The Power of Introverts

Introverts are in the news, even if they’d rather not be.

Time, NPR, Scientific American, and a host of other media sources are all buzzing about the new book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain.

Introverts are cautious, quiet people who might prefer to work through a crossword puzzle at home rather than spend a night partying with friends.

My kids are introverts, just like their parents. And their grandparents. Must be a genetic thing.

Many people misunderstand my children’s social apathy as some sort of negative effect of homeschooling. Long ago, I stopped trying to explain that they’ve always been this way.

When my son was just a toddler, barely walking, we took him to a Gymboree class so he could play with the other kids and get some good exercise on the colorful equipment. Oh, he got a workout alright, as did I, but he had zero interest in playing with anyone his own age.

Even at that young age, he was choosing to play alone. And loving it. At the time, I wondered why he would cry when playtime was over and the teacher called all the kids over to the rainbow parachute for story time. Now I know he was just ticked off at being forced into the larger group.

In kindergarten, first grade, second grade, it was the same. He enjoyed playing with his one or two friends, but didn’t much care what the other, more extroverted, kids were doing, either in class or on the playground.

My kids know how to step out of their introverted comfort zones when it’s necessary. They can fake their way through a party if the need arises. Just don’t ask them to enjoy it.

Both my son and daughter have stood up on stage in front of hundreds of people to confidently win various spelling and geography bees. They’ve played soccer and basketball, team sports that require social interaction. They participate in Scouts, leading meetings and activities. They attend sleepovers and birthday parties just fine.

They know how to get along in a noisy world dominated by extroverts.

But I’m sure glad my kids aren’t one of them. I love their quiet focus and cautious reserve. I love the thoughtful little poems my daughter writes and the way my son carefully observes a social situation before stepping into it.

They have an amazing ability to thrive in solitude without the need for constant confirmation from the crowd. This makes my job as a parent much easier, as I get to avoid much of the social drama that seems to plague the teenage years.

But I also have to be careful. I have to teach my kids how to balance their desire to be alone with the unavoidable role they’ll need to play to get along in this outwardly-oriented society.

Fortunately, they are not alone. There are plenty of introverts out there. Up to a third of the population, some research suggests. Maybe more, since most introverts don’t care much about answering surveys.

If we could only get them to rise up and take over, the world would be a much quieter place.

4 thoughts on “The Power of Introverts

  1. The world NEEDS diversity – even in personalities. Introverts, extroverts, and everwhere between.

    What I liked hearing was this…

    “My kids know how to step out of their introverted comfort zones when it’s necessary. They can fake their way through a party if the need arises. Just don’t ask them to enjoy it.”

    I know this same feeling all too well. I would catagorize myself in the same way. What I have learned to do over time is to accpet that while I may not enjoy ALL aspects of the event, to find or focus on the parts that I am comfortable with, and enjoy those to the best of my ablity. That way – I don’t feel as if I never enjoy these types of events.

    As you stated – Ballance is the key!

    Great post!

  2. Cool post. I’m also an introvert from a long line of introverts. I am more of a chameleon than my Dad is and have an ability to get along with just about anybody in whatever circumstance is thrown at me. Of course, I’m faking it half the time. As I get older I’ve noticed that if I find myself in the awkward situation of conversing with someone who is verbalizing views contrary to mine I am much more likely to speak up than smile and nod as I used to.

    My wife is very much an extrovert and I think we chose each other in part because we balance each other out. Sometimes I do rely on her a little too much as my social crutch at parties and such. Just as she often relies on me for my ability to think things through slowly and methodically. It is interesting in our blended family of 5 kids watching their individual personalities shine through and observing which ones are more introverted than extroverted. There does seem to be a genetic correlation.

  3. Most interesting piece I’ve read today.

    “They have an amazing ability to thrive in solitude without the need for constant confirmation from the crowd.”–This line captures one of my goals for my own kids–being comfortable in their own skin, steering clear of the herd mentality and/or begging the world to “Look at me! Look at me!”

    Like CdaHumanist, I am the introvert and my wife is the extrovert. I respect her talent for talking to everyone in a room and (even more impressive) remembering everything they tell her. But I’m glad I’m wired to be at my best on my own, having dinner for two, or in a small group.

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