Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Silence is golden: Learning from introversion to broaden teaching and learning experiences in management

Ulus, Eda; Aben, Inge


Eda Ulus

Inge Aben
Senior Lecturer in Organisation Studies


The project “Silence is Golden – Learning from Introversion to Broaden Teaching and Learning Experiences in Management and Business”, was awarded a Researcher Development Grant by The British Academy of Management in 2014. The grant supported a period of research, focussing on in-depth interviews with undergraduate, postgraduate and executive education students, academics, and practitioners; open- ended questionnaires were distributed to student group, and all interview and questionnaire data are being analysed qualitatively. Interviews were conducted in the UK and the US. The resultant wide-ranging data paints a story of the complexity, context-dependency, and intensity associated with the experience of introverted preferences in the classroom and work-related settings such as interviews and meetings. Analysis of the data indicated misconceptions about the concept of introversion, alongside a lack of recognition of the importance of contributions from introversion to both learning and work spaces.
The results raise the importance of reviewing classroom activities - particularly re-thinking the current emphasis on group work and re-visiting conceptualisations of student engagement and active learning. The teaching and learning-related findings, furthermore, tap into wider debates on higher education and its purpose. The preliminary findings about introversion and work call out for a review and re-organisation of work priorities and practices, including: hiring practices; talent management; leadership development; judgments of what is considered good leadership; and group-based practices, like project work and meetings. Current management and teaching practices are often experienced as excluding, minimising, or misjudging introverted preferences. The use and acceptance of silence, listening, individual space, and private reflective contributions are potentially powerful counterbalances to an extravert advantage.
Strong research themes from this grant also include the importance of introversion to one’s sense of self. Participants experienced introversion in a highly reflexive way, with awareness of both advantages and limitations of their inclinations to introversion preferences; strikingly, they also disclosed challenging responses from others, such as being seen as somehow less, as not right. Popular literature is replete with advice for introverts on how to adapt and survive, whereas no such corresponding literature has been found for people with extraverted preferences, raising questions about why introversion is perceived as something to ‘fix’. These implications from popular press were echoed in many respondents’ experiences of being excluded or misunderstood.
The richness of these findings has prompted new avenues to be explored, including the cross cultural experiences of introversion, and connections of the extravert advantage to masculinity. With regard to cultural explorations, the second author has conducted interviews in Dutch with practitioners and students in The Netherlands, and these findings will be analysed and woven into this ongoing study of introversion, begun with the support of BAM. The authors plan to continue studying people’s lived experiences of and observations about introversion, not using statistical tests, but through interviews and participant observation in a variety of contexts, like work spaces and meeting rooms in different cultures, and University teaching environments.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Start Date Sep 8, 2015
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
APA6 Citation Ulus, E., & Aben, I. (2015, September). Silence is golden: Learning from introversion to broaden teaching and learning experiences in management. Paper presented at British Academy of Management 2015: The Value of Pluralism in Advancing Management Research, Education and Practice
Keywords introversion, management, education
Publisher URL
Related Public URLs
Additional Information Additional Information : One of thirteen Researcher Development Grants Scheme winners
Title of Conference or Conference Proceedings : British Academy of Management 2015: The Value of Pluralism in Advancing Management Research, Education and Practice


You might also like

Downloadable Citations