This is a post I wrote about six months ago, but I think the message is important to introverts who may feel that the way they prefer to converse is perfectly fine. I can’t remember every word my daughter and I spoke during this memorable conversation, but the dialog is accurate.
Recently I was teaching my daughter to drive. She was doing quite well but was extremely nervous. I knew she was nervous because she was talking nonstop; whereas I was speaking only to tell her to: watch for cars pulling out and entering our lane, be alert to errant balls followed by children, and make sure she comes to a complete stop at stop signs.
As I was saying, she was constantly talking. “Am I far enough away from the car in front, Dad?” she would ask. “How’s my distance from the side of the road. Oh my god, there are so many cars on this street. Why are there so many cars? Do you think I’m ready for the highway, yet?”
You might think I was annoyed with this barrage of chatter. Well I wasn’t. You see, my daughter doesn’t talk a lot; she’s sort of like me. So when I get to hear her talkative side I grab it like a greedy child grabbing candy. I will say that I often asked her to cut down the excessive talking so she could focus more on the road. But suddenly she became calm and started talking about substantial stuff.
“I talk a lot when I’m nervous, Dad.” I knew this about my daughter. “But I don’t talk a lot around my friends. And sometimes I feel stupid. I’m not like Sidney who can talk about anything. I’m not good at making small talk. And this makes me feel stupid. But I don’t want to talk about just anything; I like to talk about things that interest me. I think I’m a ‘big’ introvert.”
Whoa, where did this come from? Doesn’t like small talk? Prefers to talk about things of interest? Thinks she’s an extreme introvert? So I played along because anyone who knows me knows that one of my favorite topics is introversion.
Introverts prefer depth over breadth when conversing.
“You know, honey,” I begin. “There’s nothing wrong with preferring to have deeper conversations—like what we’re having now. This is how introverts prefer to converse; they like that one-on-one dialog. Is that how you feel?”
“Yeah, that’s like totally it. I like deep conversations. I’m not interested in some of the topics my friends talk about. Sometimes I feel stupid because I don’t jump in on the conversation. It’s like a competition with my friends. That’s why I think I have more friends who are boys.”
I had to jump in. “Girls can be catty right? Are you saying boys don’t talk as much?”
“Totally. With my guy friends it’s not like a competition to see who can talk the most or say the coolest things. I don’t know how they do it, the ones who can talk forever. Like Steph. Everyone loves her because she makes everyone feel special. Britt too.” Moment of silence, which I didn’t want to lose. “Do you think I’m a freak, Dad?” Oh no my dear, I thought, you’re an introvert, a very special person.
I didn’t want to go into that small talk is sometimes difficult for introverts because our time to process our thoughts is more delayed.
“I like to listen,” she continued. Sometimes I just listen to some of the stupid things they talk about. And I think, ‘how stupid that is.’ I don’t want to judge, but…like really? I’m a real ‘big’ introvert, right? If I think what my friends are saying is stupid, is it wrong not to join the conversation?”
I told my daughter, “You see, how you’re describing your friends makes me think that they are more extraverted than you. Extraverts are energized by being with people and talking to them in order to re-charge their batteries.”
“That’s right,” she said. “I get tired sometimes when I’m with a group of people. It’s like I need a break. It all seems like a competition. Who can say the most. With guys it’s not like that. Sure there are some that talk more than others. But for the most part, they listen to what each other says.”
I wondered if the willingness to give and take is a gender thing.
“You, on the other hand,” I interrupted, “like deeper conversations that mean more to you. They don’t happen often, maybe rarely for some, but when they do, they’re great. Like the one we’re having now, right?”
“Yeah,” she continued, “This is good. This talk we’re having. It’s like we can drive in the car and not say much but at other times we talk a real lot. I like our conversations…..So, do you think I’m ready for the highway?”
Before I knew it we were approaching the highway. I had never taken her on the highway, but she seemed lucid and was driving like a pro. So we took the highway home and survived. Why would I have thought differently.
When we got home, I administered an MBTI assessment to her. It turns out that my daughter is a moderate introvert, slight sensor and thinker, and clear perceiver.
“Congratulations, honey, you’re an introvert like your ole man,” I told her. I’m afraid she’s worried about being an introvert, but she’ll realize how special she is.
Note: this post was enjoyable to write. I wrote one on an introverts idea of a great vacation. Check it out.
Photo: Flickr, Michael Jimmy Ellas