As troop leaders, you want to build girls of courage, confidence, and character. But we sometimes forget that not every girl is going to be super chatty, eager to participate, and fast to make friends. How do you make sure that your quieter girls feel welcomed and encouraged too? Read on for some tips on how to support your introverted troop members:
Ease them into it. Introverts tend to be inwardly focused. They might not be the first ones to try something new, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not interested in the activity or what the other girls are doing. They just need a minute to process their surroundings and digest what’s going on. Let her know it’s okay to stay on the sidelines for a little bit before joining in. If you force introverts to do something before they’re comfortable, they might clam up and feel even more hesitant to try.
Offer different ways to participate. Vary your activities so that girls are sometimes working individually, in pairs, or as a large group. Being introverted isn’t the same as being shy or aloof—introverts like being around other people! But too much time with others can zap their energy and introverts need to recharge by taking some down time by themselves.
Make sure everyone has a voice. For introverted girls, it can be easy to be overlooked (or over-shouted!) by the more extroverted ones who are quicker to raise their hands and offer their opinion. Most introverts need time to mull over an idea and might feel uncomfortable when put on the spot. Use the think, pair, share technique to make sure that everyone has a chance to contribute:
- Think: Girls think independently about the question or topic and come up with their own ideas.
- Pair: Girls break off into pairs or small groups and share their ideas with each other.
- Share: Girls share their ideas to the larger group.
Present new opportunities to her, but also respect her limits. Your introverted girl might be reluctant to try new things or meet new people, but that shouldn’t stop you from nudging her out of her comfort zone. Validate her feelings (“It can be scary to go up to a group of new kids and try to talk to them.” or “Archery looks fun, but you’ve never done it before, so you might be worried about not doing it right.”), and encourage her, but don’t push. If she doesn’t go for it today, try again next time. And when she does take a risk, praise her efforts.
We want all Girl Scouts to realize their potential as future leaders—and there’s not just one way to be a leader. Celebrating your introverts’ characteristics and skills (like thoughtful decision making and good listening) helps them see the impact they can also create in their community and in their world.
Lily Yu – Lily is a Troop Support Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in comparative literature and Japanese from Hamilton College and has a background in publishing and advertising. In her free time, Lily enjoys going for long runs, reading, and spending time with her family (including her four-year-old daughter who can’t wait to be a Daisy!).