Introverts and Socialization

Many accomplished people are not famous, preferring to stay in the background while they excel at what they do. That’s often the sign of an introvert.

In Susan Cain’s book Quiet, she describes Darwin Smith, the former CEO of Kimberly-Clark who led that company to become the most successful paper company in the world, as “shy and mild-mannered” and very hard-working. She also refers to a study of high-performing CEOs that surprised many with its finding that top CEOs were “quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated.” So much for the stereotype of the loud, charismatic, self-promoting Trump-like CEO.

In her book, Ms. Cain mentions other famous introverts like Rosa Parks, Moses, Bill Gates, Mahatma Gandhi and Eleanor Roosevelt. These people were highly gifted and successful, though not extroverted. It appears that they excelled when they were allowed to do things in their own way instead of the popular way; it makes me wonder how many children are unable to develop their gifts and interests because they’re continually being forced into a mold of extroversion by the well-meaning adults in their lives (both teachers and parents).

This book also made me wonder: when people ask how homeschooled kids can be socialized, aren’t they really asking how they can be turned into extroverts? These questioners rarely seem satisfied when told that homeschooled kids meet and hang out with a variety of people of all ages in their daily lives. Perhaps what the questioners really mean (whether they know it or not) is, how can a homeschooled child be taught to stand up and speak in front of the class, lead the team, run for student council? And of course, all those activities are meant to encourage extroversion.

Ms. Cain makes it clear that many people aren’t comfortable with the idea of letting introverts be introverts, wanting instead to turn them into extroverts. Even some parents do this in a misguided attempt to make their children “turn out right.” But it seems to me that all children should spend their time in an atmosphere where they will thrive. Growing up in a home where they’re accepted for who they are, being given time to learn as much as they can in whatever way they prefer, and being allowed to mature without the constant pressure to perform publicly will help them thrive; all of those things point to homeschooling.

Next week: Is Your Child an Introvert?


Is Homeschooling Better for Introverts than Group Education?

Seldom does a nonfiction book grab my attention and hold it as well as Quiet just did.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking fascinated me because we have introverts in our family. And until I read this book I didn’t realize how many of us are introverts. It gave me new insight into my husband, though we’ve been married for almost 35 years, and also helped me understand more about my kids, which is always helpful. I even learned a few things about myself that made me feel a little better about some things that happened to me when I was young.

Author Susan Cain’s main point is that we live in a society where extroverted behavior is celebrated and expected, even though 1/3-1/2 of the population is made up of introverts. This cultural preference for extroverted behavior (which doesn’t exist in some other cultures, ex. Asian) is reflected not only in how employers choose workers, but more importantly (at least in my view) in how school personnel treat children.

That last point, which Ms. Cain covers in one chapter of her book, is very important, because children are so sensitive and affected by how the adults in their life act towards them. If an introverted child is treated like there’s something wrong with her, it can affect her negatively, with lifelong ramifications. When I read this, my brain started going “Ding! Ding! Ding!” because it made so much sense to me based on my own personal experience. In fact, as I thought about what I had just read, I realized that much of my own personal dislike for school had to do with the incessant pressure from teachers to be someone that I wasn’t.

Ms. Cain believes that we need to stop trying to change introverts into extroverts, and instead celebrate the gifts that introverts bring to the world. Many of the world’s creative geniuses have been introverts; this makes sense because introverts need a lot of thinking time, which usually translates into creative time.

When faced with hectic social situations, introverts often need recovery time afterwards. While extroverts are energized by being in large groups of people, introverts tend to find them exhausting. Just think of the ramifications of being in school all day, every day, for years, for the introverted child!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. There are several really interesting aspects of this book that I’d like to cover, so I think I’ll post about them in the coming weeks. For now, let’s just take a brief look at the common characteristics of introverts vs. extroverts:

  • Introverts tend to prefer talking with one or two people instead of being in a group activity, while extroverts find a big, loud party to be their idea of a great evening.
  • Introverts like to spend time delving into a subject, while extroverts tend to be better at multi-tasking.
  • Introverts usually prefer to avoid conflict, while extroverts enjoy the verbal back-and-forth of conflicting opinions.
  • Introverts hesitate before speaking, not because they’re shy but because they’re thinking first, while extroverts often speak before they think.
  • Introverts prefer working on their own to working in a group, and usually work best on their own (this has huge ramifications for how well they learn in school settings.)
  • Many introverts like to write, and are sometimes accused of “living in their heads.”

So, do the habits of introverts remind you of any of your children? Your spouse? You?? Stay tuned to learn more about introverts.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Next week: Introverts and Socialization