Are you an extrovert or introvert? We think of an introvert as
someone who is quiet, in the corner, shy, anti-social. And yet,
one-third to one-half of the population can be placed in the
introvert category. Really? That many? Why don’t we notice?
We don’t notice because introverts have ways of adapting their
personalities to be more comfortable in social situations. Introverts
can be just as outspoken, outgoing and ready to work with others, but
they have worked at having these qualities in order to succeed in
certain occupations. An introvert can do this by promising himself/
herself a “restorative niche”. He can do all that he has to do–give a
speech, meet with clients, whatever—when he knows that afterwards
he will give himself some time to be alone, read, or go for a walk.
In our current world–in the classroom or in industry, teamwork is
valued—group sessions solve problems or initiate new programs—
when actually better solutions are derived from people working alone
to think through more carefully, consider more options. After this
initial studying of the problem, then groups might discuss, offer
their own viewpoints.
“It’s not that I’m so smart,” said Einstein, who was a consummate
introvert. “It’s that I stay with problems longer.”
In the classroom “speaking up” and “contributing to discussion”
are considered positive points for grading. The introverted student
does better at written assignments or creative individual projects.
Introverts are our scientists, artists, writers–professions that can’t
accomplish anything by “working together”. Time working alone is
the element that produces a masterpiece.
One area of the book featured a Chinese-American student in California
and the atmosphere of the high school he attended. Silence and humility
are ingrained culture attributes for Mike Wei. In fact, he feels that
speaking out in class would be rude—inferring that he has something
worthwhile to take the class’ time. But the American students are
interacting with others in the class, are boisterous, almost clown-like
in their exuberance to be noticed, admired, to be a group leader.
An exaggeration, maybe, but it shows the need for both types of
student to be accommodated if we are to educate all children.
It is acknowledged that sometimes people leave their preferred
leanings to get along. An extroverted husband realizes that his
quiet wife doesn’t share his party spirit. Or an introvert makes an
effort to “join in”—knowing that some time alone will be his reward
All the author asks is the perception that we are different, and
that it is OK.
“Put yourself in the right lighting. For some it’s a Broadway
spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk.”