A few weeks ago, The W.O.C. (aka our Winter Office Crew), Stephanie and I attended the annual American Camping Association Tri-State conference (hey, I’m on the Board of Directors). The conference is an opportunity for us to hit pause on the camp countdown and learn with industry experts about the camping business and child development…and buy some cool new toys for the summer at the expo. We all split up to attend different sessions throughout the 3 days- topics like “Working with Millennials”, The Importance of Teaching Character, Values and Community”, “Planning for the Unexpected”, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting Middle Schoolers”, “Teaching Your Staff How to Build Powerful and Positive Relationships with Campers” and so much more. We also met for the keynote speaker who was Susan Cain – TED speaker and author of the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”.
Susan Cain started off her speech with a story about going to sleepaway camp as a young girl. Her mother packed her trunk full of books to enjoy during all the quiet times at camp. But she remembers being criticized for reading, not being social and lacking “camp spirit”. In fact, she humorously shared a defining moment when her campmates cheered “R-O-W-D-I-E” (you know the cheer!) and realized that to be successful at this camp, she too would have to be ROWDIE. When Susan Cain got older and wiser, she came to the realization that not everyone is rowdy by nature. And that they should be encouraged to step out of their comfort zone without stepping outside of themselves.
Her enlightening speech talked about three kinds of people: Introverts, Extroverts and Ambiverts (those who are in between). See definitions below.
One out of every two or three kids (and staff) is an introvert. That’s half to a third of the population. Camp is a place full of spirit, energy and “rowdiness”. But it can also be a place of creativity, reflection and serenity. Understanding what makes introverts and extroverts different, can help us at camp (and in life) create an environment and appreciation for how to get the most out of everyone.
Susan Cain changed our perspective and helped us better understand “the shy child”, who really may not be shy at all. Do you have a child that you have said “it just takes longer for them to warm up”? They may be an introvert or ambivert. Because while the extrovert jumps into the situation (sometimes unaware of the risks or surroundings), the introvert “has a longer runway”. Introverts step back, assess the situation, the risks, the personalities and quietly wait until there is water in the pool before he or she jumps in.
Introverts tend to be more creative and thoughtful. You can get the most out of them one-on-one or in smaller groups and by telling them what you want in advance. Here’s a great example of how to talk to an introvert at camp:
We teach our counselors to say “Tommy, don’t be so shy!” or “Tommy is so quiet”, imagine how Tommy would feel if a counselor said “Wow, you’re great at arts and crafts. Where did you learn to do that? I can see you are a deep thinker. You don’t miss a thing that’s going on do you?”
What we learned from Susan Cain is to rethink the “shy child” and celebrate the wonderful qualities of the introvert, the extrovert and the ambivert. One is not better than the other…it’s just their style and part of who they are at the core. Each style has it’s positives and drawbacks. Understanding the introvert, extrovert and ambivert liberates us from pigeonholing anyone. Camp allows all three of these personalities to find their way, be comfortable in who they are and blossom into their full potential.
We look forward to sharing Susan Cain’s insights this summer at our staff orientation. In addition to our campers, “Quiet” will help us appreciate what makes our staff tick. You can watch Susan Cain’s TED talk here. You can also take Cain’s “Quiet Quiz” . Where do you fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum? Does your result surprise you?
You relish social life and are energized by interacting with friends and strangers alike. You’re assertive, go-getting, and able to seize the day. You’re great at thinking on your feet and relatively comfortable with conflict. Given the choice, you usually prefer more stimulating environments that give you frequent opportunities to see and speak with others. When you’re in quiet environments, you’re prone to feeling bored and restless. You’re actively engaged in the world around you and at your best when you tap into its energy.
Given the choice, introverts will devote their social energy to a small group of people they care about most, preferring a glass of wine with a close friend to a party full of strangers. Introverts think before they speak, have a more deliberate approach to risk, and enjoy solitude. They feel energized when focusing deeply on a subject or activity that really interests them. When they’re in overly stimulating environments (too loud, too crowded, etc.), they tend to feel overwhelmed. They seek out environments of peace, sanctuary, and beauty; they have an active inner life and are at their best when they tap into its riches.
Ambiverts fall smack in the middle of the introvert-extrovert spectrum. In many ways, ambiverts have the best of both worlds, able to tap into the strengths of both introverts and extroverts as needed.
About Camp Towanda:
Camp Towanda is an independent, traditional, co-ed sleep-away camp in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. It is privately owned, operated and directed by Mitch and Stephanie Reiter (who are celebrating 27 years as owners and directors). For over 90 years, Camp Towanda has continued to define what camp should really be. Our program offers state-of-the-art facilities, an excellent and professional athletic department, waterfront, extensive arts, drama and adventure programs, and special events. We are highly regarded and respected as an industry leader and are involved in giving back to various organizations throughout the year. Camp Towanda is accredited by the American Camp Association and a member of the Camp-Alert-Network, Wayne County Camp Association, Camp Owners and Directors Association and the Pennsylvania Camp Association.