Journal entry on ‘The Power of Introverts’

Journal Entry 3.

Based on the video presentation:

‘The Power of Introverts’ by Susan Cain

Objective:  Susan Cain summed up her presentation with these three calls to action:

1. Stop Group Work.

2.  Unplug, go into the wilderness, and come up with your own revelations.

3.  Introverts ~ Share who you are.

Even though the general population is comprised of between one third to one half in introverts, our schools, workplaces and religious institutions are predominantly primed for extroverts.  For example, right from the early grades school classes are set up as pods, classes are encouraged to work in groups and it continues all the way up to university.  Teachers are constantly encouraging collaboration, community environments, and group work. Our society’s swing to extroversion seems to have picked up speed in the late 20th century with our love of movie stars and salesmen.  Before that who would have ever thought that a movie star could or would become a President of a country! Susan’s main premise is that as a society the extroverts are given a much bigger piece of the pie in terms of attention and social standing – which is great, it works for them, but in doing so the gifts of the introverts are being overlooked and the world needs both to be balanced.

 Reflective:  Susan has a big fan in me.  I am definitely more on the side of introversion, although I do have my moments on the other side.  Throughout my life I have been conscious of the differences between the two sides since my family is composed of somewhat extreme models of both sides.   Sadly, I have always felt that introversion in our society is thought of as ‘less social’ (hear: loner, outsider, unsociable, uncool). My more introverted self has felt the pressure to conform to a more outgoing way of being: socially, in the workplace and educationally.  Socially we look towards the extroverts to be the life of the party, for work we ‘sell ourselves’ starting with our resumes and we seem to be always ‘in the public eye’, and at school it seems the emphasis is to work together in community. These are all wonderful things however; it is not the only way of being. My feeling is that in our society we have pushed so hard to become extroverted that many people have forgotten how to reflect and spend time in solitude, that the majority of younger people would have no idea what to do with themselves if they were ever to be ‘unplugged’.  I think Susan is right, as a culture we have become unbalanced – we always seem to be ‘doing’ with little very little inner guidance that comes from solitude.

 Interpretive:  We live in a very competitive world so if you want to be noticed you need to develop a more extroverted way of expressing yourself.  The drive to be extroverted is so ubiquitous in our society that it has become hard to remember what natural introversion is like.  Social media has turned us into a human bee hive, always in constant communication.  Is that a good thing?  Is the phenomenon known as ‘group think’ a result of our overly extroverted ideals?  Group think is defined as really bad decision making by a group of people and ruled over by peer pressure.  Group think has been the cause of some disastrous fiascos (ie. the escalation of the Vietnam war) and is a real danger to society. When it comes to society, education and business there are other negative setbacks to extroversion as McAfee quotes from Cain’s research;

“…decades of research show that individuals almost always perform better than groups in both quality and quantity, and group performance gets worse as group size increases. The “evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups,” wrote the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham…

The reasons brainstorming fails are instructive for other forms of group work, too. People in groups tend to sit back and let others do the work; they instinctively mimic others’ opinions and lose sight of their own; and, often succumb to peer pressure.”

As students haven’t we all experienced this?  Who hasn’t been involved with a group project where those familiar lines are drawn right from day one.  For introverts they are they worst, most frustrating tortures you can be put through and yet every term it seems you have to get through at least a couple. However, the news is much more favourable for online group work. Again according to Cain:

“The protection of the screen mitigates many problems of group work. This is why the Internet has yielded such wondrous collective creations. Marcel Proust called reading a “miracle of communication in the midst of solitude,” and that’s what the Internet is, too. It’s a place where we can be alone together — and this is precisely what gives it power.”

 Decisional: In my classes I will endeavor to ‘give back power to the introverts’.  No more will there be so called ‘Ice Breakers’ that cause introverts so much gut wrenching discomfort by sticking them in the bright lights on centre stage.   There are gentle ways for people to get familiarized with each other such as introducing yourself to the person next to you and they will then introduce you to the class.  I will also abolish written group projects that are heavily weighted, unless; they are online, structured, and facilitated by the instructor.   I have participated in face to face group projects that have been fun and creative, but they have usually been in workshops where preparation time is relatively short, everybody is involved, it usually is action oriented ie. a skit or role modeling, and everyone presents during that time. In my experience that method also creates a much more empathic and creative community of learners.  I will look for ways to insert reflection time into topics, for instance, journaling.  I think that journaling is an amazing tool for developing our own revelations through contemplating in solitude.

 References:

 Cain, Susan.  (2012)  The Power of Intoverts.  As retrieved from: http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html

Janis, Irving L.  (1982). Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes. Retrieved from: http://www.psysr.org/about/pubs_resources/groupthink%20overview.htm

 McAfee, Andrew.  (2012).  The Surprising Benefits of Solitude. Harvard Business Review. Retreived from: http://blogs.hbr.org/hbr/mcafee/2012/01/the-surprising-benefits-of-sol.html

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