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Personality is About Context...A 1st Grade Experience

My son (who was in grade 1 at the time) had an assignment due for school.  It was a timeline with different criteria and levels assigned based on qualitative (interpreted) results.  My son came up with 4 separate events on his timeline (his birth, his sister's birth, his 6th birthday and a future event, becoming an author.  I know right?  An author!)  And, sadly, we're already teaching our children that to go with your natural personality traits could be wrong.Personality is about context

The criteria for the assignment, especially given that this is a grade 1 assignment, seem more focused on quality...and not the quality of the content.  When words are not pronounced clearly or if the student stands in a slouched manner, points are deducted.  Translation: at an age where behavioural coping mechanisms are still developing (mostly on the playground, not in the boardroom) we're assigning negative connotations to our children's natural tendencies.

Consider this: I have interviewed a number of vice-president's, c-level executives and managers whose natural personalities differ greatly than what you would expect.  Sales VP's aren't always as naturally socially outgoing as you'd think.  But, they have developed coping mechanisms and learned behaviours that (while more likely than not uncomfortable for these individuals) allow them to be successful in their respective positions.  Why are we suggesting to our kids that being shy is not OK?

being shy is different than being introverted...and both are 'OK'

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The other thing that is frustratingly clear is that it's so easy to read between the lines and see that an individual who is shy is being labeled as 'introverted'; both are different and one is a much broader factor than the other (being shy is part of our need for stability while extraversion is made up of 5 different facets entirely).  As a matter of fact, it's possible (and quite common) to be shy and an extravert.  You can not want to be the first to point out someone else's mistakes and still take an interest in others and like building networks.  Perfect example (using my son again): Jacob is very shy...prefers to take a room in and observe for 20 or so minutes before becoming involved with activities.  Socially though, he is actively interested in others around him, has a high energy level and enjoys group activities.  Summary: reticent and extraverted.

Here's the bottom line: both are OK.  It's OK to be shy.  It does not mean that you are any less developed or that you will be unsuccessful (go back to those VP's and director's).  Everything is about context.  A child who is naturally shy may take 15-20 minutes to warm up in a group environment...and after that you'd never know.  They learn to cope with the situation and become comfortable with their peers.

The thing about this is that the same rules can be applied to the workplace. There is no right or wrong at face value; everything is about context.

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Topics: personality