Saturday, January 28, 2012

Don’t Call Introverted Children ‘Shy’

Society rewards extroverts, but quiet types have a hidden strength all their own
Sandro Di Carlo Darsa / PhotoAlto / Getty Images
Cain's book,Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, was published in January 2012.
Imagine a 2-year-old who greets you with a huge smile, offering a toy. Now here’s another child who regards you gravely and hides behind his parent’s leg. How do you feel about these two children? If you’re like most people, you think of the first child as social and the second as reserved or, as everyone tends to interpret, “shy.” From a very young age, we categorize children as one or the other, and we usually privilege the social designation. But this misses what’s really going on with standoffish kids. Many were born with a careful, sensitive temperament that predisposes them to look before they leap. And this can pay off handsomely as they grow, in the form of strong academics, enhanced creativity and even a unique brand of leadership and empathy.
One way to see this temperament more clearly is to consider how these children react to stimuli. When these children are at four months, if you pop a balloon over their heads, they holler and pump their arms more than other babies do. At age 2, they proceed carefully when they see a radio-controlled toy robot for the first time. When they’re school age, they play matching games with more deliberation than their peers, considering all the alternatives at length and even using more eye movements to compare choices. Notice that none of these things — popping balloons, toy robots, matching games — has anything to do with people. In other words, these kids are not antisocial. They’re simply sensitive to their environments.
But if they’re not antisocial, these kids are differently social. According to the psychologist Elaine Aron, author of the book Psychotherapy and the Highly Sensitive Person, 70% of children with a careful temperament grow up to be introverts, meaning they prefer minimally stimulating environments — a glass of wine with a close friend over a raucous party full of strangers. Some will grow up shy as well. Shyness and introversion are not the same thing. Shy people fear negative judgment, while introverts simply prefer less stimulation; shyness is inherently painful, and introversion is not. But in a society that prizes the bold and the outspoken, both are perceived as disadvantages.
Yet we wouldn’t want to live in a world composed exclusively of bold extroverts. We desperately need people who pay what Aron calls “alert attention” to things. It’s no accident that introverts get better grades than extroverts, know more about most academic subjects and win a disproportionate number of Phi Beta Kappa keys and National Merit Scholarship finalist positions — even though their IQ scores are no higher. “The glory of the disposition that stops to consider stimuli rather than rushing to engage with them is its long association with intellectual and artistic achievement,” observes science writer Winifred Gallagher. “Neither E=mc² nor Paradise Lost was dashed off by a party animal.”
Children with an alert, sensitive temperament also pay close attention to social cues and moral principles. By age 6, they cheat and break rules less than other kids do — even when they believe they won’t be caught. At 7, they’re more likely than their peers to be described by parents and caregivers as empathetic or conscientious. As adults, introverted leaders have even been found to deliver better outcomes than extroverts when managing employees, according to a recent study by management professor Adam Grant of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, because they encourage others’ ideas instead of trying to put their own stamp on things. And they’re less likely to take dangerous risks. Extroverts are more likely than introverts to get into car accidents, participate in extreme sports and to place large financial bets.
But we wouldn’t want to live in a world composed entirely of cautious introverts either. The two types need each other. Many successful ventures are the result of effective partnerships between introverts and extroverts. The famously charismatic Steve Jobs teamed up with powerhouse introverts at crucial points in his career at Apple, co-founding the company with the shy Steve Wozniak and bequeathing it to its current CEO, the quiet Tim Cook. And the three-time Olympic-gold-winning rowing pair Marnie McBean and Kathleen Biddle were a classic match of dynamic firecracker (McBean) and steely determination (Biddle).
The ideal scenario is when those two toddlers — the one who hands you the toy with the smile and the other who checks you out so carefully — grow up to run the world together.

Susan Cain, a former corporate lawyer and negotiations consultant, is the author of Quiet. The views expressed are solely her own.
Related Topics: extroversion, extrovert, introversion, introvert, quiet, shy, shyness, Health & Science, Psychology

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GreginAdelaide said...


