Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Power of Introverts: Thoughts on Group Work

Some of you might have seen this video when I posted it on facebook a few days back.  I came across it via a blog about introverts in the church, and stopped to watch.  What I saw felt like a breath of fresh air in the midst of a semester of intense group work.  Here was someone who was validating me - who had found strong words to describe the things I was thinking, feeling and experiencing.

So, watch the video, and then I'll share a few thoughts from Susan Cain's talk below:

She had me from the first words.  I was that kid at summer camp.  In fact, I went to summer camp once, on a weekend, when I was around ten years old, and I never went back.  I hated it!  I couldn't figure out this atmosphere with all the stimulation, and the games that required me to make a fool of myself.  And I would have been right alongside Susan Cain in wondering why on earth we needed to misspell "rowdie"!

Perhaps what stood out for me the most in this talk, though, were Cain's observations about a world that is designed for extroverts. I have felt guilty for preferring a quiet dinner with friends, or time alone over a raucous evening out.  I have been that person who felt shouted down, or the one who didn't share an idea, or even feel an idea germinate, because the strength and charisma of an extrovert I was working with was driving the group process.  I loved that she emphasized that it's not a dislike of extroverts.  And I love that she discussed that there is value in group work, and in solitude, and that what is really needed is a greater balance.  That has been my complaint this semester.  I'm not against group work, I just feel overwhelmed by the stimulation of it, and it's an atmosphere that isn't all that conducive to my personal learning or creativity.  I'd love to see a greater balance of individual and group learning, rather than "all group work, all the time." I'm not saying that collaboration is bad, simply that it could use more balance.

I'd like to close by listing Cain's three calls to action, and inviting you to discuss them in the comments:

  1. Stop the madness for constant group work!  Just stop it!  Create an atmosphere that has much more room for autonomy, privacy and freedom in schools and workplaces.
  2. Go to the wilderness!  Make room to have your own revelations, and not just group think.
  3. What's inside your suitcase? Why did you put it there?
I'd love to hear your answers to this last call to action.  

My suitcase still has the books it had when I was a child, but now there's the constant presence of a journal, a set of pens, and maybe even a laptop.  There is food, and maybe a scarf so I'm ready for all sorts of weather and adventure.  These are the things that reflect me - that I love to eat and share.  That I read and write and listen.  That I'm hungry - for food and information.  And that from time to time, I do love an adventure.  I just prefer the sort that require a scarf instead of ropes, screaming, and even body armor!


terri said...

amen sister. i loved this TED talk. I also hated camp and never went back. I was the weird quiet girl who liked to draw and write and did good at school and hated big ROWDY parties. I was also depressed which got mistaken for my introversion sometimes…that didn't help.

My suitcase has a very soft blanket, some music, writing materials, art materials and lots of good books. I'm packing it to take me somewhere in nature that is quiet and beautiful. I don't mind if people come along and even get loud around me as long as they understand my need to go away and be alone for as long as it takes to be sane again.

Lisa said...

Terri - so interesting that you mention that depression was sometimes mistaken for your introversion. I absolutely had that experience as well. And you're right, it doesn't help! In fact, I found that when some of the depression abated, and a bit more of my personality emerged, albeit still very introverted, I had a lot of people who simply didn't know how to handle this "new" me, and actually wondered at that point, after I'd gotten healthier, if perhaps I was sick! It made for some pretty horrible interpersonal situations and awkward conversations, let me tell you!

I love what's in your suitcase. I'd like to come along to your quiet and beautiful spot in nature - but only if I could have the time to go away and be alone to find sanity again too :)

p.s. We have some lovely nature to escape in out my way - you're invited for a visit :)

terri said...

I'd love to visit sometime. I've only flied over Canada, but never visited. I've heard it's breathtaking. Wouldn't that be lovely?

terri said...

Oh, and I think introversion gets labeled as illness all the time. So sad. As if it's sick to love solitude and silence. The old mystics and desert hermits would have all been locked up or drugged if they lived today...

Lisa said...

The mystics and hermits would indeed be locked up or drugged today!

And yes, a visit sometime would be absolutely lovely :)