Two children arrive late at a birthday party. One of them looks at the large, noisy crowd inside and feels a surge of energy – a rush to just jump in and join in the fun. The other child is hesitant and searches for a friend. Seeing the crowd doesn’t fill the child with energy; instead, the child’s focus is on thinking about whom to approach and what to do next.
What’s the difference between the two? At first glance, it may seem one of them is SOCIABLE while the other is overly SHY.
The ‘sociable’ kid (also called the extrovert) and the ‘shy’ one (the introvert) actually represent two dichotomies of human preferences. Unfortunately, because of society’s very narrow vision, extroversion is usually perceived (wrongly) as a more ‘positive trait’ and introversion a more negative way to be.
Understanding Extroverts And Introverts
Every individual has a preferred style of interacting with the world – by turning their attention outward (extroversion) or focusing their attention inward (introversion). Most people believe that an extrovert is a person who is friendly and outgoing.
While that may be true, that is not the true meaning of extroversion. Basically, an extrovert is a person who is energized by being around other people – the outer world. The opposite is true of an introvert, who is energized by being alone – in the inner world.
For some of us, extroversion is ‘home base’ – activities such as speaking or socializing come more naturally. For introverts, activities such as listening or writing come more easily. The extroverts find introverted activities such as writing draining. For introverts, doing extroverted activities such as attending social gatherings is exhausting.
In other words, each of us has our own gravitational pull towards either extroversion or introversion – a preference we are usually born with.
How To Recognize Your Child’s Preference Or Style
Children start showing a preference for extroversion or introversion very early in life. You may not get to choose your child’s preference, but you can help them understand their style and what they need.
What do extroverted children like to do?
“My daughter just won’t stop talking; from the minute I reach home she’s all over me!”
– Mother of an extrovert
• Tend to share thoughts or feelings immediately.
• Ask lots of questions and need an immediate response.
• Need people and activity to feel energized. A day alone leaves them feeling drained and cranky.
• Rarely play alone; usually grumble that they are ‘bored’.
• Get into trouble for talking too much or interrupting.
• Dislike being alone when upset. Will follow you around, touch you, and move right into your space.
What do introverted children like to do?
“I thought he was ignoring me. I didn’t realize he was thinking!”
– The mother of an introvert
• Share thoughts and feelings selectively, often only with parents, siblings or one friend but rarely with strangers.
• Feel grumpy and drained after being in a large group.
• Start talking in the evening after having time to reflect.
• Have a strong sense of personal space and do not like to feel invaded.
• Are often told to ‘hurry up’.
• Are not much into kiddie parties or having friends over at home.
Clearing The Myths Of Introversion
Myth 1: Introverts Are Unfriendly
This is probably THE biggest misconception about introverts. Introverts are energised by their inside world. Being with people drains them and is not their natural preference – but they are warm, compassionate people who are well aware of their own and others’ feelings. They usually make very good friends, but may be close to only a select few.
Myth 2: Introverts Have Self Esteem Issues
Not at all. Unfortunately, society’s assumption is that those who are ‘outgoing’ have high self esteem. Introverted kids usually have no self esteem issues unless they are told by well-meaning family and friends that they have low confidence simply because they have fewer friends. Hearing that will undoubtedly lead to low self esteem in anyone!
Myth 3: Introverts Will Never Succeed In Life Since They Don’t Get Along With Others
Success in life doesn’t just depend on one’s social skills. Introverts are successful in any number of fields which call for use of their own special gifts.
Myth 4: Introverted Children Are Aloof
Introverts are not rejecting you when they are quiet. They are thinking and recharging. They need time for reflection and inward thought.
Myth 5: Introverts Need To Be Pushed To Do Things
Introverts are naturally contained and unhurried. Introverted children who are constantly told to do things quickly because they are wasting time feel pressured and then make mistakes.
Parents (usually the extroverted ones!) need to understand how damaging it is to expect your introverted child to ‘turn into’ an extrovert. This puts an impossible burden on an introverted child and does much to destroy their sense of self worth.
Encouraging And Understanding Your Child’s Special Gifts
As a parent, you can do a lot to encourage your child’s preferences. Instead of pushing your extroverted son to do things alone, or compelling your introverted daughter to attend more parties, allow them to flower into what they will naturally become.
If your child prefers extroversion:
1. Enroll them in more extra-curricular activities.
2. Recognize that they are drained by too much time alone.
3. Allow them to speak without restraint.
4. Be patient with their questions.
5. Praise them for their natural ability to make friends.
6. Understand that they prefer to be read to and dislike too much writing.
If your child prefers introversion:
1. Honor their need for space, reflection time and observation. After a hectic school day, they may just want to go into their room and be alone.
2. Recognize that they are drained by large groups and interaction. Don’t push them towards parties or joining clubs.
3. Be patient with their ‘slowness’. When allowed to do things at their own pace, introverts usually perform better.
4. Prepare them for ‘public appearances’ by teaching them simple manners and social skills. These are usually difficult areas for an introvert.
5. Praise them for their observation skills.
6. Understand that they learn best by watching or reading.
As the popular saying goes – ‘find yourself and be yourself.’ Allow your child to be what he naturally is and watch him soar!
Copyright © H’vovi Bhagwagar
H’vovi Bhagwagar is a Clinical Psychologist and trained MBTI® Practitioner. Along with her private practice, she conducts training programmes on life skills and writes for various publications. She hopes to bring a smile to as many faces as possible. Visit her at website http://www.hvovikesaath.com
From Awkward Solitude to Blessed Friendship
What you need to know to help your child improve social skills and win friends for life. Learn the best way to empower your child in overcoming social challenges.
Photo credit BeverlyLR