by Erin Chatten
I will never forget the day that I realized I was not a full-blown extrovert. Me. Student-council-song-and-chant-loving, talking-is-implied-in-my-last-name, Erin Chatten was not a 100% extrovert.
It was at a conference about a year ago, and I had just finished a nearly 12-hour day when my roommate burst in filled with energy and practically glowing. Meanwhile, I looked like death, exhausted from the day. She looked at me and said… “Girl I’m 100% extrovert, this day has filled me up!” That’s when it hit me. I’m an extrovert too, but maybe I’m closer to a 70-30 blend, because boy did I want some alone time and a bath after 12 hours of social interaction.
You see, many psychologists have examined personality and the role it plays on our individual behavior. The best explanation I’ve ever heard is this: personality is not an indicator of who you are as a human, but as a prediction of how you will react to situations and your environment. Extroversion and introversion are outrageously misconceived. It doesn’t mean shy or outgoing. Boring or lively. Nerd or Prom Queen. It means that some of us fall on a spectrum of how we receive energy from the stimulus surrounding us and how we personally interpret the world.
You may be like me. Someone who can love being social and having conversation all day, but once you get home, all you want is to sit alone and read a book.
Everyone falls somewhere different on the spectrum. Everyone is a different blend of extroversion and introversion.
I believe that we have encouraged a culture in fraternity and sorority that idealizes, expects, and prefers extroversion. Every year when we go to recruit new members, we set up individuals who fall on the more introverted side of the spectrum for failure.
Think about what we know about introverts and what happens in recruitment…
Introverts need one-on-one, meaningful conversations to create a connection with another individual. Formal Recruitment requires us to have 5 -10 minute bump rotations of conversation that are often filled with surface level questions. During informal recruitment processes, we expect people to show up (usually alone) to events and get to know a ton of our members. In all recruitment, we meet somebody 2-3 times and make a very important decision of whether they should be invited to become our lifelong brother or sister.
Introverts often think and process inwardly. When asked a question, they will take time to process and only give you the most complete thought they came up with. In recruitment, if someone doesn’t respond to your wacky “what Disney character would you be?” in 5 seconds, we label them as shy, weird, and socially incompetent.
Introverts need time alone to recharge after a long day or big activity. Recruitment sticks you in a room filled with other humans, with no alone time and a rushed schedule.
Introverts don’t always desire or seek out leadership positions to feel fulfilled. Instead of needing to be the editor of the school newspaper, they are just as satisfied being committed to a specific column for four years. In recruitment, if you don’t desire leadership positions or haven’t held one in the past, you are not thought of as highly as others.
I believe that individuals who fall on the more introverted side of the spectrum bring an outrageous amount of value to our organizations that we are likely missing out on. They balance the behaviors of our impulsive, risky, high energy brothers and sisters that we love. We recruit with the hopes and expectations that everyone will be their true authentic selves. Yet we don’t give every individual the opportunity to be just that.
I’ll be honest with you. I don’t know how to change this to help introverts… Yet. I have some ideas and I have many theories. But I want your help to figure it out. I want to have a conversation with you.
Are you an introvert who struggled with recruitment? Tell me your story.
Are you passionate about this topic and have an opinion? Share it with me.
I want to hear from you. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share with me your thoughts. Together, we can make recruitment an environment that is made for every kind of individual.