I am an introvert, y'all. I don't think most people who took courses with me in college could tell, but I don't like talking much, especially in large groups! Give me a small group any day and I am fine, but put me in front of more than five people and I am not so fine. The people I toured around my alma mater in college probably couldn't tell this either, but I made exceptions for my introversion (more on that in tip #3!)
Today on the blog, I am going to share my introvert's guide to class involvement so you can speak up in class, get to know the people you take classes with, and not get sweaty or nervous when a professor calls on you to speak.
1. Think: Why Are You So Afraid Of Participation?
I have been reading this fantastic book by Mark Manson called “The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck.” One of the concepts that Mark Manson talks about is why you shouldn't be certain of yourself. It was an interesting concept to me because I always thought that we all needed to know certain facts about ourselves because if we didn't, who are we? At the same time, though, after being a student in an actual classroom for 18 years, and then having that identity stripped away from me after I got my Master's, I realize that I shouldn't have put so much of myself into that identity.
All of this to say, you must truly think about why you are so afraid of participation. If something is holding you back in life, don't just let it stick. Question it! If you know that your life would be better off if you could speak up in class, make friends in your classes, and chat with your professor–why are you accepting anything less?
Get to the root of what scares you, because once you have that figured out, you can solve that issue. There may be any number of reasons that you are afraid of participating in class, but if you don't get to that reason you will never be able to solve that issue.
2. Be Ready To Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
As an introvert getting involved in class is always scary. It's hard to be recognized, share your opinions, and endure all the work that comes with class involvement.
You have to think of class involvement as a part of the college experience. College is much more rewarding when you are able to speak up in class and be a part of the class discussion. When you are avoiding your professor's eye contact all the time and sitting silently in the back, class drones on.
When you are engaged with class discussion, communicating with your classmates, and really enjoying class it shows itself in the clock. Time moves quickly when you are having fun!
3. See The Classroom As A Chance To Be Free
One thing that I did as an introvert was see the classroom as a chance to be free of all my introverted behaviors. I treated the classroom like a safe haven for a more extroverted me. I thought of myself as an academic extrovert, meaning I'm an introvert but give me a few books and I can school you. To combat my introversion, I called myself an academic extrovert, y'all.
So, what does an academic extrovert do? Well, she participates in class, doesn't get terribly nervous when doing presentations, she prepares as much as possible for class, she chimes in before she is made to chime in, and she is confident in her academic knowledge.
I am not yet confident in a lot of things, but I have always been confident in my ability to learn and my ability to write. Find the things that you are confident in and use them to the best of your ability in class.
4. Gain Knowledge And Keep Up With Your Homework
To be a great academic extrovert, you need to know what you are talking about. You will feel a lot better if you have some sense of knowledge when it comes to your classes.
Above all else, you need to stick to what works for you. Don't compare your study habits to those of other's in your class because we all study differently. If I stressed out about the people with a million flashcards I would have never realized what worked for me when it came to studying for classes.
If you are a:
- Flashcard learner, lean into that.
- Creating a song about the events that took place learner, lean into that.
- Teaching your friends learner, lean into that.
Whatever kind of learner you are, be that learner.
5. Don't Be Afraid Of Being Wrong
On the other hand, you have to stop the impression that you need to have all the right answers all the time. This holds you back and makes you want to avoid answering questions in class.
I was wrong quite a few times in college. Sometimes I guessed just because no one else was daring to try and I was tired of sitting in the silence of a teacher who was determined to get us to talk. I did all that, and guess what, I am completely fine and I made it through 6 years of higher education and no one ever yelled at me to shut up or told me I was a dummy who should stop trying.
You are not always going to be right, and that's okay.
You Are Not Special
Gonna be real here for a hot sec.
You are not special.
No one is going home and making fun of you.
Your classmates aren't really thinking about what you said in the classroom.
They are just happy that someone stepped up to answer the professor's questions so they didn't have to.
Your professors aren't mad at you for not knowing the answer. They are happy that you at least tried to approach the question. They understand that being wrong is a part of the learning process.
