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Tuesday
Nov062012

Are My Kids Turning Me Into An Introvert? 

I've always thought of myself as an extrovert. I've never been shy, I love parties and gatherings, and I don't shy away from the opportunity to share my ideas with a large group of people. I don't mind stepping out of my comfort zone or taking risks or being the centre of attention. When I've done Myers Briggs tests in the past, I've always scored high on the extrovert side (I'm an ENTJ in case you were wondering).

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hear Susan Cain speak at Blissdom Canada. In her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, she writes about "how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so." I went into her talk thinking (and tweeting) that I was an extrovert about to learn about the world of introverts. But as I listened, I wasn't so sure.

She put up a series of questions on the screen, designed to determine if you are an introvert or an extrovert (she has them here in blog post format too). As she listed off the questions, I found myself saying that yes, I often prefer to express myself in writing, I enjoy solitude, I enjoy work that allows me to "dive in" with few interruptions, I often let calls go to voicemail and other things associated with introverts. At the same time, I still had other qualities associated with extroverts. On some question, I found myself thinking that it really depends on the day, depends on the person/people, depends on the situation.

When the quiz was finished, she explained that some people are introverts, some people are extroverts and some people are ambiverts. Here is the explanation of the three that comes up at the end of the quiz on her website:
I = Introvert. If you answered the majority of the questions true, you're probably an introvert. Given the choice, you'll devote your social energy to the people you care about most, preferring a glass of wine with a close friend to a party full of strangers. You think before you speak, and relish solitude. You feel energized when focusing deeply on a subject or activity that really interests you. You have an active inner life, and are at your best when you tap into its riches.

E/I = Ambivert. If you answered the questions evenly, true and false, you're probably an ambivert - meaning that you fall smack in the middle of the introvert-extrovert spectrum. In many ways, ambiverts have the best of both worlds, able to tap into either pole as needed.

E = Extrovert. If you answered the majority of the questions false, you’re probably an extrovert. You relish social life, and are energized by interacting with friends and strangers alike. You are assertive, go-getting, and able to seize the day. You're great at thinking on your feet, and are relatively comfortable with conflict. You are actively engaged in the world around you, and are at your best when you tap into its energy.

Suddenly, I wasn't so sure that I was an extrovert anymore. Both the introvert and extrovert descriptions spoke to me in different ways.

Back when I was in university, I studied really hard. For hours each day, I was alone in my room with my books and my computer. I loved living in the student residence the first year, because it meant when it was time to take a break and have dinner, there was always a crowd of people to socialize with as I ate. In the evening, I would study some more. When I'd finished what I needed to do that evening or when I just couldn't stare at the pages anymore, I didn't want to curl up with a novel or go to sleep. I wanted to round up a few friends for a drink and a game of euchre. If I had a free evening where I didn't need to study and couldn't find anyone to go out with, I was disappointed and lonely and bored. When I had my first jobs out of university, I always sought out opportunities to go to meetings, to brainstorm with others, to present to clients. I loved traveling for work and meeting new people. I loved team work and team retreats and team lunches.



Now, I have kids. I love my kids (of course) and enjoy spending time with them. But it is exhausting. They always want to play, tell me something, ask me something, or ask me for something. They always want to connect, cuddle, run around, help me or get help from me. They are high energy. The thought of doing something alone, quietly in their rooms is like torture to them. They are EXTROVERTS.  When they finally fall asleep at night, if I don't fall asleep too, I crave quiet.  Watching something on television with my partner, writing quietly on my computer, playing scrabble on the iPad, drinking a glass of wine or a cup of tea. At work, I am still comfortable in meetings and giving presentations, but I'm happiest when I'm sitting in my office at my computer analyzing data, creating models, and writing reports.

Reflecting on Susan's talk and her quiz, I realized that I probably am an ambivert. It may be true that I have the best of both worlds, as she explains. But I think it also means that I crave whatever I'm not getting enough of. When my life is full of quiet and solitude, I crave loudness and energy. When my life is full of loudness and energy, I crave quiet and solitude.

Where do you fit on the introvert/extrovert spectrum? Do think it has changed over your lifetime?
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Reader Comments (26)

Her talk still has me thinking and examining my life. I always thought I was the extreme extrovert but you're right, after the kids came, I'm just too tired to keep going, I love the days I'm all alone and often go for a drive by myself just to listen to the quiet.

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShash

I came up as an Introvert. No surprise there. I've been that way since I can remember. At first it was a survival mechanism (i.e., stay quiet so you "blend" and don't attract the bullies' attention). Now it is something that feels natural to me. I have moments of "extroversion," but usually only when pressed to do so (team projects, etc.) . :-)

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

People tend to think of me as an extrovert, but I'm very much an introvert (this quiz backs me up!). I've just worked really hard to become more extroverted.

Annie your university example is funny to me. I didn't want to live in rez for the same reasons that you enjoyed it!

