If you follow me on Facebook, you might have seen this article I recently linked to, which talks about introverts and the ways they interact differently than their extravert counterparts. Right here and now, I admit it-I am an introvert. I prefer to read rather than interact socially. I am quiet. I am slow to respond, usually because I’m thinking about what to say. I absolutely hate talking on the phone. I wouldn’t characterize myself as “shy” but social situations definitely drain me, rather than energize me. Does this surprise you? Not me-I knew all this about myself already.
However, what surprised me most is the number of you who reached out and said that you, also were an introvert. But wait-Speech Language Pathologists as introverts? Isn’t that some sort of oxymoron? Can the conversation guru ever prefer quiet? Is it possible for us to teach social skills but still feel a tad anxious in social situations? Can we teach our students how to collaborate with others when we ourselves prefer to work alone? Can the introvert teach social language skills? It started me thinking…perhaps we’re some of the best people to be teaching these skills.
In her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain describes introverts like this:
“They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled “quiet,” it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society–from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.”
In our world where noise and spotlight are often valued, here is a different aspect and why those who are more introverted make great SLPs:
1. We’re listeners. Our students need listeners-not someone talking over them. When I was in graduate school, one of my professors said something that always stuck with me. “In every session, your students should have a higher percentage of spoken words than you.” How do our students improve communication skills if we’re the ones doing all the talking? Our sessions should provide communication practice, then feedback, and then time for more practice. Introverts are good at this.
2. We’re creative. As stated above, many of world’s best inventors and contributors were introverts. People such as Bill Gates, Rosa Parks, Dr. Suess all identified themselves as introverts. I love people. However, communicating with them all day drains me. Creating is my outlet. After a long day, I love to come home and work on creating new speech therapy materials to use, scrapbook or browse Pinterest.
3. We tend to think before we speak. We carefully consider a problem from all angles before jumping in. And…although we typically don’t prefer working in groups, it’s why we’re good at it. We can usually collaborate well with teachers and hold our own in meetings. Our administrators know they can trust us in that meeting with the fuming hot parent not to say anything stupid. We might be slow to respond, but when we do, it’s usually worth listening to.
4. And finally… We’ve been there. To that little fourth grader who dreads social situations in the noisy lunchroom, we can relate. At times, we’ve had to “pretend extrovert” just to get by so we’re also good at teaching these skills. If I want to lose weight, am I going to go to the the 110 lb trainer who has never in her life struggled with weight? No! I’m going to run to my friend who has been there, who has struggled and can give me strategies and tips for losing weight. It’s the same here. We can give strategies to our kids because we’ve been where they are.
I hope this gave you something to think about with introverts and the benefits they can bring to our field. As for me, I’m going off to read a book now 😉