Do you worry about your child or children are too quiet? Is the feedback you get from their teachers that they need to contribute more in class? Do you find yourself making excuses for your child’s quiet nature when you are with others?
Our society and school system are largely focused towards the extrovert ideal where the person who shouts loudest is often the one who is listened to and admired. This means that, from birth, introverts are pretty much constantly told to speak up, to join in, to be with others all the time, to ‘stop being antisocial/ shy/ quiet’ etc. This means that the introverted child is likely to think that there is something wrong with them and that they need to be extroverted to succeed.
It may be that your child is an introvert or shy, or both – and no, introversion and shyness are not the same thing. Firstly, why does it even matter? Maybe you think that labelling carries stigma and might hold your children back. Well, I think it’s important to recognise your child’s temperament so you are able to support them effectively; and so that they are able to understand themselves – particularly if they feel different to those around them. According to Myers-Briggs research 50.7% of the population identify as introvert so this lack of understanding of introversion could be affecting over half of us.
What is an introvert? I’m going to begin by telling you what it is not to bust some introvert myths: an introvert is not a hermit, nor socially awkward, doesn’t hate people, isn’t shy, stuck up or unfriendly. Sure, they might be any or all of these things, but so might an extrovert or ambivert. Introversion, Extroversion and Ambiversion are temperaments that we are born with which are unlikely to change through the course of our lives, and this is one reason why it’s important for us to know what we are. All the other traits I mentioned are behaviours that we learn and as such can be unlearned.
An introvert at its simplest is someone who recharges by quiet time spent alone. Introverts’ energy gets drained by social interaction whereas an extrovert gains energy from social interaction. This doesn’t mean that an introvert can’t be around others. We enjoy company too! They just need to learn to manage their energy to be at their best. An introvert will also likely be reflective, a deep thinker, good at listening, may work better on their own or in small groups; they’re probably private and independent too and unlikely to enjoy being the centre of attention. Introverts are often quiet, but not always. In a setting where they feel comfortable, they will often be just as chatty as anyone else. In understanding introversion and extroversion, context is key.
I have been carrying out research over the past few months to understand more about when people found out they were introverted, whether that information was useful and if they would like to have known sooner. Most of the introverts I spoke to only found out that they were introverts in adulthood; and even those who did know in childhood that they were introverts often felt that there was something wrong with them and they needed to become more extrovert to be successful.
As a parent how can you recognise your child’s temperament? You may already know, but generally if your child needs quiet time alone after being with others or in a stimulating environment it is likely that they are an introvert. This quiet time will recharge them. They might also need time to process and think before speaking. They probably don’t like to be the centre of attention and will watch and wait before getting involved in an activity or socialising. They may well be reflective and deep thinkers preferring to talk deeply about topics that interest them rather than engaging in small talk.
By knowing whether your child is introvert you can help them to understand what it means, how to manage their energy and how to ensure that they don’t miss out on any opportunities because they feel they are too quiet.
My mission is for introverts to realise that there is nothing wrong with them, they don’t need fixing and that they can do anything they set their mind to. By working with, rather than against their introversion, the sky really is the limit.
Sophie Morris is an introvert coach, mentor and advocate. Her passion is helping introverts embrace their quiet nature, realise that they don’t need fixing and that they can use their voice to be heard without having to shout. You can find out more about what she does at Quietosophy.com and https://www.linkedin.com/in/sophie-morris-coaching/