Thursday, September 11, 2008

Complaints from an Introvert

In many ways, the world has a pro-extrovert bias. You are supposed to speak up to claim your wants and needs. In the academic world part of your grade often depends on speaking up in class a certain number of times. In seminary, I am told that my voice is important; my opinion matters as part of the community here and therefore it becomes my obligation to speak up and share my thoughts. At this moment (with my cranky pants on) I think that is stupid. I appreciate the invitation and affirmation, but most times I'd rather keep quiet.

Before class today, I was reading and overhearing a group preparing a presentation for next week's class. Their task is to lead the discussion of the week's readings. One of their ideas was to split up into small groups for part of the discussion. (We are constantly breaking into small groups to discuss.) Someone made the comment that this would give the introverts a chance to speak up. This is a true statement, and something that I consider when making my own lesson plans, but something about that person's tone struck me as so condescending. What if I don't want to say anything? Really, small groups mean that you can't escape talking, even if you don't have anything to say.

I'll admit that part of my desire to stay quiet stems from social anxiety. When I try to speak up in class, my heart races and my mind often goes blank when I am called on. But I also don't like to speak up because I like to listen. I like to process things, and often I don't formulate something of substance to say until much later. It goes against my grain to speak up and say something pointless or repetitive or obvious just so that people can hear my voice. Plus, I have always preferred a lecture-format for class. I like taking notes, and note-taking is the main way I absorb information. In class discussions, as interesting and important as they are, I don't absorb much.

When it comes down to it, my job is focused around talking to people, which I love, but it drains me (that's the definition of introversion). At school I would much rather sit quietly and listen. It doesn't mean I'm not engaged in the discussion, or that I feel my opinion isn't worthy of being shared. I'm just quiet sometimes.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yes, I hear you. As a fellow student at your seminary I'm going to remain anonymous here, just in case anyone from my ethics class is lurking. But, this is our ethics class. -- talk, talk, talk by people who are often just rephrasing what has already been said. Or belaboring their pet point that they just don't want to let go. And in this class our participation counts. AND we're breaking up into small groups next week to discuss the Iraq War. omg... It's not that I don't have opinions about the war -- of course I do -- but I'm not sure that anyone is really interested in them because they have their own. And I'm not interested in arguing simply to try to prove my point (on anything, not just specifically the Iraq war). So, I feel your pain.

1:12 PM  

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