how to care for an introvert

Floating around the interwebs is this article, written by a self-professed extroverted teacher. She writes about complaints she receives from parents of introverts that she requires her students to answer questions in class. She says she has done research about the different needs of extroverts and introverts, and has come even more strongly to the conclusion that her introverted students need her to require their class participation in order to prepare them for the world.

I have taken issue with a few items in this article. First, the basic premise of what she writes is that introversion = quiet, and quiet = incapable, and extroversion = loud, and loud = successful.

When you google “introverts cartoons” you get thousands of humorous responses, most of which can inform you quickly that introverts are not “just” quiet people. Let me quickly say that as an extrovert myself, what I write about introverts is from the outside-looking-in, and from what my exhausted friends and family members have told me. This cartoon is one of the best illustrations on what can happen between extroverts and introverts, and something I’ve been on the outside of a dozen times.

It’s simply a matter of where a person gets their energy from, and what drains them.

In the mental health field, I am frequently talking to people about how to be their best. How to feel their best, think their best, and act their best – in whatever sequence that happens to come in. A lot of it is about recognizing patterns – “oh, I realized that I am tense and stressed out every time I spend the entire day out with other people.” or “If I stay inside by myself I get depressed and then stay in bed all day and it’s a vicious cycle.” Increasing your awareness of what helps energize you, or fills you with satisfaction, is a crucial part of emotional well-being. Can you imagine being in a classroom where a)you are probably not encouraged to discover the best ways you work, b)it doesn’t matter what you already know about yourself because her way is the right way, c)there is something wrong with you if you can’t or don’t want to be loud, d)you will be made to do something about it, in the most public way possible and then there will be a parent-teacher-conference in which the shaming continues. This sort of behavior, even though the teacher thinks she is preparing the students better for the outside world – is part of why so many people seek therapy later in life. They were taught, by people who are supposed to know better, that the way they function best is incorrect, bad, wrong, and will lead to failure.

At best, it’s disrespectful. At it’s worst, it causes damage to our self-esteem, to our sense of self, our ability to trust what we know is right for us, and our ability to advocate for it. Which is ironic, since that is what she thinks she is helping with. This author places such a premium on the qualities and characteristics that have served *her* well, and ignores the benefits of what an introvert possesses. Her values (to be successful, you  have to want to talk out loud, frequently, and with authority) are being coerced onto children (whose values might be; it is better to watch, listen, and learn that way.)

So to counterbalance this article out there in the world, I found this great image. The moral of the story? Take care of your introverts!

4 Comments

  1. I want a cartoon like that for extroverts. Love.

    • I do too!

  2. I’m definitely an extrovert, myself, but my fiance is rather introverted, and I’ve known many introverts over the years who face people like this teacher trying to force them to be extroverts. It’s so disrespectful and counterproductive and potentially very harmful — I hate seeing justifications of such behavior. There are many ways to go about being successful in the world, and not all of them necessitate being able to speak up easily in a class. And what about all the shy people who just need time and supportive environments, but eventually they’re able to work their way up to speaking in seminar classes? Being forced to speak in class in fifth grade certainly doesn’t help them!

    I had a psych professor years ago, who had grown up very shy; in every class, he talked about how he understood that not everyone felt comfortable talking in class, so there were other ways to fulfill the participation grade, and to demonstrate understanding through written work. He encouraged people to speak up in class, or to talk to him after or outside of class if they weren’t comfortable in front of a crowd, but he emphasized that it was okay if someone wasn’t up to it. I so respect professors and teachers who do things like that. I wish that more made options like having a participation grade component, with an option for turning in extra short writing assignments for anyone concerned that their lack of talking in class might be impacting their grades. Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t try to surgically implant new personalities into people for no good reason!

  3. The article was so refreshing to read; it somehow helped raise my awareness that there are so many people suffering in silence with feelings of failure and of being not “normal” People like me! The article has empowered me to to go forward from this moment knowing it is perfectly “normal” to be quiet to have my privacy boundaries and to “watch, listen and learn”

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