Shyness vs. Introversion, Surviving Playdates, Sharing Ideas, and More: Readers Ask Susan Cain

23 Jun

Catherine MacBride/Stocksy


Susan answered today’s first question, about the difference between shyness and introversion, on video. After the video, read on for more questions and answers!

As my now-young kids grow, I am not looking forward to having to meet and socialize with their friends’ parents at play dates, etc. How can I prepare for these forced small-talk situations in the coming years?Cory G., Michigan, via Facebook

This is such a great question, Cory. I hear it from tons of parents, so know that you’re not alone. I have three pieces of advice for you:

1. Remember that there are many things we do for the love of our kids even if they’re challenging—think diapering or waking up in the middle of the night for feedings. Instead of feeling like you should enjoy play dates (as many moms around you will appear to do), just acknowledge to yourself that this is one of those parenting challenges and give yourself a pat on the back when it’s done.
2. Look for parents whose company you truly enjoy—they’re out there! Often you’ll find that your children like their kids as much as the two parents enjoy each other’s company.
3. Look for fun activities that your child can do with a friend. It’s often much more fun to have a playdate around a scheduled activity (a trip to the zoo, for example) than it is to sit around someone’s playroom making conversation.

My ideas feel private and personal. How do I gain the comfort and confidence to share them?Anonymous

One of the reasons I didn’t launch my writing career until my thirties was because I was wrestling with the very same issue! I would recommend that you always keep a journal in which you write down everything that’s for your eyes only. Decide which ideas you do want to share with the world. And, as with any fear, approach this one in small, manageable steps. Experiment with sharing your ideas little by little and seeing how you feel. You’ll probably find that you enjoy it more than you think!

As an introvert, I always feel more comfortable if I have the company of my friends when I enter an alien environment. Is this a common experience for introverts?Huang W., via Facebook

Yes, this is incredibly common for introverts! In fact, when advising parents of introverted children, I often recommend that they introduce their kids to new activities with the comfort of a nearby friend. As with anything, the key to successful experience is self-awareness. If having a friend along helps you feel comfortable, then go for it.

I find it very hard to think clearly when put on the spot in large groups. Do you have tips on how to alleviate this and think more clearly in the face of pressure?Lauren K.

This, like any other, is a skill you can improve. I suggest enrolling in a local Toastmasters. If you’re not familiar with Toastmasters, it’s a worldwide organization of local chapters where you can go to practice public speaking, including speaking off the cuff, in a safe and supportive environment. Good luck!

A constant challenge and duty for those who struggle to be heard: how do we tell the truth without being boring?John F.

People often ask me how others manage to turn their everyday experience into interesting, compelling stories. If you’re not inclined to storytelling, don’t worry about it. Since telling the truth is very important to you, make honesty your center. Give truthful answers, and don’t be afraid to add your personal reflections and opinions to your statements of fact. That is more than enough to be “interesting.”

I am looking to move to a new city, but I don’t make friends easily. I attempted this once unsuccessfully. How can I do this effectively?Jim C., Virginia

Don’t look for friends; look for passions. Sign up for activities you enjoy: hiking, volunteering at an animal shelter, playing tennis—whatever suits you best. (By the way, Quiet Revolution contributor Emily White is going to be covering this exact topic over the coming months.) You’ll meet like-minded people with similar interests, and that’s all you need to start a friendship!

What do you think, readers? Do you agree or disagree with Susan’s thoughts? Any other suggestions? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!