Tell Us About Yourself: Sending an Introvert Into a Tailspin

Freaked out at the thought of having to introduce yourself to strangers?


Quiet Book Cover

Several months ago I blogged about my BIG discovery {here}, after reading Susan Cain’s, Quiet: The Power of Introverts, last December.  What a great read!  In it, she discusses introverts in our society and society’s response to them.  She writes, “The bias against introversion leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and happiness.”




You can see her TED Talk here:

If you’re an introvert, you know she’s singing the gospel… Now, if everyone would just get quiet and listen….!! Right?

What was particularly enlightening to me ~ other than discovering I’m really an introvert camouflaged in an extrovert’s body ~ (light bulb moment!) was to learn why my instructional style is so challenging for some of my students…. You know, the ones who are also introverts, but not masquerading as an extrovert.

These guys and gals take quiet and attentive (qualities a teacher appreciates) to a much higher level, often edging closer to a referral for what appears to be open defiance because they will refuse to participate than have to talk with peers (and/or me).  Yes, it happens!  Maybe you were one of those kids? Maybe you’re raising one?  If so, might be helpful to give your kiddos’ teachers a little insight.  *Not taught in teacher-school.

Turns out, my collaborative classroom approach overwhelms introverted kiddos ~ as probably happens in many classrooms (fellow teacher-types, take note from this slow learner!).  This was a HUGE a-ha! moment for me… during my 20th year in the classroom.  As I read her book, I found myself saying, “That explains a LOT!”

When I reflected on how some of my classes are markedly different from others, it occurred to me:

Those classes that require me to cajole students to talk to one another and/or me {and they still refuse} are the classes in which introverts rule.  They are silently in control! 

When classes resumed after winter vacation last January, I was ready! Armed with this epiphany, I greeted my 2nd period class and told them what I finally understood. Poor kids.  They were visibly relieved. It was as if you could hear them whispering, “Finally, she gets us! Took her long enough!”  😉

HUGE difference between first and second semesters, as I gave my students latitude in how they would interact with their peers (and me), balancing the need to teach effective collaboration skills with giving students a ‘comfortable, safe’ learning environment that worked for everyone.

Electronic communication turned out to be a helpful way to get introverted students to interact.  Much has been written about the interface, including this article for Time by Cain. I have seen it first-hand, having students who didn’t utter a word for an entire semester, become involved in peer and student/teacher discussions when they could interact behind the safety of a keyboard.  Win-win!

Things were much calmer for me, too.  It was nice to have one class a day in which the kids weren’t swinging from the rafters a quiet disposition was expected and appreciated by my students. I didn’t have to be ‘on stage’ to get my point across.  Now if I could just get my other classes to try out this calmer, more focused presence….  Bliss, it would be pure bliss.

I’m kidding. It would be boring as all get-out!

*Interesting side note:  My ‘introverted’ class has been period 2 for three years running. Entirely different groups of kids from year to year, yet it’s consistently 2nd period.  Wonder why?   I smell an action research project lurking in the shadows…. 

Fast-forward eleven months.

Last week, I read a blog post from doc-turned-author Carrie Rubin {here} about her own embarrassing moment with introversion, and her advice for those of us who develop trainings or meetings for others.  As a presenter/PD facilitator/instructional literacy coach, I hadn’t ever considered how introverts might feel in my sessions. But once again, it sure explained a LOT about some participants’ sudden trips to the restroom or to ‘take a call’ when introductions begin.

According to Carrie, introverts are terrified to hear “Tell us about yourself…”  Wow!  This was an eye-opener for me… but makes perfect sense.  Now, when I’m plan sessions, I’ll remember to give participants a heads-up with plenty of ‘think time’ ~ to collect their thoughts and plan their words. Thanks, Carrie!

How about you?

Introvert? Extrovert?


Raising one (or two, or three ….)???

How to Write Short: a Must-Read! {Great Reads}

How to Write Short

Quick:   How many words was your last blog post or article?  Under 100? 500? 1,000?  Did you get your message across? How do you know? Could you have said it in fewer words without losing its essence? What would have been the benefit of doing so?

These are just a few of the questions addressed in Dr. Roy Peter Clark’s How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times, publication 2013. “A writer who teaches and a teacher who writes…,” Clark shares many historical and contemporary examples, annotated to help the reader see the value in and purpose for, short-form communication.  Grace Notes help put ideas into (approachable) practice.

Both the title and the cover design caught my eye a few months ago. Life came first. I finished How to Write Short last week, chuckling – and highlighting – to the last page.  This book speaks to my writing sensibilities. Turns out I’ve been a short-form writer all along!

Texts, tweets, t-shirts …. all part of my writing real estate, and all represented in this book.
Six words? Got ‘em covered nearly every Wednesday! (that’s six by the way)
Lists? Love them.
Sticky notes?  Queen of…
Margins. Text annotation.
Word craft.
Short form.


word count?  212  😉

Innie or Outie? Quiet: The Power of Introverts {Great Reads}

Are you in introvert or an extrovert? Or are you both?

I’ve always considered myself an extrovert. Those who know me would agree.

I strike up conversations in public. I strike up conversations with teenagers I’ve never met, on my campus, nearly every day.  They sometimes (okay, often!) look at me like I’m crazy, but usually chat back and end up with a big smile.  In my family, we call it the “Mary Lee Legacy,” after my dear grandmother who’s never met a stranger in her life. She taught me well.  🙂


All fit.

Other days, I don’t want to be bothered.


These fit, too.

So how does one align these two apparently opposite ends of the spectrum?  Camouflage.  Masquerade.  Dance of the Peacock.  Call it what you will.

