The Atlantic is tossing around some ideas about introversion-extroversion continuum,popularized by Carl Jung, the Meyers-Briggs and more recently, Susan Cain in her book Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I had written a brief blog post on this topic recently.
The first Atlantic article came this week: Introverted Kids Need to Learn to Speak Up In School
The author, Jessica Lahey, argues that class participation grades aren’t going away. “When a parent tells me that his or her child is simply not capable of communicating educational and emotional needs, I see a child even more in need of mastering interpersonal communication. I’m not talking about the value of communication as it relates to grades here; I am talking about the value of communication as it relates to personal health, happiness, and safety. A student who is unwilling to stand up for herself and tell me that she does not understand the difference between an adverb and a verb is also less likely to stand up for herself if she is being harassed or pressured in other areas of her life.”
Seems fair and reasonable, but is she confusing social anxiety and/or shyness with introversion? They aren’t one and the same. George Couros elaborates on this concern in his blog with an entry entitled “Do Unto Students”. Shy or introverted, we should first do no harm.
Not too long after, Atlantic posted this: Caring for Your Introvert by Jonathan Rauch, a self-proclaimed introvert. The article was lovely and detailed. Actually quite hilarious. “How many people are introverts? I performed exhaustive research on this question, in the form of a quick Google search. The answer: About 25 percent. Or: Just under half. Or—my favorite—“a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population.”
Jonathan has some tips for those mingling with introverts.
- Remember, someone you know, respect, and interact with every day is an introvert, and you are probably driving this person nuts. It pays to learn the warning signs.
- Some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say “Hell is other people at breakfast. Still, most introverts are people who find other people tiring.
- After an hour or two of being socially “on,” we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn’t antisocial. It isn’t a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: “I’m okay, you’re okay—in small doses.
After a few conversations with people I respect I had a bit more insight. Here is what I learned:
- Introverts thrive when they have enough time to be alone to reflect and pursue areas of interest
- This is core to who they are; they aren’t flawed, they aren’t afraid
- They are bombarded with messages from everywhere that something about them is defective
- We must give (our friends, children, students) permission to be true to themselves
More than one of my children have this tendency. I have learned to help create an environment that helped them grow. Knowing who they are; knowing how much to encourage and when; knowing when they have had enough is simply about meeting them where they are and helping them to the next place. Sometimes that is a social event; often it is not. More often it is not. At family gatherings and other social events we have a code when it is time to slip out the back door. I honor who my kid is because that is my job. Same held true for teaching: help them grow but first do not harm.
The world has a place for all of us.
“It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” Mark Twain
“You will have many opportunities in life to keep your mouth shut: You should take advantage of every one of them.” Thomas Edison
“You talk too much. You never shut up. I said you talk too much Homeboy you never shut up. You talk about people, you don’t even know. And you talk about places, you NEVER go. You talk about your girl, from head to toe. I said your mouth’s moving fast, and your brain’s moving slow Run DMC
“That woman could talk the PAINT off the wall!” My Husband