The joy of training introverts

123RF/Bjorn Alberts


Introverts tend to have a bad reputation.  They are often seen as shy, reserved, uncommunicative and sometimes, arrogant.  This reputation is undeserved.  Training introverts can be a source of joy and discovery, if you know how to interact with them and learn to appreciate the unique qualities of their personality traits.

Susan Cain wrote in 2012 a New York Times Best Seller titled Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.  In this book, the author first charts the rise of an extrovert culture in the twentieth century to explain how we have come to undervalue introverts.  She outlines the main differences between extroverts and introverts and in doing so, breaks the preconceptions we may have about quiet people.  Contrary to popular belief, introverts are not anti-social.  Instead, they recharge their batteries by being alone, in opposition to extroverts, who need to recharge them when they have not socialized enough.  It is a matter of how you replenish your energy supply, not about how you interact with people.

We have come to associate extroverts with success and energy.  We perceive big talkers as leaders.  In opposition, introverts are seen as less intelligent and socially handicapped.  Cain is able to demonstrate how these perceptions are false and how heritable traits play an important role in how we develop as introverts or extroverts.  So it may be, as the author suggests, that cool is overrated….

But how is this information helping you as a trainer? Let’s examine some key personality traits of introverts and propose ways to deal with them.

Forget social talk after your training session…

It is not that your introvert client does not like you.  In fact, introverts are as likely as extroverts to engage with you, be likable and provide you with good feedback about the work you are doing with them. But don’t expect them to linger in the gym after their training session to talk with other people. It is simply that introverts tend to expand energy in social settings, which requires quiet time by themselves to replenish their energy supply.

Get comfortable with silence…

Introverts prefer to work independently. They concentrate on the tasks at hand and are likely to negatively react if you are constantly cheering their every move during their training session.  Instead, provide them with clear and concise instructions about the exercise they need to perform and just let them go.  You don’t have to talk to them.  The added bonus is that introverts pay more attention to the progress they are making then to the end goal.  They will create a great partnership with you if you can engage on the process of their training, instead of talking about the ultimate results that their training may achieve.  Use a language that is process-oriented instead of goal-oriented. But more importantly, use less words than more.

Don’t push…

Introverts tend to be very disciplined.  They have well developed abilities to make plans, and to stick to them.  They are also more sensitive to their environment and more attuned to others’ feelings and behaviours.  In your interactions with introverts, you will likely find it easy to build an exercise program with them.  Once done, introvert clients will find inner motivation to engage in their program.  However, introverts also tend to be more sensitive to other’s feelings and behaviours. It means that they will monitor how you react to their progress.  The strategy that works best is therefore gentle encouragement.  Don’t get the brass band out when they have reached an important milestone in their program; instead, just low key, quiet praise will support them tremendously.


And what if you are an introvert trainer?  Well, you know what to do.  Just go home and relax after you day’s work.

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