Schools Can Be Rough Places For Introverts, But This Book Could Help

What introverts can do to unlock their secret strengths.

In a school with noisy cafeterias, crowded hallways and complicated social hierarchies, life isn't always easy for the introverted student.

While extroverts might be the students who are celebrated for their social dexterity, introverted students might be the ones with a small, but tight-knit group of close friends. When a teacher asks a question, while extroverted students might be the ones to immediately shoot up their hands, introverted students might be the ones more likely to carefully consider their answers before sharing them.

But Susan Cain knows the power of introverted students. And she wants them to know their powers, too.

Cain's latest book, Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts, speaks to kids and teens who are looking for ways to capitalize on their oft-overlooked strengths as students with deep inner lives. The book shares the experiences of several teens as they move through group projects, student government elections and birthday parties.

"In this book we'll talk about the ways we introverts relate to those around us -- to friends, family, and teachers. We'll talk about the ways we pursue our interests and hobbies. And we'll talk about the ways we relate to our own selves, as individuals," writes Cain in the book. "I hope that through this book you learn to accept and treasure yourself -- just as you are. The world needs you, and there are so many ways to make your quiet style speak volumes."

Cain's previous book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, spent weeks on the New York Times best seller list, and spurred her to start a company called The Quiet Revolution, which has the mission to "unlock the power of introverts for the benefit of us all." She recently started the Quiet Schools network, designed to train school leaders to enhance the engagement of all students.

the Huffington Post spoke with Cain about her latest book and what schools can do to become a more welcoming environment for introverted students.

What motivated you to write this book specifically for students?

It really came out of the fact that when I came out with Quiet, I started to hear from so many students and teachers but also from regular adults who kept saying: if only I had this book when I was a kid my whole life could have turned out differently.

These are people who very early on in their life got the message there was something wrong with them, or something wrong with their preference of how they wish to spend their time. Paradoxically, I saw that once people felt permission to be themselves, they became so much more effective in the outward facing world of job interviews and work and all those kinds of things.

I wanted to reach kids when they were still young and in formation.

Who is the kid you're specifically speaking to in this book?

It's really the kid who has a close group of friends and prefers to hang out with the kids they know well as opposed to being a social butterfly. It's not the gregarious kid, it’s the kid who usually has a few interests they dig deep into, a few friendships they dig deep into, and that’s their mode of life. It’s the kid whose getting the message that the best thing in the world to be is outgoing and starting to question why they’re not that way themselves.

What does this kid look like in class?

First of all, obviously there's no one prototype. Very often these kids are not comfortable with norms of being graded for class participation. They will speak out if they have something to say, but they're usually not the most vocal members in a classroom. They sometimes like group work but often prefer to work independently or in a pair. They usually have a few interests they want to dive into. They're usually very strong listeners, strong thinkers, independent minded, often very compassionate, often very sensitive, often very creative.

How do you think this book would have impacted you when you were a kid?

Oh my gosh, I think there would have been so much unnecessary fretting that wouldn’t have had to occur. A deeper awareness of what my powers actually were.

What is something parents and teachers could do to make sure they are best serving introverted students?

Parents: give your kid recharge time, especially in this over-scheduled time we live in. There's so much pressure to have your kid going all the time so they can keep up with everybody's extra curricular activities.

But all kids need to recharge, especially introverts. It's okay to come home after school and chill out.

One the teacher side, a really simple tweak. Studies have found that when teachers wait just a few extra beats after asking a question in class, before calling on students, they get more participation. The natural thing would be: ask a question, call on students right away and that’s going to get the most extroverted students answering. But if you give just those extra few seconds, the quieter students will jump in.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.