Learning and Development with Introverts

Posted by on Dec 7, 2016 in design, introverts, learning, structure, training | No Comments

This article is about working with introverts. It might also make you want a puppy, too.

It’s the night before you start delivering a course. Your average introvert is wound up about introducing themselves to a bunch of strangers and is stewing over “what the trainer will make them do.”  Here are some tips on how to support them.

Tip 1 – Signpost your session

If you’re anything like me and love helping people develop their skills and confidence, you’ll be standing at the front, raring to go. Enthusiastic. Eager.

However, before you launch into any activities or presentations, doing this one thing will make introverts love you: Introduce the shape of the whole session.

Tell your group if they’re going to be watching or listening to any forms of media. When you sit and watch or listen to something it’s a more passive, individual experience with less social buzz. Introverts will appreciate knowing this is coming up and that it’s not all going to be the group chatter and high energy activities they’ve dreaded.

Ideally, your sessions should also include quieter, more reflective tasks done with a partner or individually. This means that your introverts know when they’ve got a solitary activity to think and reflect on their own.

Tip 2 – Have regular breaks

Have breaks. They’re important. I recently attended a writing workshop packed full of great stuff but there were no breaks. How long did it last? 2 hours and 40 minutes. My blood sugar levels were going bananas. You know what could have helped? Bananas.

Breaks are important both because all learners need time to reflect on what they’ve learned and it’s estimated that people’s attention span is 20 minutes long.

And your introverts? They, especially, will appreciate the social down time from the group. To be alone with their thoughts. To stop. To be quiet.

So, please have a break. And include the time and length of the break in your signpost at the start of the session.

Tip 3 Introverts don’t wear their emotions on their sleeve

My Viking husband, the introvert, who went through his own private hell, showed no visible outward emotion.

You’re the person in front of the room who wants folk to get as much as they can out of the session. A passive facial expression can send worrying signals. This is where culture plays a part.

In Iceland, I’ve seen more than a few of these passive faces. I think “They’re not getting this. They’re pissed off. They’re bored.”

Ironically, some of these very people whom I worried about have actually approached me at the end of a session to thank me and tell me how much they enjoyed it. So, the passive face can mean they’re concentrating, and as I mentioned above, not every emotion passing through an introvert’s head is going to register on their face.

If the passive faces continue and you have a genuine worry that a person is not in a great place, have a private chat at the break or at the end of the session. Ask them how they feel the course is going for them.

Think of this as an informal needs analysis. It’s you checking in with them. This gives introverts the space and privacy to share any concerns they have and it gives you the privacy to give any extra support if needed.

Tip 4 – Reporting to the group

Let people know if and when they need to feed back to the group at large. This immediately addresses one of the most pressing questions an introvert has “Will she make me stand up in front of the class and talk?”

There are a couple of ways to support introverts in a feedback session.

Before smaller groups begin a discussion, ask them to choose two people who are comfortable to report back to the whole group after the discussion.

Or, you could be more informal. Explain that after the smaller group discussions, you’ll invite feedback from a few across the group at large. Stress that you mean invite and that you’re not going to make anyone talk.

And you already know what this means, don’t you? That it will be the extroverts in the group who will gladly speak up. Or, that you’ve a few brave introverts who will pipe up, taking a leaf out of Susan Cain’s book and be “speaking dangerously.”

So there you have it. Four ways to make introverts feel more supported and more comfortable in a learning and development session. Using these techniques means the introverts in front of you will be calmer and more able to contribute to and get more out of the training session.

What different techniques do you use to help introverts?

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