Quiet Book CoverAccording to Sara Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, many introverts often mask themselves (to some degree) as extroverts, in order to “fit” in a world that values extroverts’ contributions. Could this explain my over-the-top teaching, action-packed presenting, and talk-in-the-produce-section shopping?? Only if you combine those qualities with my deep wish to be ‘left the hell alone,’ thank-you-very-much.

Or maybe I really am more extroverted, but have discovered my introverted side as I’ve aged. Mellowed, maybe? I don’t know about the ‘mellow’ part. I’m pretty passionate about a lot of things… and not afraid to show it.  So what gives?

I’m not entirely sure, but what I do know is this: To be alone is to engage with my own thoughts. I like quiet time.  Lots of it!  My brain seems to go 24/7 and I need an outlet.

Writing provides the outlet. Reading, the catalyst.

How about you: Innie? Outie? Masquerading?  Or, are you sure about who you are??  ….   How do you know?

The Art of Saying Much…with Little {Great Reads}

Backstory:  I first shared this post in April 2010, a fact reflected in certain (outdated) references – Borders and BlackBerry – and behaviors (tweeting, still new to me at the time).  Times have changed and so has my writing. I’m pleased to share a much-abbreviated post, shortened by 200+ words, with the same goal:  a Great Read recommendation!

Original Post, remixed: 

Do you tweet? You know. That thing people do online and on their phones, sending frivolous messages to one another about ‘absolutely nothing’ in 140 or fewer characters.  Only kids tweet, right?  Not really. It’s a fad, right? I’m rethinking my viewpoint on that, too.

I began tweeting last summer, having little idea of what I was doing, but engaged in it nonetheless.  Then, a new school year began and I got sidetracked.  Not a chirp for months. Until recently.  For no known reason, I began making noise again.  And thinking about that noise. Who was hearing me?  Who wasn’t hearing me? Who did I want to hear me?  Why did I want them to hear me?  And…. how could I make my messages more creative? 

While thinking about all of this tweeting, a visit to the bookstore enlightened me further….

How to write short 140 Dom SI discovered 140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form by Dom Sagolla, one of the co-creators of Twitter.  Topic?  How to write short and sweet for the Information Age”

Verdict? Fascinating read! Thought-provoking. Historical. Practical.

Did you know the first short form message recorded in U.S. history was a telegraph message?

What hath God wrought?  ~ Samuel Morse

21 characters. 1 powerful message.

Can you say a lot by saying very little ~ in writing?  E-mail. Blog posts. Tweets. Status Updates.  A note to a loved one.  A note to a stranger.  A note to one’s self.

Brevity.  Practicing.



Excellence… {Great Reads}

Backstory:  I drafted this post in 2011 and never shared it. I did finish the book and it remains one of my favorite reads.  🙂

Restrooms. Candies. Stories. Beginnings. Endings. 7 Seconds. Lunch. Relationships. Fun. Day & Night.

What is excellence?

Is it showing up every day, on time, and ready to do what’s asked?

Is it having passion for every project you’re working on?

Is it seeing everything you do as a ‘project’?

Is it doing what you believe in, No.Matter.What?

 How do you define excellence? 

Starting with mention of the Two-Cent Candy Phenomenon in his book, The Little Big Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence, Tom Peters, business guru (and avid tweeter), shares his thoughts on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of excellence, in his usual unabashed style.  Not one for mincing words, Tom gives it to you straight ~ you’re either totally engaged or you’re doing nothin’ (my paraphrase of an otherwise highly charged, in-your-face message). 

Tom’s principles are so oddly familiar to me that I often feel as I read his words that we’re somehow cosmically connected. (Cue the music!) He believes in telling a story, in fact wrapping presentations around stories. He believes an excellent presentation requires customization for every, single audience he speaks to.  He even talks about his wife titling his gazillion interests (“the stuff he runs into and cares like hell about …for a year or two or 20”) as “Tom’s passions,” something I suspect my husband could completely relate to!  Tom believes in manners first and foremost. Being thankful. Showing gratitude. To Everyone.

He writes in BIG, bold words to make a point.  And uses lots of !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  He uses the word ‘stuff’… a LOT to describe concepts, ideas, and well… stuff.  Thank you, Tom, for making those of us bursting with passion and expression OKAY with writing unconventionally.  For what is convention, after all?  Formality when appropriate.

 Pay attention to The Basic Stuff.  Put people first.

I’m only half-way through Tom’s 163 ways to pursue excellence, but have found so much in it that speaks to my core beliefs that I even bought a copy for my senior boss in my daytime life.  She believes in excellence, too, and Tom helps us connect the dots just a little bit more. 

Mr. Peters, you had me at “ …. ‘the stuff that matters’ is the likes of intensive and engaged listening and showing appreciation of the work and wisdom of others, any and all others.” (p. xxvi) 

The Pocket Muse 2: Endless Inspiration for Writers {Great Reads}

The Pocket Muse 2“Anybody can write a book, ’cause everybody has a story to tell.”
Marianne Moore, Author/Poet

Last week I found myself in the bookstore again, this time to replace a book I loaned and haven’t seen since.

The Pocket Muse 2,  an entirely different genre from the missing business book, spoke to my interest in writing, with its inviting photography, creative type-set and graphics, and beautiful language.

Monica Wood explains in the Introduction that this book was a result of her own despair, feeling as though she was facing, “mortal combat with a novel in progress… stranded and miserable with my sheaf of false starts and dead ends.”  She invites the reader to use the book as a source of both “inspiration and advice” in the journey to find one’s own words in what she calls an “act of faith.”

Ready to tell your own story? Because everyone’s got one to tell, apparently.  Ready to tap into your own creativity… find it, develop it, maybe share it?  The Pocket Muse 2 is a great tool to get you started.

By the way, the Missing In Action business book, (reason for the bookstore drop-in), didn’t get purchased.  Guess I’ll have to plan another visit soon.   😉