Did you know that I’m really shy at heart? While I love hanging out with friends and talking to them and spending time around them, I always feel a little shiver run down my spine when I have to approach a large group of people I don’t know – or don’t know well. It’s that reaction of a new girl walking into the high school cafeteria again.
I know what to do, though, and I generally do it well. I know what the situation calls for. I pull my shoulders back and lengthen my stride. I look directly at people, choosing when and where I’ll make a good entrance into the conversation or group. And then I have fun. I turn on that extrovert portion of my personality and make it work for me. And I enjoy it.
Then I’ll go home and just look for quiet. I’ll enjoy sitting by myself and reading a good book. I need to take the time to recharge and gain the energy that I’d spent around all those people so I can go do it again. That doesn’t mean that I don’t love to entertain and spend time with people – I absolutely do. It just takes energy I need to replenish.
Fortunately, depending on the situation, there are different traits needed, and I adapt. So do most people. While we may tend to be either more introverted or extroverted, we can still pull out the qualities required from other personality traits to – for the most part – succeed in each of those situations.
Yesterday in church, we said the Our Father, as we do every week. At the end, everyone lifts their linked hands. We all lift them to about eye level, bending our elbows to keep it comfortable. As I looked down at Mister Man, He had his hands lifted as high as they go, his shoulder scrunched up. It’s a little thing, but it’s something that sets him apart.
I talk a lot to him about using the clues of people around him to help him in social situations. When he talks about something he’s interested in, he walks. He doesn’t pace or walk in circles or anything so regular. It’s almost like rocking but not in place. It’s really hard to talk to him when he’s doing that, as he’s frequently not facing the person he’s talking to – and thus unintelligible. Or he’s playing with children and as they approach that invisible line, all the kids back off, but he doesn’t notice and continues until way after that line is crossed.
He misses the cues, sometimes the big ones and frequently the small ones. And my heart aches, not because I need or want him to be the same as everyone else around him, but because it separates him from his peers in a way that makes his path harder. He gets frustrated because situations don’t work the way he wishes they would but doesn’t understand that much of the reason for this is his inability to to adapt his personality to the situation at hand. He is oblivious to the cues around him, and that keeps him from being as happy as he deserves to be.
Is it better to be an introvert or an extrovert? No. And I mean that – it isn’t better necessarily to be one or the other, but we all need to be able to take bits and pieces of other tendencies to get us through life. But how do you teach that?
In the interest of full disclosure, this post was inspired by the book “Quiet” by Susan Cain as part of the From Left To Write book club. I received a copy of this book as part of the book club where we write posts inspired by the books rather than reviews of the book. I received no compensation, and all opinions remain my own.