energy. It was the famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung that popularised this definition. Extroverts feel energised and most alive being around people and feeding off others whereas introverts get their energy from within themselves. An introvert needs solitude like most people need oxygen.

As an introvert I can tell you that if I have to spend a number of hours in a social situation, particularly with people I do not know I feel totally drained at the end of the day. My batteries are flat. I find that people tend to drain the energy out of me and I usually cannot wait to get back home and recharge. Now that makes me sound completely anti-social and a bit of a people hater. I am not. I do enjoy the company of others but it does tire me out. And this is the problem that introverts encounter on a daily basis.

All of our institutions, be it schools or the workplace are setup to cater to extroverts. The gregarious qualities of an extrovert are prized more highly than the contemplative qualities of an introvert in today’s society. It’s easy to understand why this is but let’s look at a scenario.

Richard and Daisy are both going for a job interview. They both have excellent skills and qualifications on paper. Richard walks into the interview and confidently speaks about his achievements. He oozes charisma. He has fabulous anecdotes. He’s social, gregarious, a go-getter and real man of action! Daisy follows him. She has a quiet confidence, she pauses in deep thought before each answer. She has amazing, well thought out and creative ideas but seems shy and reserved. She indicates that she works best on solo projects as this is how her creativity flourishes. As an employer, who would you hire? I am guessing probably Richard. Why? He fits the mould of the modern office environment. However, sometimes the quiet people have the loudest minds.

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Introverts make up 1/3 of the population and in general this personality type is misunderstood. Introverts are not shy. Introverts do not lack confidence. This is the most common misconception. Type Introverts into a Word document and hit Shift+F7 to see what I mean.

I am an introvert and I do a very extroverted job. I am a trainer, which means I stand in front of large groups of people and speak. If I lacked confidence or was shy, I would find it very difficult to do the job I do. That’s not to say that I do not find my job challenging. Being in the spotlight is not something that comes naturally to me. I’ve had to work at it. A lot of trainers I know are extroverts. They are comfortable running a training session with very little preparation and to a certain extent ‘winging it’. I’m not accusing them of running bad sessions or not caring as much, they are just more able to absorb the unexpected and run with it.

That’s not me. I plan, I research, I think about all the things that could go wrong in advance and try to counter them, I prepare, I practice, all so that my time ‘in the spotlight’ runs smoothly. It is this that enables me as an introvert to do an extroverts job. It’s my process that enables me to feel comfortable. It is very frustrating for an introvert when someone tries to change your process or doesn’t understand your need for meticulous planning.

This leads us into talking a little bit about training sessions and how, as a trainer, you can execute an interactive training session that is conducive for both introverts and extroverts.

Let’s briefly go back to talking about schools. Schools these days are setup in a way that caters to extroverts. Students sit on large round tables, facing each other and are encouraged to partake in countless group activities. The idea being to encourage interaction, learn how to work in a team and share ideas. I am not saying this is a bad thing. Young people do need to learn these skills. But what about the introverted child in that classroom? The child that is uncomfortable working in large groups. The child who prefers to reflect on a subject quietly before sharing his or her idea. The child that is often labelled as anti-social or difficult. Forcing introverts to work like extroverts is counter-productive and only serves to alienate that child from the group.

This is similar in an adult learning environment. Most trainers use a technique at the start of training sessions to ascertain the different learning styles and personality types of their students. It’s called an ‘Ice Breaker’ and usually involves some kind of activity or exercise. I use Ice Breakers to sort out the introverts from the extroverts. Many trainers I have met are very focused on the interactive element of training sessions. Group activities, high energy exercises, getting the students to voice their opinions, ask questions etc. I agree that these are important parts of training in order to keep participants engaged and interested. However, I would encourage all trainers to think about the introverted participants who are sitting there dreading the next group exercise or next question that puts them on the spot. Often, the fear of what is coming distracts them from their learning.

Susan Cain did an amazing Ted Talk on the ‘Power of introverts’ and I think this quote is very true. ‘Stop the madness for constant group work!!’ Think about alternative methods that will allow extroverts and introverts to flourish equally. Instead of large, boisterous group activities, pepper your sessions with solo exercises or brain training activities. Instead of large group work, stick to partner work. If you need to do an exercise in a large group, make it a more relaxed ‘Café style’ workshop where you start a discussion with the group during a coffee break. This is immediately more relaxed and informal. Students can participate as much or as little as they like with no pressure. Try not to fire questions at a student that appears to be quiet and not interacting as much. They are probably listening intently and processing.

Introverts hold so much power that is overlooked. They tend to be more effective than their extroverted counterparts, statistically more intelligent and oddly better leaders as they don’t dominate others and are more inclined to let individual ideas flourish. Introverts are creative. They are imaginative. They are deep thinkers. They are invaluable to this world. Where would we be without the likes of Einstein, Ghandi, Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parkes or Bill Gates? All introverts who changed the world.

Employers are slowly starting to understand this concept. Our workplaces are changing and becoming more flexible. Employers are introducing different ways of working and home working is on the rise. There is a mini revolution going on at the moment confirmed by the amount of blogs and articles popping up all over the web on this subject. Let’s embrace everyone, introverts, extroverts and all those that are in between and recognise the supreme benefit of letting individuals work within their natural personality type.

And whatever personality type you are, you’re more than welcome on our courses.