I am an introvert and I’m happy being that way. I remember times when I wasn’t happy being that way. One often doesn’t feel understood by others. Our culture doesn’t really know what to do with introverts, and often a parent doesn’t know what to do with an introverted child. As a culture, we value it’s opposite–extraversion. Susan Cain has written the book Quiet, with the subtitle The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.
Usually we interpret this style of personality as being shy, or timid. Some even look at the introvert and think they are weak. And if it’s our kid who is an introvert, we worry, we prod them, we want them to overcome this disability–even if we as the parent are also introverted. The truth is, shyness and timidity are not at all connected to introversion. Those are separate behaviors that both the introvert and the extravert can display.
Cain says that 1/3rd of the population in our country is introverted. That’s a little more than the developers of the Myers-Briggs Temperament Inventory estimate–they say it’s more like 1/4th of the American population are introverts. Either way, that means the majority of Americans are extraverts, which explains why it is the “cultural norm.”
So what is an introvert? Here are some characteristics of the introvert. They relate primarily to an internal world as opposed to the external world. One of the things that means is that they process information inside their mind and don’t say anything until they have thought it through. My wife says that I have like a french horn in my head. I take in information and it has to go through all those tubes before it gets to my mouth. She says jokingly “I’m “slow.” That’s how the extravert views us.
We get energized by solitude and quiet. We tend to have fewer friendships, but they are deep friendships that last a long time. We prefer to work alone as opposed to working in groups. And we want to understand something before we experience it. Ask your introverted child to try something new and they want to think about it, or better yet, let someone else do it first.
If our culture values extraversion, then it only follows that teachers and schools place high value on the kids behaving as an extravert. Today, a lot of learning is expected to take place in small groups. The introvert may sit on the sidelines watching, and will sometimes add something profound to the process. But they may be judged by their detachment from the group process.
Parents need to understand the values and strengths of their introverted child, and not be pressured into remaking them into extraverts. Susan Cain’s book is a good place to begin in understanding the introverted child, as is the book Please Understand Me, by David Keirsey.
Question: Which are you? Extravert or Introvert?