Four Myths About Introverts, Learning And Conferences

Hiding from the droids (HSS)

I am an introvert.

I enjoy my time alone and typically consider deep relationships as my true friends. I’m not that person that usually enjoys small talk with strangers.

However, parts of my job require that I be more outgoing and be the extrovert. When I’m presenting, small talk with participants is critical. I also enjoy connecting others to people that I know that can help them succeed in their profession. Most of the time, I think before I speak. There are times when I get caught in the emotions of the discussion and respond too fast. Then I can get into trouble.

The Facts And Myths About Introverts

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, here are four myths about introverts as related to conferences and learning.

Myth #1: Introverts don’t like to talk.

Introverts do like to talk. It’s just that they don’t like to talk about meaningless stuff. They typically don’t like small talk. Have them talk about their passion or challenges and they will be just as invested in the discussion as extroverts.

Fact: Introverts like to talk about meaningful things.

During conference education sessions, instead of asking introverts to talk in groups of six, nine, ten, twelve or more, have them talk to a peer in a pair or triad. The smaller the group the better. Also, if you are presenting, when you ask the audience a question, wait five seconds before calling on someone to respond. This gives introverts time to think.

Myth #2: Introverts don’t like collaboration and group work.

Some people think that introverts don’t like collaboration and avoid small group work. Introverts crave authentic connections and enjoy collaborating in pairs or triads.

Fact: Introverts like to start collaboration in pairs or triads first.

Collaborative work is fine for introverts and even beneficial as it helps leads to learning. It’s important to start that collaborative work in small groups like pairs or triads. Try pair sharing and “pair-squared” techniques to get them fully engaged. These are low-stakes methods to encourage participation with one other person. After working with a partner, introverts are often more willing to transition to groups or speak aloud to the entire session.

Myth #3: Introverts always want to be alone.

Yes, it’s true that introverts like to be with their own thoughts. They do a lot of thinking as they try to solve problems. They may spend a lot of time daydreaming.

Fact: Introverts crave sincere deep connections with others.

Introverts crave authentic connections just like the rest of us. They enjoy connecting with others one person at a time. As they feel safe with that connection, they are willing to add another person to their group.

Myth #4: Introverts don’t like to participate.

Introverts typically participate in lots of activities by themselves, with their families or in small groups of two and three. They need a good reason to interact and participate.

Fact: Introverts like reflective exercises and participation in smaller groups.

Introverts are typically not thrill-seekers or want to be the center of attention. They don’t always want to be seated in intense or over-active areas of your conference. They will not feel safe in those areas. Instead, teach extroverts how to interact with and engage introverts. During conference education, consider starting with an individual reflective or thinking activity. Then have them share their responses in pairs or threesomes.

Sources: So You’re A Creative Genius. Now What? by Carl Kingdom and his 10 Myths About Introverts; The Introvert Advantage (How To Thrive in an Extrovert World), by Marti Laney, Psy.D.; Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking.

What are some other ways to engage introverts at conferences and in learning experiences? As an introvert, what bothers you most about conferences and education sessions?

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  1. One introvert (and speaker) to another, you nailed this. Although I’m kind of a sit in the back corner and talk to no one kind of person (unless I’m speaking). Things I don’t like: “surprise” exercises (in general) and especially those that require me to stand up, do something weird, or be “picked” to do/say something. I also don’t like to be asked to move to the front of the room. One reason I sit in the back corner (by the door) is so that I can “escape” if I feel the need to.

  2. Love this! And I agree with Tyra on all points.

  3. Leslie Maneely says:

    Wow – the best description of me ever!
    I’m an introvert – I’m not shy. BIG difference.

  4. […] Myths and truths about introverts. […]

  5. Lawrence Leonard says:

    Great article. For me, nothing destroys an otherwise good learning experience like meaningless group work.

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