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPamela

Excellent article! I've only recently realized that I am, in fact, an Introvert... and it was an epic realization. There's nothing wrong with me! I bought the book you referenced and although I'm only a few pages in, I'm already really, really enjoying it! Thanks!

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

I am an introvert. I have often thought that working would be easier than being at home with the kids for four years. But now that I am back to work we have an open plan office and there is no where for an introvert to find a quiet spot! It makes me miss the "quiet" of being at home with two kids.

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrie

you sound a lot like me. i always thought i was an extrovert, too. i enjoy parties, group work, and getting to know new people--but i do get overwhelmed and touched out by all the chaos of parenting littles. i enjoy a crowd, but because i am ultimately energized by time alone, i would consider myself an extroverted introvert now. (INTP)

Introvert! Always have been, always will be :) I was the person at the party who would sneak out early to walk home to my university dorm. I love being social and have good friends, but I enjoy nothing more than curling up with a good book. I think my daughter is an extrovert though, and it's extremely exhausting to deal with her for a whole day!

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMisty Pratt

I have always thought of myself as an extrovert and Cain's quiz confirms that. However, I still get overwhelmed by my children's constant demands. They are extroverts too of course!

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTamara in NZ

My dad and I were talking about this today - he knows no stranger, and I've always been on the introvert side. Sine becoming a parent, I sometimes purposefully avoid big social events. For example - voting at the polls. Not bemuse I don't want to hold or manage my 8 month old in line for 3 hrs, but as a precaution to stay away from "the crazies." So in some wy, has my introvertedness trend into way to protect my family?

For the record, I don't think that hiding in my home will prevent bad things from happening to us, but when given the opportunity to limit exposure to emotionally charged crowds, I'll keep myself and kids at home.

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBianca

I have always been an introvert. As a kid and teenager, I was incredibly shy, but I became much more outgoing in adulthood. Now I'm a teacher, so I speak in front of groups of people all the time, and I absolutely love lively debate and discussions. Some people are always shocked when I say I'm an introvert, but it's always felt like the accurate label for me. While I love talking to people and interacting with others, it's draining. I always find being alone the only way I can recharge.

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBalancingJane

I just posted about being an introvert on my blog today. It seems like the world is more accepting of extroverts, and figuring out how to care for myself as an introvert is an important challenge for me. I would say that having a child actually helps me be more extroverted. I get out of the house more, I talk to a lot more people, and I'm comfortable doing that for him. But if it were strictly me, I'm an introvert all the way.

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIssa Waters

I am both as well. I love going out and being around lots of people - when I plan for it. I worked retail for a few years and was really great at it, natural at sales. I'm great at talking to strangers. But when I'm at home, I won't answer my phone and I hate unannounced visitors. I work from home and prefer to work through email - I hate phone calls with clients. I'm very private at home.

I also agree with the previous comment that it's easier to be an extrovert with a child. My kid creates a nice buffer when I go out, allowing me to engage or retreat without awkwardness.

I think the whole idea of our culture rewarding extroversion is really interesting. I read an article about famous introverts, and how up until recently it was seen as better to be more reserved.

I was an extravert when I was younger, definitely in University and when I entered the work force. I loved being around people. Like Annie, I loved the atmosphere of residence life. I very much had the best of both worlds.

I think the turning point for me was when I had kids. I suffered from PPD and never left my house. I found that I almost forgot how to be social. I work really hard to be more social basically because I always feel better afterwards and I like the connections that I make with people.

November 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKrista (@kristahouse)

I have recently been thinking about this a lot and feeling that over time I have become introverted because of that energy-sucking thing that our lovely kids do to us parents. I think that because of the focus I put on my kids, I am tired. Tired. Emotionally and physically, just tired at the end of the day and the week, and as they grow I am less tired - as I find I don't have to focus quite as hard. But I think that that does not an introvert make. It just makes for a tired extrovert - a stage we go through and we slowly move towards balance. The real key as I have heard it explained before is whether you find encounters with other people generally invigorating (extrovert) or generally draining (introvert).

November 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarla

I know that I am an introvert. I hate team sports. I hated team projects when I was in corporate. I hated cubicles. HOWEVER, under the right circumstances, I LOVE being the centre of attention. My wedding day, for example. Or giving lectures on a new software program (my old life). Very specific circumstances, as you can see. Now I work at home (pre child and post-birth). I don't see people most of the live long day and I'm okay with that.

Recently, changes in circumstance have forced me into the 'real world'. I am networking to find a job. That means attending events that I wouldn't be caught dead at otherwise because I might have to go up and talk to people that I don't know. It's incredibly hard after a day of job searching and writing, then switching gears in to Mommy mode at 3:30 and making dinner mode and doing the laundry mode... to suddenly be "I'm fabu and you should hire me" mode. Job searching is not for introverts... that's for sure.

