Extroverts, Pipe Down


by Imri Haggin, United World College Maastricht
10th March, 2020


Surprises and high energy situations don’t work for me; I like to be aware of how I might react and what I might be expected to express. At loud parties, I sometimes feel a non-negotiable urge to escape to somewhere quiet, just to sit there. I will then watch as other partygoers grow increasingly energetic through the night, wondering why others seemed to gain vibrance through the same situations that sapped my energy. I was confused as to why my experiences were so different, and why I reacted to certain situations in such different manners.
a
I’m not ashamed to say that I tuck myself into the deepest corners of the school building to concentrate at times when the study rooms are empty. There are situations where I would prefer to gaze at the moat rather than engaging in conversation. I have my highs when the commotion fizzles out, and all I can hear are the echoes of laughter ricocheting off the campus walls at 3am.
a
I identify as an introvert. I’m not antisocial, and I’m not awkward. I tend to spend more time in introspection and concentration rather than in conversation. This is NOT because we are snobs, unapproachable, or unfriendly. We as introverts act this way because our brains are
sensitive to overstimulation, pushing us into a state of panic when uncomfortable. It’s estimated that 30-50% of the population has an introverted mind, meaning that 30-50% of the population spends an above-average amount of time in observation, reflection, and contemplation.
a
Unfortunately, many people look at an “unusually” quiet and reserved nature as a disadvantage, or something to be overcome. Introverts have been labelled as inaccessible, stand-offish, and as “fake UWC-ers” because we don’t express ourselves in the style of the extrovert.
a
In a school where a lack of braggadocio is seen as a disability, I feel the need to argue that we are not the problem. We are simply introverts living in a world that largely and unreasonably favors extroverts. Introverts are endlessly pushed to emulate and conform to the extrovert ideal of being charismatic, forceful, and insistent. People often mistake this as being able to think quickly and analytically, however I’m not afraid to argue that the popularized combination of these traits is completely narcissistic, unthoughtful, and blinded by haste. Society is quick to label the loud-and-proud as the strongest managers and people that know what they’re talking about; it’s a bias that exists at the core of democratic elections and plays a key role in how we select our leaders.
a
We are making a big mistake in structuring our college’s conversations, lessons, and society around the extroverts’ long-winded word vomit. In the UWC mindset, having a closed door means being a closed person. Throughout my time on campus, I had to strike a balance between the culture of haste and ostentation that perpetually dominates the halls with my natural preference for tranquillity and actions that bring downtime for reflection. Succumbing to my needs meant being relegated to the margins of the school rather than being seen as a valuable contributor. I struggled to lob an opinion over the frantic exchanges of my peers and often felt undervalued or isolated.
a
Not only are we placing an unfair emphasis on a select few students’ opinions, we are potentially ignoring the voices of many capable students at the college. Let me remind you that introverts are biologically predisposed to maintaining a clear, levelheaded mind! It’s alarming that we aren’t giving them more opportunity for input.
a
So, if you take anything away from this article, let it be this: great leaders do not have to be outgoing! We’re correlating good-talkers with leadership and dismissing analytical judgement and vision. Why are we focusing on impatient talkers rather than those who have something valuable to say?
a
Here’s my proposition; Teachers! Restructure the classroom to incorporate the “listless” and the “dull”! Guide the conversation to restrain the extroverted during brainstorming sessions, group discussions, and residential meetings so that we can plug up those that belch garrulous nonsense, drowning progress in the name of a cheap laugh. Our society’s bias against introversion is strong, let’s encourage the input of the unspoken so that the contemplative can finally win the day.
a
Let me be clear, I am not saying that extroverts are mindless or incoherent. I am asking that the extroverts of our community gain a recognition of the appropriate time and place for noise, and also make way for the more-reserved members of the community to raise their opinions and concerns. We are the ones responsible for the outcome of this movement. Our UWC experiences are ingrained in a set of values that highlight personal example, comradery, and shared diversity. The value of this school comes from the connections that can be made, the questions that can be asked, and the perspectives that can be learned. We need to ensure that we are all able to take part in and contribute to the factors that make UWC unique.

222 views