Opinion: We need to be more aware of neural diversity

It’s obvious that whomever wins the leadership we’re going to have to nurture a lot of new people (as well as the `old hands`.

I think it’s important that we do so working with the grain of that individual’s personality to allow it to grow for the benefit of the Party. After all, celebration of the individual is supposedly part of the Party’s DNA.

We have started to talk about mental health a lot – and rightly so. It’s a key aspect of our view that everyone should reach their own potential.

Let me introduce you to another concept: Neural Diversity.

What I mean by that is really taking into account the way an individual’s brain ACTUALLY works rather than as we think it SHOULD work. A key difference is that between a preference for Introversion and Extroversion.

Let’s explode a myth about introversion. It’s not particularly about shyness or being quiet. An introvert can dance on tables while an extrovert curls up in the corner reading a book.

The case goes that under low stimulation conditions, introverts (defined as low in Extraversion) will be more highly aroused than extraverts; however, under high stimulation, introverts may become over-aroused, which will feedback within the brain and result in decreases in arousal. Alternatively, extraverts tend to show greater increases in arousal under high stimulation

Put simply it’s about how people deal with their levels of arousal and how that’s reflected in personality. It demonstrates itself on how that person a) recharges their batteries b) searches for information and c) can indicate the sort of jobs they’d like to do either for payment or on a voluntary basis.

By way of example, I liken it to when you travel on the motorway and see one of those big radio transmitters in the distance at the side of the road. An introvert’s brain has a lot of arousal and can feel like it’s underneath the transmitter thus there’s a desire to move away from the transmitter. An extrovert consciously seeks stimulation naturally thus wants to go towards the transmitter. An introvert if over-stimulated or having taken in the energies of lots of people might `shut down` and just leave the scene if they can. An extrovert might get louder craving the stimulation. You see for an introvert it’s often an ACT OF BRAVERY to knock on doors however experienced they are at it. Always respect that bravery – just because you might not sense it it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be acknowledged

The ideal scenario is that these two people meet in the middle and work as a team for the bigger goal.

What does that mean for our party? It means taking into account that in some ways we live in an extrovertist society – where extroversion is treated as the norm. Extroverts are often the ones that speak up first and just because someone’s quiet doesn’t mean that they don’t have something important to say. At meetings its helpful for the Chair to include everybody if they feel it’s appropriate.

The main point is to check the people you have on your team and see if they are more likely to be introvert or extrovert.

Introverts will naturally gravitate towards things like data entry, learning connect, writing letters to the paper, policy work and telephone canvassing. An extrovert might want to dash out talking to people as soon as possible. The challenge for the party is to create a doorstep experience that works for both personality preference types.

The real goal is to nurture the introvert to go out knocking on doors and for the extrovert it might be a case of skills exchange ie learning Connect and finding fun ways to put on data (competitions?)

Once out in the field door there may be two different styles of equally effective canvassing.
(Remember, an extrovert gets energised from talking to people to top up their need for stimulation. An introvert’s energies might peak sooner and there’ll be a need for `quiet time` to recharge the batteries.)

Both are mutually beneficial to each other bringing on different styles to door knocking:

Extroverts may a) cover more ground as they get so excited in talking to people or b) chat a lot in a `chummy` way building up an immediate buzz yet not covering that great a distance.

Introverts may a) cover a lot of ground gaining basic yet necessary information then moving on or b) cover some ground moving on where they feel appropriate yet gaining a lot of useful and deeper information of relevance for the candidate or team.

Neither is right or wrong – it just IS. By using neural diversity properly we can advance as a party in these difficult times.

If you want to know more there are many resources including Susan Cain’s book `introverts – speaking up in a world that won’t shut up`, endless youtube videos etc and the Myers-Briggs tests that are used by many employers and organisations that help individuals determine their preferences.

Let’s value everybody and work with the grain of their personalities in a spirit of cooperation. Neural diversity – it’s as important as every other diversity!

* A Johnson is a pseudonym. The author is known to the Liberal Democrat team but wishes to remain anonymous