Susan Cain, author of The Power of Introverts, spoke recently at the TED event about the virtues of introverts. Though they’re made to feel like outliers and pushed to participate in groups, both in schools and at work, Cain says introverts often produce great, creative, thoughtful work.

In schools, specifically, Cain says classes are designed for “extroverts’ need for lots of stimulation.” Kids work in groups on subjects like math that require solitary thought, she says. “Kids who prefer to work on their own are seen as problem cases or outliers,” she says. “Teachers think the ideal student is an extrovert.”

But there’s “zero correlation between the best ideas and the best talkers.”

Though kids do need to be encouraged to work together, she says they also need to learn how to work alone because “that’s where deep thought comes from.”

“We have a belief system that all creativity and productivity comes from an oddly gregarious place,” she said.

And for those who are introverts, she wishes them the “courage to speak softly.”


  • PD

    Introversion does not equate to shyness.  Introverts do not need, “…Courage to speak softly,” for they will speak up when they feel it appropriate to share their thoughts or ask questions.  I appreciate what Ms. Cain is trying to do, but she’s addressing shyness, not introversion.  There are shy extroverts too.  Unlike shyness, introversion is not a behavioral problem caused by low self esteem, low self efficacy, or communicative handicaps. 

  • Dee

    I agree about the shyness comment, PD. What I find is many people question my being an introvert because I am not shy. My friends say I can talk with anyone- but that is one of my main points- Yes I can, but I prefer and enjoy small groups of 3-5 people over a large group or party any time. I also have to take time to process and recharge, which is usually alone. I get depleted by having to interact so much socially, but have learned how to do this very successfully which can come across as extroversion.  

  • Heike Larson

    I just finished reading Quiet this weekend, and really enjoyed the book. One of my children is clearly an introvert (from day one, just like Harvard researcher Kagan observed in his experiments with high-reactive infants), while the other one is a clear extrovert. Both my children are thriving in Montessori schooling.

    Montessori schools respect and support a child’s individuality, whether in the pace of learning or their approach to interacting with others or dealing with novelty.

    In a good Montessori setting, introverted children always have the opportunity to tackle new projects at their pace. They are never forced into large-group activities, but instead are free to choose to work alone, or, when they are ready, with 1-2 friends they can click with.

    Extroverted children, on the other hand, are free to form groups and work together. Many Montessori activities even in subjects like math (for example, the collective addition or subtraction games with the Golden Beads) in fact are ideal for harnessing an extroverted child’s interest in social interaction toward a learning goal.

    If you observe in a Montessori classroom (or watch a video–here are several:, you’ll be able to see this respect for different working styles in action. This respect for the individual child, for the mind in the making, is one of the reasons I love Montessori so much, and have chosen it for my own children.

  • Do introverts emphasize more on how they are portrait in class? I don’t know how to put this up but i always wanted to figure out how extroverts are so comfortable in socializing when they don’t know how the other person perceives them. Are the introverts student approach to avoid large groups a reason behind this? (To be sure they turn out to be a good influence for everyone they interact with?)

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