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Guila Muir

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Think to Talk, or Talk to Think? Engaging the Introverts


“Introverts thrive in learning situations that enable solitude, independent thinking, and time to process.” Dr. Kate Earle, Quiet Leadership Institute

First, let me bust a myth: Introverts are NOT all shy. In fact, Susan Caine makes the point that shyness (fear of negative judgment) is quite different than introversion (a preference for minimally stimulating environments)*. Many dynamic trainers are introverted. They just need time to recover!

But what about the introverted participants in your classroom? How can trainers and presenters best meet their needs?

Acknowledging Diversity from the “Get-Go”

Early in a workshop, Myriam Hadnes suggests that you may want to ask each participant to answer the question: “Would you rather talk to think or think to talk?” This question immediately acknowledges that both introverts and extroverts are present, and welcomes both.

Before asking that initial question, however, you must design a workshop that truly respects introverts.

Designing Introvert-Friendly Workshops

When developing your training session, use these five tips to engage introverts (while meanwhile keeping the extroverts energized)!

  1. Always build “thinking time” into activities.
  2. Use “Think-INK-Pair-Share” as an activity (note that participants individually write their responses before sharing in pairs).
  3. Use “Walking Brainstorms”: Participants walk about the room, silently adding their ideas on post-its into various topic or question categories.
  4. If technology allows it, use clickers, instant messaging and other forms of electronic communication to answer questions or take surveys.
  5. Provide materials before the class for participants to review.

Delivering Introvert-Friendly Workshops

On-site, use these training tips:

  1. Meet everyone one-on-one before the session begins.
  2. Force yourself to wait 5-10 seconds before answering questions.
  3. Use meaningful scenarios and examples; avoid those that are obvious or superficial.
  4. Design the flow of the class with enough breaks so that people can stretch physically and mentally.
  5. Encourage introverts to speak up in group discussions. It’s OK to (gently) challenge them—they won’t break, and may enjoy a meaningful exchange of ideas.

Your training sessions will soar when you design and deliver them with introverts in mind!

*In fact, Susan Caine, the author of the important book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” differentiates between shy extroverts, calm introverts, and everything in between.

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