Although I really enjoyed the GEM (Group for the Education in Museums) conference 2016 in Edinburgh, after two days of constant interaction I was ready for some recovery time. As a self-identified 'professional extrovert’, I’m acutely aware of the need to recharge my batteries on a solitary walk or with my nose in a good novel. I also know how difficult it is for people like me at the “I” end of the E-I spectrum to come up with a snappy question or response to a keynote speaker or workshop leader, especially in front of a large audience. We feel the need to digest and reflect before responding, especially to such probing and serious questions! 

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A few years ago, when I watched Susan Cain's TED talk just after she'd published Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking I thought: Wow, that's me! I was reminded of the first time I visited my girlfriend's family. I grew up in a house with very few books, where it was seen as rude to read in front of other people so I was amazed to see her family sitting around companionably absorbed in their chosen texts, occasionally exchanging comments or getting up to make tea or coffee. It was a revelation for me – it really felt like coming home, but it took me years to recognise this as introversion and not to feel guilty about it. I only recently realised that introversion is the main reason why I'm so rubbish at social media – my default thought is "Why would anyone else be interested in what I have to say?" I think Cain is absolutely spot on in her assessment that the 'developed world' in the 21st century is biased in favour of the extrovert to the detriment of society as a whole and that this needs rebalancing.

In recent years, museums and galleries have become noisier, which, in many ways and especially for people who find silence oppressive, is a good thing. Excited children feel freer to express their wonder, while a background soundtrack helps socialites mingle. However, (and you knew that was coming, didn’t you) there must still be a place for peace in our full-on world: in our public spaces, programmes and workplaces. The GEM Foundation Course – now in its second year – aims to foster a balance between interaction and contemplation, debate and deliberation, offering participants the knowledge and skills to create learning environments that cater for all learning styles and personality types, from life and soul to contented bookworm. Not all quiet on the museum front, just enough.