Personality: Keys to Parenting an Extrovert

Let your extroverts be extroverts. Let them know that you appreciate their social skills. Be patient with what may, at times, appear to you to be pointless rambling. Remember that extroverts think while speaking or after speaking. Don’t interpret their chatty nature as being shallow or superficial. Think out loud with them. Often what may appear to be pointless rambling can be directed into a meaningful discussion that integrates some important principles. When extroverts say something, don’t assume that they have thought about it. Remember that extroverts prefer to process information externally. Find out whether they are merely thinking out loud or have given the idea/suggestion some thought in order to be sure it is something they really want to do. It’s common for an introvert to take seriously what an extrovert is merely tossing around as an idea. It’s equally common for an extrovert to interpret as a casual idea something the introvert has spent days or weeks thinking about.

Extroverts recharge their emotional batteries by being with people. Introverts recharge their emotional batteries by getting away and being alone. Be a ready listener. Sometimes it’s good to encourage them to think out loud and to do some of your thinking out loud with them. When talking to an extrovert, make sure your pauses aren’t too long. A hard-core extrovert may mistake you taking a breath as a sign that you have completed your thoughts and are ready for him or her to jump in. If something is important to you, let the extrovert know it. Because extroverts think out loud, they tend not to assume something is as important as it may be to an introvert.

Encourage their time with friends. I’ve read that men and women differ in the frequency with which they contact friends during a week. In my experience, it’s not as much a male/female issue as it is an extroversion/introversion issue. I heard a speaker who had surveyed 600 people and found that the frequency of contacting friends was as much a function of their preference for introversion or extroversion as it was being male or female.

As you get to know your extroverted child, you will discover new opportunities for parenting his or her heart. Several years ago when my son Matt came home from school, I asked, “Matt, how did your day go today?” “Fine,” he replied. Because of what Matt said, I could have assumed that everything was “fine.” But by listening to his tone of voice and noticing his one-word response, I immediately had reason to think something might be wrong. Why? Like most extroverts, Matt rarely gives a one-word response to that kind of a question. He is energetic, extroverted, enthusiastic and usually very positive.

I once heard about a little boy whose teacher asked the class to write a story about cowboys. This little guy ended his story by saying, “And the cowboy jumped on his horse and rode off in all directions.” That described Matt. Because I had studied Matt, I knew he was an extrovert and I was aware of his usual communication patterns. Therefore, I was alerted to the fact that something might be wrong-either he was tired and had a hard day or he was experiencing some emotion he didn’t know how to deal with. With these insights, I chose to check out my impression with him. Sure enough, sometimes had happened at school to discourage him. We were able to talk about it. I basically just listened and asked a few open questions. Matt learned something about his emotions that day, and I learned more about him.

Dr. Gary Oliver has over 40 years experience in individual, premarital, marital and family counseling and for the past 20 years he has had an extensive nationwide teaching ministry.