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The Value of Introverts in a Loud and Imposing World

Student reading with a dog

The Value of Introverts in a Loud and Imposing World

by Dr. Katherine Koonce, Head of School

I am an extrovert. It is not a problem for me to meet new people, talk in front of large crowds, or speak my mind. I also have a hard time keeping my opinions to myself, not being the center of attention, and noticing the subtleties of a conversation.

While the world – and especially our American culture – celebrates its loud and imposing figures, and even relegates introversion and shyness to the ranks of unfortunate personality traits, I’ve learned a little something about the power of introverts from my daughter. She is an introvert.

Before I knew that she had an introverted personality, I made all the mistakes that a well-meaning, extroverted mother makes with her quiet child. I pushed her to make more friends, stand up for herself, and speak out in class. Not surprisingly, these things happened very infrequently and this caused her too often to feel like a failure. Among the many things I regret as a parent, these are close to the top of the list. But even in the middle of all the misunderstanding, I learned a great deal about the power my quiet child possesses and the ways God uses her personality to draw the best out in others.

I have learned to respect her need for privacy and “alone time” and to let her watch for a while before joining into social situations. I’ve recognized when she needs time to think and I try not to talk for her or over her. I recognize that her sensitivity is a blessing when I once thought it was an obstacle to be overcome. In recent years I’ve noticed that because she’s not fighting for airtime in conversations, she notices nuances that others do not. She discerns intention well and often can find solutions to problems that others cannot. As an extrovert, I’m often so busy talking or making my point clear that I miss such subtleties.

Like many introverts, she can stretch to act like an extrovert when she needs to if the situation is important enough to her and requires her to be outgoing. But when this is not necessary, she prefers solitary activity, reflection, and a few close friends. My daughter has shown me how to stretch myself to act like an introvert when I need to if the situation is important enough and requires me to be quiet. I now recognize that her being outgoing is as hard for her as my being quiet is for me.

Of this we are both sure: this world needs all personality traits to solve its problems and love its people well. Her introversion is no better or worse than my extroversion – both are God-given gifts to be used like all good gifts to bring glory to Him and care to His world.