March 1st, 2017
By Delaine Dew
I have always known I was introverted, but it wasn’t until this past Christmas that I really started to think deeply about it and embrace the fact that I am, a classic introvert. It hit me one wintry evening while having a catch-up dinner with my youngest brother before heading over to the Citadel to watch A Christmas Carol, that not only have we grown up to become extremely similar in personality, we are both happy homebodies – aka introverts. We were talking about ugly sweater parties and were joking about how for some, that would be a fantastic evening, but in our opinion we would so much rather stay at home and read or play a board game than attend a party with mostly strangers, trying to engage in small talk that typically ends up with us feeling super awkward. It was during that conversation that my brother brought up his interesting observation that the world doesn’t truly understand introverts and that we are often misunderstood. He had recently read the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain and it resonated with him - despite making up roughly 1/3 of the population, people are only just starting to understand introverts; the quiet thinkers and doers who are sometimes overshadowed by the extroverts, their actions misinterpreted as shy, anti-social, or even depressed.
It dawned on me that I didn’t even understand introverts myself – despite obviously being one - and that certain situations and feelings I have had my whole life were not bad or wrong or abnormal, rather they are typical and are shared among most introverts. I used to think I was weird for wanting to escape and recharge by myself after being in a room full of people, that my ideal Friday night is to go to spin class and then relax at home in front of the tv, cozy in my pjs, or that the best way for me to feel energized is to spend time by myself. When I returned home from the evening with my brother I looked up Susan Cain’s book and took a little online “introvert test” and it was as if the author of the test actually KNEW me; “In large social gatherings, I often feel a need to seek out space to be by myself” – YES; I feel drained after being out and about, even if I’ve enjoyed myself” – YES; I don’t take risks unless I’ve done some careful research or evaluation first” – YES; “I am a cautious decision maker” – YES; “I do my best work in a quiet environment” – YES – was this test designed based on my life?.....eerie….
The world really does cater to extroverts as they are the default “norm,” and to an extrovert, I may be viewed as weird, shy or antisocial. I don’t blame them - what extrovert needs time alone to re-charge? What extrovert would pass up a large party with tons of friends and other people to stay at home? What extrovert would balk at the thought of having to make small talk at a social event with mostly strangers? Not many.
Which is maybe why I am writing about this. If you are a very extroverted parent, and you have an introverted child, do not worry that they are going to become a hermit, or lack in meaningful friendships or miss out on life. Your introverted child is simply being his or herself and is doing what feels right. Maybe they don’t want to go on a play date with several children they might not be very familiar with, and would much rather go with you to the library to sit and read a book together in a quiet environment; or maybe after having fun with a larger group of people they really just need time on their own to recharge as the larger and louder environments can be draining to an introvert even if we are truly having a blast; or maybe they prefer solo activities to “team” or group play – that’s extremely typical and is not a sign of a lack of social skills. Do not fear if your child doesn’t have TONS of friends (as the typical extrovert does), and instead has a select few, very close and kindred spirits they want to spend time with. And if they don’t want to take risks and are very careful, mindful and sensitive, embrace that your child is a thoughtful introvert.
From personal experience, I think one of the most disheartening things a classic extrovert can do is to expect or encourage an introvert to act like an extrovert or to tell them to “think outside the box” or “come out of your shell”, as that extrovert is asking and imploring the introvert to wear extrovert clothes which can be extremely uncomfortable – like you are forced to be something you are not. Trust me, from what I have seen, heard and felt myself, we are so happy to be the introverted people we are! Introverts regularly grow up to be great and reasoned decision-makers, peacemakers and creative thinkers because of our traits, especially our adverse reaction to risk taking and willingness to take the time to ponder, research and explore. Introverts typically relish in patience and weigh the pros and cons before taking action which in many cases is vital in this world. Sure, we need our extroverted counterparts to take risks, befriend handfuls of people and make the small talk when us introverts just want to listen, to be the centre of attention when we want to hang back and assess the situation carefully, and keep spontaneity in the world. In a way, we balance each other out fairly well. There is just a lack of understanding sometimes.
So I say to all the extroverted parents, if you have a quiet, seemingly shy, patient, creative, cautious child who is more likely to be found in quiet, often solitude pursuits than in loud, boisterous group play, don’t worry. Your child is probably an introvert, and that is a great thing to be.
Delaine is a mom to a beautiful, active and insightful little girl, and also stays busy as a wife and full-time lawyer in Edmonton. She enjoys running, reading, writing, watching bad TV with her husband and most importantly, being a mom.