Introversion or extraversion: What’s your preference?

The first step to meeting the diverse preferences of your 4-H club members is understanding your own personality.

It’s no secret the American society rewards extraversion. In the land of opportunity, we’re expected to speak up and make our voices heard. Engaging in small talk at social events is practically a national pastime and performance evaluations often highlight social skills, being a team player and the agility of our verbal communication.

However, for one-third to one-half of the population, inherent personality preferences don’t align with societal expectations. A large proportion of our friends, neighbors and colleagues have a preference for introversion. While extraverts tend to gain energy through social interactions, introverts are more likely to find such interactions draining after a period of time. Introverts tend to be more introspective, think before they speak and are able to work independently. That can be challenging in open-space work environments where constant collaboration is encouraged.

Those types of situations can also be challenging for introverted young people participating in 4-H clubs. Clubs with large numbers of members and constant activity can be overwhelming for kids who prefer introversion. Adult volunteers can make a positive difference by creating an environment that supports young people with either preference.

Preferences are what come most naturally to us, so it’s easy to create an environment that supports our own way of being. 4-H volunteers with a preference for extraversion are more likely to focus on large group activities, while introverted volunteers might emphasize reflection time or discussion in pairs. In a 4-H club, both approaches are needed. Mix it up and you’ll increase the odds of meeting the needs of more 4-H members more frequently.

Understanding your own preferences is the first step to creating a club that’s supportive of all the diverse personalities in your group. If you have a preference for introversion, recruit a co-leader who prefers extraversion. Not sure which you prefer? A great place to start is this 12-question quiz. It will give you a quick overview of where you might fall on the introvert-extravert scale. If you’d like to learn even more about your personality preferences, you can explore the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which examines three additional facets.

This is Part 2 in a Michigan State University Extension series on personality preferences and youth development. For more, see:

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