You are the only one in this situation who thinks about your goof after it happened.
Do not put that thinking on other people.
We often project on to other people what we think about ourselves. We think everyone thinks we are stupid, or mean, or too nice, or rude. The other person is likely not even considering you after class unless you are good friends with them or you say something completely outrageous.
Yeah, if you say something racist or overtly sexist or downright mean, people will probably mention you to their family later.
You are talking about getting X=5 instead of X=10, though.
That doesn't exactly make for important dinner conversation.
6. Participate On Your Own Free Will
To an introvert, the worst thing that can happen is, “If you all don't start talking, I will call on people randomly.” No one wants that kind of negativity in their life.
Instead of waiting to be called on, speak up when you know the answer.
This is my secret sauce to being an academic extrovert.
I know I LITERALLY just told you don't be afraid of being wrong, and you shouldn't, but it's so much easier to just talk when you know the answer instead of being backed into a corner to participate when you are less knowledgeable about a subject.
99% of the time I would only speak up when I knew the answer. The other 1% of the time I spoke up when the professor was doing the thing they do when they let a question sit in the air until someone answers or they get mad enough to assign a pop quiz because no one is participating.
Why do I do this? Chances are your professors aren't going to call on the same people twice. Even in a 3-hour class, the professor doesn't want the same person to answer again and again. Unless you are in a small class, if you voluntarily speak up, the professor will leave you alone for the rest of the class.
So, when the professor asked something and I knew the answer, I would voluntarily give the answer. That way I could get my involvement for the day over with in a way that I controlled #winning.
Now, this doesn't have a 100% guaranteed success rate, but most of the time professors like to get as many people in your class involved as possible so they won't likely call on you twice.
7. Get To Know The People In Your Classes
Getting up and doing a presentation in class is difficult, but it is even more difficult when you look out at the crowd and you don't know anybody in your class. When you get to know the people in your classes you have someone to focus on when you have presentation jitters and you would rather sit down than get a good grade on a Powerpoint.
Getting to know people in your classes is easier said than done, I get that, but here are a few suggestions:
Get to know people by joining an academic club
Chances are your major has a student organization on campus. This can be a great way to meet a few people in your major. Go to those meetings, get to know students in your major, and have conversations with them. You probably won't become best friends, but you will have a few acquaintances and that's all you need.
Introduce yourself to the people around you
On the first day, introduce yourself, and if it's been a while say something along the lines of, “Hey, I love your ____ (shoes, bag, button on your backpack). I have seen you in class but never introduced myself I'm ____.” Or, you know, something a little less robotic. Just strike up a conversation. Talk about how crazy the homework was. If someone has a question, answer it. Don't be creepy, but try talking to the people around you.
Get to class early (& take out your headphones!)
Last, but not least, get to class early if you can. I loved getting to class early. It's easy to chat with those around you when you have some time before class to chat. Chatting after class is often way harder than striking up a conversation before class. Take out your headphones so that people feel encouraged to chat with you. You don't have to have a constant smile (that looks creepy) but if someone looks at you, flash them a smile.
8. Be Strategic In Your Seating Arrangements
Sit in a way that makes you feel confident. For some, that means sitting in front of the class because it's impossible to look behind you without causing a small scene. Some people like to sit in the back because it means that they can see everyone in front of them and beside them easily. Some people like to sit toward the front and off to the side that way they aren't the center of attention, but they are still toward the front and closer to their professor. And so on, and so forth.
I always sat towards the front but to the side so I wasn't front and center (because once I was front and center and I hated it.)
Where you sit can make a big impact on how comfortable you feel speaking up during class, so sit where you will feel comfortable sitting and participating.
Conclusion: You Are An Academic Extrovert
Remember, you don't have to be an introvert all the time. You can choose certain places where you would like to be more outgoing. You can be confident in the places you want to be confident.
Yes, you may have an introverted personality, but your personality doesn't have to define everything that you do. You get to define that.
I hope that today's blog post helped you think about being an introvert in a new way.