A Manifesto for Introverts
1. There’s a word for ‘people who are in their heads too much’: thinkers.
2. Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.
3. The next generation of quiet kids can and must be raised to know their own strengths.
4. Sometimes it helps to be a pretend extrovert. There will always be time to be quiet later.
5. But in the long run, staying true to your temperament is key to finding work you love and work that matters.
6. One genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards.
7. It’s OK to cross the street to avoid making small talk.
8. ‘Quiet leadership’ is not an oxymoron.
9. Love is essential; gregariousness is optional.
10. ‘In a gentle way, you can shake the world.’ -Mahatma Gandhi”
― Susan Cain,
I’ve been a bit worried about G2 lately because it seems like he often plays alone. After going on and on about how important it is for children to play well with others, I confess that this was a little alarming. How had I neglected my second child so badly that I’d missed all the signs that he was a loner? I couldn’t understand it because he was always the child seeking out new friends. One time, he even followed two girls at a McDonald’s playground back to their family’s table and introduced himself! That’s hardly the mark of a loner.
As I observed him interacting with other children during a few play dates, I finally understood. My son is an introvert – like me.
There is a general misconception about what it means to be an introvert. Often mistaken for being shy, reclusive, and hermit-like, there is a belief that all introverts shun any connection with others. As an introvert, I must protest that this is simply not true. Introverts are quite capable of mixing with the crowd – and doing it quite well, too, I might add. While we may feel awkward and unnatural to groups of people we don’t know very well, we do look forward to and even relish the company of good friends.
What defines introversion or extroversion is where you derive your energy from:
Introverts tend to recharge by spending time alone. They lose energy from being around people for long periods of time, particularly large crowds.
Extroverts gain energy from other people. Extroverts lose energy when they spend too much time alone. They recharge by being around other people.
So while introverts can be outgoing and friendly, after some time, they will need to take time out to be alone so they can “recharge”.
Another point to be aware of is that Introversion/Extroversion is a continuum. We are not usually one or the other, but we exist somewhere along a scale where we might be mildly, moderately or strongly introverted/extroverted.
What does this mean for the children who are introverts?
If you’re an introverted adult, you can probably figure most of it out based on your experiences. If you’re an extroverted adult, you will need to realise a few things about your introverted child:
- They need “alone time” to recharge – especially after spending a lot of time in the company of others.
- Your child’s desire to spend time alone should be respected – especially when he has a busy day with lots of group activities.
- Your child might function like a carburetor engine, needing time to “warm up” before feeling at ease in the company of others.
- As much as you need to respect your child’s desire to spend time alone, you should also remember that your child will need encouragement to socialise with others. There is a tendency for introverts to enjoy too much time alone and forget to reconnect with others.
I write from the perspective of an introvert who often wakes up preferring to pull the covers over my head, surrendering myself to the blissful oblivion of sleep. When given a free block of time where I can choose what I would truly like to do, I squander it by plodding around at home in delicious isolation. Even though I know that evenings out can be truly delightful and even enjoyable, in the moments before leaving the house, I am often seized with a desperate desire to be sick, so I can curl up at home mindlessly staring at the idiot box with minimal interaction.
The problem with being an introvert is that there is an enormous inertia to socialisation, but human beings are social creatures and even an introvert needs that connection with others.