Sunday, April 8, 2012

Let’s Hear it for Being Shy!

A wonderful new book has come out that I think everyone, parents and non-parents alike, should read. It’s called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. As the title suggests, the author is on a crusade to extol the virtues of a personality tendency our society too often thinks of as a disability—something to be ‘fixed.”

When I read the book myself, I immediately saw the connection to a section in my book (with Dr. Susan Goodwyn) called Baby Hearts from which I took an excerpt to use for this blog a full year ago. Obviously, the points are important and, I believe, worth repeating. So, here you are:

Do you have a “shy” child? I have two! Both my son and daughter come by their shyness honestly because neither one of their parents could be called extroverted! In fact, learning to overcome my inherently introverted personality in order to stand up in front of large classes of undergraduates required years of patience and practice.

Oh dear! Even in this opening paragraph I’ve fallen victim to a reaction to shyness typical of Western culture. Because Western cultures tend to value assertiveness and sociability, parents of shy children often worry that their child is at a disadvantage. If you find yourself in this category, it may help you deal with your anxiety to realize that being shy usually comes with some very nice side benefits. In fact, the human race probably wouldn’t still be here were it not for the talents that shy people tend to development. Here are some examples:

Shy Children Tend to be Keen Observers: Because they are so concerned about what other people think about them, shy children work harder than most children at being able to read subtle emotional cues in other people’s behavior and expressions. This is a skill that serves them well in any interactions they have.

Shy Children Tend to be Natural Empathizers: Because they are keen observers and know all too well what it is like to suffer, shy children often develop greater empathy for others than their comparably aged peers.

Shy Children Tend to be Good Imaginers: Because they spend more time on their own, shy children often create inner worlds of great richness. And having a vivid and creative imagination can be enormously useful, helping them excel in many fields.

Shy Children Tend to be Loyal Friends: Because they sometimes have trouble making friends, once they have one, shy children are incredibly loyal. They understand how precious a good friend truly is and go to great lengths to be the very best friend they can be.

So, the next time you begin to worry about your “shy” child, remember that being shy isn’t the huge disadvantage that it’s sometimes made out to be. There are, in fact, many silver linings to be treasured!

Happy Signing (and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook)!


Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.
Co-Founder, the Baby Signs® Program
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis
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