A good read on introversion

I’ve been reading Marti Olsen Laney’s Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child, after coming across mention of it in this article from a few years ago.

In general it’s my opinion that diagnoses and other labels are best used with extreme care, caution, and awareness of their limitations and potential for undermining our best intentions.  I recommend this book with that caveat.  The book reminds us that humans are wired differently, and that different wiring and chemistry asks for different response and support.  I think it’s an especially good read for extraverted parents of introverted children and vice versa.  It’s not only about the introverts; there’s much to glean about the needs of extraverted children as well. (The book is named for the introverts only because most of the demands and expectations of culture as we know it tend to call for extraversion and thus can leave the introvert looking somehow deficient or lacking.)

Which reminds me.  One of the most unfortunate misconceptions perpetuated with regard to shy or introverted or anxious (or some of each) children and other people is that the antidote is immersion in crowds – more and larger groups of people.  But it doesn’t tend to work.  Subjecting an introvert to more situations in which she doesn’t get what she needs won’t make her an extravert.  It will likely make her anxious, or more anxious.  This is not to say that it’s not helpful for someone who prefers quieter social interactions, or those involving fewer people at a time, to be in other situations as well, to practice being in them.  It’s that throwing them into such situations and insisting on more of what doesn’t work is not the way to facilitate the navigation of a largely extraverted culture.  It tends to have the opposite of the intended effect.  To truly support an introvert is to help her build her own strategies for   regulating and managing her own interactions and exposure.

But I digress. This book is a good resource for understanding and supporting kids for who they actually already are, for being the adult one actually already is, and for figuring out the sometimes tricky business of coexistence.

PS: In case you’re not generally a comment reader, see below for mention of Susan Cain’s forthcoming Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.

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One Response

  1. As a household of introverts, we just pre-ordered this new book coming out called Quiet:The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

    What you describe about more exposure to large groups not so much helping describes our son’s experience with school perfectly. We watched and waited for two full years for him to acclimate to the bustle of the classroom. I spent hundreds of hours in the classroom with him watching (under the pretense of helping organize their library). He enjoyed one-on-one activities with another kid. But for two years, his anxiety and overstimulation and boredom all at the same time never subsided and actually got worse, even as he got older and his social skills got better.

    He is so happy to be at home now, there is so much less anxiety, and his engagement with small and large groups happens more at times of his choosing (and not all day every day).

    I wish there were more options for introverts in schools — quiet corners they can retreat to without feeling shame, quieter and smaller-scale ways for them to participate than in big group discussions. “Circle time” was a particular kind of hell for my son because of all the barely-contained energy of all the kids and the close-in jostling and everyone wanting to talk at once and the sense that the teacher was about to blow any minute if the kids didn’t calm down.

    I look forward to reading this one, thank you!

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