Monday, September 5, 2011

Extrovert Parent, Introvert Child

I am a confirmed Extrovert. On the Myers Briggs test, my "E" is about as high as you can go. My daughter, on the other hand, is an Introvert. Being an Extroverted parent with an Introverted child, can pose some challenges (as can vice-versa) which I was reminded of this weekend.

The terms Extrovert and Introvert are frequently misunderstood. I used to think they meant outgoing and shy. But, it's more than that. Laurie Helgoe, a psychologist interviewed in the recent issue of Real Simple Family explains it this way: "An introvert refuels by spending time alone. An extrovert draws energy from interaction."

This is so true. My daughter re-charges her batteries by being alone listening to music or reading a book. I re-charge by spending time with family and friends. This difference in refueling preferences can cause some confusion and misunderstanding.

For example, my daughter, her friend, and I just got back from our vacation up north. We had a great time. But something struck me as odd several times. I was surprised by how quiet the girls were when riding in the car.

For a good amount of time while traveling in the car, there was silence in the back seat. Silence, while riding in a car with other people, signifies to me that someone is upset, sick or sleeping. Silence does not signal something positive to me. I spent a good 20 minutes trying to figure out if Juliana or her friend was upset and with whom. Then it finally dawned on me, that the two girls were perfectly fine. They were just relaxing. Just being quiet.

This was a revelation to me. My inclination, in a car full of people, is to talk and visit the entire time. This kind of interaction fuels my extroverted self. But I realized, for Juliana and her friend, just being quiet in the car was re-fueling them.

So I shut up. I didn't turn on the radio. I didn't attempt to make conversation. I just drove. And thought. I let the girls have what they needed - quiet. Surprisingly, it was actually kind of nice to simply drive and think. For awhile. Just don't ask me to do that all the time.

(This photo is of Juliana and her friend looking out at Lake Superior.)

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