I agree with that result.

I try to be an extrovert on the outside.... people don't quite realise the effort I put into appearing confident, in studied control and extroverted..... I think.
Well most of 'em don't that's for sure.

"One day" I must ask my closest friends what they think I'm like....

But one perceptive bastard (the love of my life) said I'm a soft-centred chocolate. (He melts me)

But you guys don't see my hard outer shell here in this blog-world I guess.
This place, my Justin-security-blanket-hole, doesn't require me to puff my chest and appear hard, to be "one of the boys".

Is that me hiding from my sexuality?
No, not hiding from it at all. The only thing I am avoiding is everyone knowing....particularly people who's business it is not.
There's a difference.

As I think I've said before, I'm out to close friends....mostly they "just know". I don't hide it from them. I'm just me.

But I don't parade my sexuality for all to see, to know.
Why? Because I know it will limit my chances in life.
Some people will think a lot less of me if they knew I was "one of them".
Not that I really care about their opinion...but I do, if you know what I mean.

So, there's a little Sunday morning outpouring. Make of it what you will Justin.
I'm an ambidextrous-vert, a chameleon-vert, a phantom-vert, a wannabe-vert.

Anonymous said...

Very well stated, Greg. And i kinda feel the same way, but in my own little world it's called 'bluffing.' I think we'd be good poker players.


Stew said...

I like Greg's comment... I've known a few people in my life that were like soft centered chocolates. Once you get to know them, they are the see test people.
I would consider myself an introvert to a point, I think. It usually takes a while for me to let someone in. But I too, seem to let my guard down in the present company. I guess you're just good people.

JustinO'Shea said...

AND. . . you know we think that about you too. ;-))

JustinO'Shea said...

OK. . .diagnosis.

Is Justin O'Shea introvert or extrovert? ;-)

Anonymous said...

Justin, i really believe you look before you leap. But once you've made that jump, you soak it up and truely enjoy those experiences. Using common sense, you're not afraid to try something new, or favor a different viewpoint. Once you're comfortable with something, you 'go for it.'

Diagnosis: introvert.

You may get off the couch now. See the receptionist for billing on the way out. ;)

JustinO'Shea said...

Interesting. . . hehe

Bill? Here's my credit card for "a buck-three-eighty". . ho ho ho [old Polish joke].

Stew said...

I'd agree. I see you taking things with caution at first.

And I need to stop commenting using my tablet because that should have read "Once you get to know them, they are the best people". Not "see test"... stupid auto correct!

JustinO'Shea said...

Hmmm. . . not known to rush in where angels fear to tread. ". ?. . ;-)

JustinO'Shea said...

Add this element. . .My brother and sister were 12 and 10 when I happened along. . . in some ways often I was almost like "an only child". .and I didn't cling to my dad's leg like the boy in the photo: I'd bring you my toy, whatever. . always watching your eyes for approval which I think I just assumed would be there since it always was en famille. . .when I didn't see it I was savvy enough to back off. . .and ultimately ignore you. . .hehe

Gary Kelly said...

You're an introvert who likes to be seen, JustinO. Hehe.

GreginAdelaide said...

I'm unsure.

Maybe you are an extrovert, maybe you are an introvert who, in his "controlled" blog-land tries to be an extrovert? Hmm?

Maybe you are not so unlike me in that respect?

I don't know.

But somehow I feel that you are not strongly one way or the other. (and I don't mean anything over than extrovert/introvert "one way or the other" n this instance either!..heehee!)

I think you might just tip on the side of extro rather than intro?
But then it might just be the brave-cyber face of Justin as I do know he is strongly self-protective.

So, which was do you swing Justin? (and I don't need to qualify that a second time, heehee!)

GreginAdelaide said...

Awww...c'mon Justin.
I thought you'd revel in answering that/those questions.

After you posed the question as to your "preference" I thought you might have had more in store for us, an agenda or something....but it seems I was wrong...often am, unforunately.

C'mon.....come and play with us...heehee (when you're not too busy)