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Linked – How to invite introverted students to share their thinking in class

This entire piece on NPR is interesting reading. It’s about higher education but I have seen similar issues in adult training classes where introverted students simply don’t engage in any sort of discussion, ask questions, etc.

I started training online as well as in person in 2012. The technology wasn’t nearly as fancy as it is now but in hindsight, this is something that should have been obvious:

“NEWHOUSE: This is the first detail to notice. Mr. Vogelsinger gives his students think time before large group discussions. In this case, they had already responded to a message board about the topic. Letting them review what they wrote and read their peers’ responses meant that introverted students weren’t being put on the spot when they started talking.”

As I said, I didn’t necessarily think much about it, but any time we were doing online training where the tool had a chat component, there were always students who would use the chat to ask questions no matter how many times I encouraged them to interrupt me or ask me to repeat something they weren’t clear on. At the time I assumed this was a situation where the technology was a little uncomfortable and new, and the student just didn’t want to speak up for everyone to hear. All those people you don’t know and can’t see (This was prior to everyone appearing on-camera all the time) can serve to discourage people from speaking up and they find their way to the quieter option.

Over the last few years though, as the number of online training sessions and meetings has grown exponentially, I still see it though. There are a significant number of users who will use Teams or Zoom chat instead of speaking up in many forms of gatherings. We should recognize that the chat tool is a perfectly legitimate way for people to interact with a speaker and each other during online meetings. Many people, but especially introverts among us, will be more comfortable chatting like that during a meeting. As a trainer/speaker, it becomes paramount that you learn to pay attention to what is happening in chat or have someone in the meeting be responsible for keeping up with the chat. Otherwise, you’re ignoring part of your audience.

The other interesting thing that shouldn’t be overlooked is that beyond providing a message board to start the class discussion, it’s also provided ahead of time. Those introverts who need a little time to process new information before providing any input are going to be much more likely to have something to add when there is time to consider the topic. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve been in a meeting or learned something new and expected to provide immediate feedback. This is why meeting agendas are important to allow people to already be thinking about the topic before they arrive at the meeting, and the opportunity to follow up for additional feedback is likewise an important part of communicating and learning.

Maybe the best example of how the workplace and workplace training is almost always geared toward extroverts is this. Has this ever happened to you?

You’re in a meeting where a completely new idea is being proposed. Perhaps it’s a new policy, a new technology, or a change in structure. This is the first time you’re learning about it and the speaker is asking for feedback. You don’t have any. You’re still processing. The speaker gets frustrated with the lack of feedback and ends the meeting early. Or, there is some feedback but later you get reprimanded for not providing any during the meeting by someone who clearly doesn’t understand your need to process new information.

It happens, and it’s a really good way to send the message that you don’t value your introverted employees.

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