If you are a leader of a youth group or a teacher, you already know how challenging it is to juggle personalities in the room. Think about your own personality when you’re in a group of your peers. Do you find that being in the group gives you energy? Or do you find that being in a group zaps your energy after a while?

Now picture yourself at the end of a long day. When it is time to recharge, would you prefer to spend time laughing and chatting with friends? Or do you prefer a quiet activity like reading or some other solitary activity?

If you said that a group gives you energy and you recharge by chatting and laughing, you are probably an extrovert. If you said that groups zap your energy and you recharge with solitude and quiet, you are likely an introvert. Being an extrovert or an introvert is all about how you process information and receive energy, according to Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor, authors of the new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs, & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.

Ragsdale and Saylor’s book devotes a whole chapter to the importance of becoming attuned to the personalities of the young people in your program or classroom. The authors explain that extroverts are more comfortable processing their thoughts out loud. In fact, that is their preferred way to process information; being in a group gives them that rush of energy. By nature of how they work, extroverts tend to get more air time, and if you’re not careful, they can control the whole conversation.

Introverts, on the other hand, process internally and thrive on quiet space and time to ponder. They will quietly process information, filtering facts through an internal conversation before deciding to speak out loud. If you’re not attentive to how introverts work, you may never hear their insights or opinions.

Ragsdale and Saylor encourage you to think about how you can support both personality types within your group. For starters, consider your group discussions and how you ask everyone to weigh in. Do you make space for both extroverts and introverts?

Strategic Moves
Here are some tips to engage both introverts and extroverts:

  • Balance time between energizing group activities and one-on-one pairings or individual work, giving both types time to re-energize.
  • If you notice someone who doesn’t say much, pull him or her aside when it’s not noticeable and ask this person what would make it easier for him or her to speak up. You might say, “I noticed you were quiet in the group. I would like to hear what you have to say. What would make it easier for you to speak up?”
  • If someone talks all the time, pull that person aside and say something like, “I value your input and know you have good ideas. Could you help bring out other people’s ideas?”
  • After asking an important question, tell your group you want them to take some quiet time before weighing in. Let them know you’ll tell them when it’s time to speak. This strategy lets the extroverts pause and lets the introverts have time to think and weigh in.
  • Use the NOSTUESO rule to balance power between the types: No one speaks twice until everyone speaks once. Or use a variation: Each person may only speak twice on a given question.

For more tips, activities, and helpful insights on bringing out the best in your young people, check out Groups, Troops, Clubs, and Classrooms. Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor are youth development experts and the co-authors of seven books, including the bestselling Great Group Games: 175 Boredom-Busting, Zero-Prep Team builders for All Ages.

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