I love meeting kids who are introverts. I remember being that kid. I remember sitting on my porch and watching the world. I loved to watch the world; the way the leaves shimmered in the sunlight, the colors of the houses across the street. I loved to listen to the sounds; car tires on the rough road, the lyrical lilt of bird conversation. I was naturally “aware” when I was a kid. I liked that about me.
I’m not sure if my parents described me as shy. I know now they would not use that word to describe me. I was introverted but not exactly “shy.” I asked questions, I ran and jumped, I spoke my mind, eventually. It took me some time. Everything took time for me. I needed to know where I fit into the world, which is why I was a watcher.
I guess I am still a watcher.
In a new situation I walk into that metaphorical room and I find me a corner with a view. I figure out the way the furniture is arranged first, where to sit, where to stand, where to lean. I plot paths to the exits. This is important. It’s a boundary issue for me, I need to know where I can escape to refuel if things are too overwhelming. Once I know that, I work on the language of the land. I would not say I’m “changeable” in situations. I am who I am no matter who I speak to, I just need to know how best to express myself so that I’m heard when I speak. I’ll begin quiet so how I use words is vital.
The last thing I do is look for an advocate. I choose the safest person I can find so that I can enter in. I was at a “networking” party of sorts once with Dave. He hobnobbed with as many new and interesting big shots as he could. He loves to meet people, he lives for the diving in. I found a lovely intern in the back of the room and talked about making the best cup of coffee as a means to impress an employer.
So when I meet kids who are introverts I try to impress upon the parent the importance of the watcher. I toss the word “shy” out the window. To be an introvert is an honor in a loud, busy, fast world. The world needs watchers. We are the ones who see you, who strive to know you better, understand you better, love you better. Society is better for having us around.
I’ll leave you today with a plea to extroverts and a word to introverts:
First, if you’re a parent, spouse, friend or sibling of an introvert please do not try to get them to come out of their “shell.” Let them be watchers as long as they need to be. I promise that given the chance to make sense of their place in the world they will shine through.
Next, if you are an introvert and if you’ve ever questioned your importance in the world then let me encourage you to wait and watch. Confidence doesn’t have to be loud, it doesn’t have to be the center of attention. Be confident in your quiet, your words have great power, friends.