Can an Introvert flourish in SMU?
The answer is a definite ‘Yes’. Don’t believe it? Let Digital Senior show you why and how an introvert can survive and even flourish in SMU.
Get the concept right
Before we go into SMU per say, let’s look at the concept of introvert first. When we say that someone is an introvert, what are the impressions that come into your mind? Someone who speaks quietly or doesn’t speak at all in a group setting? Someone who is often alone without too many friends around? Are they accurate depiction of an introvert?
Unfortunately they are not. If you are an introvert, think about this. Have you ever talked freely and laughed wildly with a group of people? Are you really without friends or you actually have a small circle of Best Friends Forever? In fact, people who consider themselves as introverts are not anti-social. They are extremely good at socializing in a close-knitted community with a low-energy environment. They don’t like to come under the spotlight, but they definitely enjoy building strong relationship. They can’t talk too much (and they don’t think there’s a need to), but once they start talking, the whole world may listen because what they say makes a lot of sense.
What is the SMU environment like?
Now you have a much clearer picture of who an introvert is, do you think an introvert, or you yourself, can fit into the SMU environment? In fact, what is an SMU environment?
It is where students ‘must talk in class’. Well, that’s kind of true since the class participation mark is much higher than what the rest of the local universities allow. But you may not want to take that impression literally. It is an oversimplification to think of SMU as a university that rewards the ‘act of talking’. What’s so special about opening your mouth?
The art of talking
Rather, SMU rewards the ‘art of talking’. Students are graded on how much value they contribute to class discussion. The content of one’s sharing in class is more important than the mere act of talking. In other word, even though an introvert may not feel inclined to talk so much and become the center of the room, he/she can still gain recognition by the quality of his/her ideas.
And this is where most introverts can gain an edge as compared to extroverts. Introverts are more cautious about their words and usually think through their ideas before they speak. If you can spend your quiet moments in class thinking about what you are going to say, you are more likely to impress your professors.
Working in a team: listening comes first
Teamwork is also important for SMU students. Other than participating in group discussion in class, students will also need to be involved in many projects that are also important part of academic assessment. Do you feel intimidated because as an introvert, you feel that you won’t be comfortable in a group setting, especially the people in your project groups keep changing from semester to semester?
Don’t worry. If you realize the essence of teamwork, or that of leadership, you may agree that listening is really the key, not speaking or giving order. People appreciate it when they are being listened to carefully and their ideas are being taken seriously. They like to collaborate with people who know how to listen and would more likely to identify someone as a leader who listens the most.
Click here to know more about how to conduct a successful project meeting.
This is where you, as an introvert, shine. You shine by letting other people shine. This is a snippet from the classical Chinese philosophical text, Tao De Jing:
The Master doesn’t talk, he acts.
When his work is done,
The people say, “Amazing!
We did it, all by ourselves!”
You don’t dominate the group discussion and you should be inclusive. When you notice someone is not contributing much, include him or her by asking ‘what do you think?’ It is an unfortunate misconception to think that introverts are no good for teamwork. In fact, they are extremely valuable asset to a noisy world that would benefit from a few quiet listeners. You will be an asset to your fellow SMU students too.
Making friends becomes networking?
Now you may have this last concern: how about beyond the classroom setting where making friends seems to be networking? Once you get into SMU, you will realize students inside are not all like businessmen. They are all just like students in other universities, making friends as normal. Even though SMU encourages a more business-oriented culture, the culture itself doesn’t prevent personal relationship from flourishing.
If you are an introvert, go to low-energy environment to socialize. You may not enjoy talking to many people at the same time. You may enjoy it more when you can know people one by one in a more personal setting. SMU certainly has many of such communities, like certain kinds of student clubs that are doing things to your interest. Find your own niche and like-minded friends in CCAs. They are just there for you to say hello to!
If you need more confidence on your strength as an introvert, watch this Ted video The Power of the Introverts that goes viral. However, being more like an introvert doesn’t prevent you from being more outgoing and enjoying both the quality and quantity of friendship. If you want to know how to network, or develop relationship effectively with people, read this book Your Network Is Your Net Worth. . You will learn how to develop genuine relationship even in a business environment.
Just bear in mind, that something that you don’t like is not something that you are not good at. Networking, speaking and leading are all skills that you can be perfect at, with practice. Extroverts and introverts are on level playing ground in their mastery of these skillsets. Mahatma Gandhi, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates are all ‘open’ introverts who tap on their strengths, compensate on their weaknesses and achieved phenomenal success in the world. We wish you all the best and remember to say hello to the person setting next to you in class, wherever you are!