Your heart pounds as words linger at the edge of your mouth. You put your hand up slightly, and drop it when a classmate speaks, the voices silencing you. You ask yourself ‘Why aren’t you putting up your hand? Why can’t you speak up like others? You’re so quiet.’
It’s okay, you’re not alone. Introverts matter.
Today, schools have become largely orientated for extroverts. Classrooms, for example, are now organised in pods of desks where large amounts of group work are done. Teachers have even started to employ class discussions for grade purposes wherein the most talkative student would get the highest score and the quietest the lowest. As extroverts get stimulated by the milieu of big-group discussions, they become dominant speakers, often precluding introverts. So a classroom discussion becomes an extrovert’s discussion based solely upon their thoughts and ideas. Consequently, some teachers tend to believe that extroverts are the exemplary students while introverts are the outliers.
Aris Huang, a self-proclaimed ambivert at Korea International School, claims that the ideology of praising extroverts and devaluing introverts shows that “the society is messed up.” Unfortunately, Huang is one of the few students who is aware of the issue as many still hold the misconception.
Even though the majority believes extroverts are ideal, there are justifications to why introverts matter. Major leaders and celebrities today identify themselves as introverts, including Bill Gates and Emma Watson. At first glance, it may be paradoxical: how can an introvert be a leader? The answer lies in introverts’ common behavior: listening.
As Susan Cain, author of the novel Quiet, claims, in “a world that cannot stop talking,” we need better listeners like introverts. Though it may seem like introverts are uninterested in discussions, they are in fact fully engrossed in the ideas presented in the talks, making meaningful connections inside—an essential skill needed in order to build relationships and ideas. In a society where so many want to speak, there needs to be more listeners so that there is a purpose in speaking and sharing ideas. Afterall, aren’t introverts the ones who are listening to the extroverts?
This is by no means to advocate for the eradication of extroverts. Rather it is a plea to be more aware of introverts and mindful that they have innovative and creative ideas just like extroverts. So teachers, stop making discussions graded; give alternatives to introverts; talk to them on a one-to-one basis to find out about their thoughts. Schools, keep a balance between group work and autonomous work for they are both critical skills. And extroverts: “listen to the quiet” because introverts matter.