Although many people use the terms interchangeably, Introversion and Shyness are not synonymous. Introversion is a measure of how one processes information (internally vs. externally) and this process is hard-wired in your brain. You do not choose introversion or extroversion, just as you do not choose being right or left handed. Shyness is a measure of self-confidence or insecurity and often varies by the situation. Shyness can change and become lesser (or greater) over time.

However, introverts may be incorrectly perceived as being shy, because some of us need time to think before speaking. Unfortunately, as a result of being labeled as “quiet” over time, we may also become more wary of social situations. We start believing that something is wrong with us, possibly even making the “shyness” label become a reality.

If you perceive someone as quiet, just engage them and give them some time to respond.  It really doesn’t help to say “you are quiet” or “you need to come out of your shell” to either adults or children. These phrases tend to leave the quiet one even more speechless!

A better approach is to keep your judgments and labels to yourself, and instead, provide a positive and nurturing atmosphere that encourages expression when the “quiet” person has something to share. Relax and don’t feel uncomfortable in the silence that is allowing the introvert time to think. Pause so he or she has a place to comment. And recognize that introverts have usually given a lot of thought to what they have to contribute, so it’s probably important enough to listen to.

You’ll find that once you get to know a “quiet” person, they actually have quite a bit to say!

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