I think my life would be easier if I was more of an extrovert. Thank goodness all signs point to my daughter being one. I don't want her to be like me...

November 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChantal

Fantastic post. Thank you for sharing. I just took the quiz and scored an I....not surprising :)

November 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnn Bacciaglia

I've always been slower to interact and prefer a small group to a large one, but when I took my first Meyers-Briggs test, it opened my eyes about what it means to be introverts and extroverts. Introverts aren't by definition anti-social. They just need to spend energy to be social. I enjoy a party or a networking meeting, but not every night, and I consider it work - enjoyable work, but work nonetheless, while spending time riding my bike or reading don't seem like work at all. I think you must be an ambivert, Annie. Even after lots and lots of time alone, I *never* crave the company of many people. I intellectually understand the rewards that may come from spending time interacting with a crowd, but I never ever truly *want* to.

November 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

There is a difference between an EXTRAVERT and an EXTROVERT. I've been long fascinated by the "Mother Types" test based on the Myers-Briggs test. They define the difference in how you recoup your energy. So someone like me, who is outgoing and friendly and total people person, is still introverted because too much social interaction is exhausting. It's why, when we have parties, I'm usually in the kitchen by the end of the night tackling the dishes and insisting that no one help me. Or why after a long morning doing appointments at work with patients and owners (I work with animals), I'm happy to spend the afternoon in surgery, where it's just me and the doctor and a sedated animal and we're concentrating and not talking. Or why the idea of a road trip with 6 other people in the car is my idea of hell, even if I dearly love all those other people.

My husband, who is not as quite as outgoing or bold (he says pushy and loud) as I am, is extraverted because after too much time by himself, he gets bored and lonely.

The Mother Styles book was interesting to me, because it helps explain our parenting strengths and weaknesses based on our personality types, the pluses and minuses of different types in a family unit, and how to parent children based on their type. My son is also outgoing and friendly and I think he'd sell his parents for a playdate, but he also needs time by himself when he gets home from school to unwind. My daughter is not so big on alone time.

Interesting topic!

November 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKayris

So funny you should ask... I read MotherStyles a few months ago, that talks about the MyersBriggs in relation to parenting and I always thought of myself as an extrovert, but really I am an introvert (INTP which is kind of rare among women?). I think what confused me was that I always thought of introverts as being shy, which I am not. I have no problem approaching strangers and talking with them as long as it is in a situation where it is one-on-one. But if I am in a social situation with a lot of strangers, like a party, then I do get overstimulated and have a harder time engaging with people.

After having kids I think I am a bit better at staying true to my real traits. I don't think my underlying personality changed I just had more energy to fake being what I wasn't, and sometimes even tricked myself.

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

What is the difference between an extravert and an extrovert? According to my dictionary, they are just alternate spellings of the same word.

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I feel like the extrovert/introvert thing confuses so many people. Of course everyone likes to be alone sometimes and everyone likes to be with people sometimes! I am very similar to you - my time spent recharging is usually spent with people, not alone. But if I'm working hard with people for an extended period of time, some alone time with TV or a book or the internet is necessary. I think the difference is that I don't crave and depend on solitude the way that introverts do. If I don't get my alone time, I can shake it off and move forward - introverts are probably going to be miserable. On the other hand, if I'm sitting at home alone a lot, it will really affect my mood. Some of the most difficult years of my life were due in large part to being stuck at home with nothing to do and no one to socialize with. I do not do well with involuntary solitude!

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

I'm a introvert through and through, but my 1 year old daughter seems to be an extrovert. Not sure what it will be like as she gets older.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

This is the way I understand the two different definitions of the words.

1. Extroverts are gregarious, friendly and outgoing. Leaders. Sometimes loud or pushy. Introverts are shy and quiet. Loners. Nonconfrontational.

2. Extraverts need social interaction to recover energy, while introverts need alone time.

The Mother Styles authors use the second definition. So an introverted person can still be outgoing and friendly and a leader.

I guess a better example would be this: when I've had a hard day at work, I prefer to come home to a quiet and empty house and relax with a good book. My husband decompresses by coming home to talk out his feelings with me, or go to his brother's house to drink beer andhang out.

The short version of the quiz is here: http://www.motherstyles.com/quiz.asp I am an INTJ "The Responsibility Mother."

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKayris

Introvert all the way – I was intrigued by the "ambivert" definition and kind of hoping would apply, but, no. Not shy, like parties, but work all day by myself just fine and find little need for company. But love quality company.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

[...] been learning about myself in the last few weeks, too. PhD in Parenting had an awesome post about introversion and I felt compelled to purchase the book she mentioned. I don’t have tons of time to read [...]

December 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLong over due link love |

Nice post, very sadly funny and interesting. I know children can be very loud, so it makes sense you will start to enjoy quiet time more now to get peace of mind. Thanks for the read!

January 18, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterinteresting introvert

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