Introvert vs. Extrovert Survival Strategies


Two little boys played at a lakeside beach. The water was cold and reached their waists, in some places their chests.

One boy plunged right in. He didn’t know how to swim, but that didn’t stop him.

The second boy stuck by the shore. He didn’t know how to swim, so he built elaborate sand piles from the safety of the shallows.

The first boy tripped, fell below the surface of the water, and had to be rescued by his mother. He came up spluttering but cheerful, and ready for more.

The second boy played contentedly.

The first boy’s skin turned white with cold. His lips were blue. He had had a wonderful time at the lake, but by lunchtime he was spent and had to go home.

The second boy kept playing, all afternoon long, until the sun set and he had to be dragged away from the water’s edge.

This past week, my family vacationed at a lake full of kids, and I couldn’t help but compare these two children on the beach. It was a perfect example of introvert vs. extrovert survival strategies:

Introverts conserve energy, extroverts seize the day.

Introverts err on the side of caution, extroverts take risks.

Introverts focus, extroverts explore.

The world needs both kinds of people. To understand why, all you had to do was watch those two boys on the beach.



  1. Alhena on 20.06.2011 at 21:09 (Reply)

    That’s a lovely observation…:) I find that true for myself even today, unlike friends of mine who will quickly jump in the water and then want to go home I can lay in the sand for hours, read or sometimes just relax..simply blissful.:)

  2. Danielle on 21.06.2011 at 06:51 (Reply)

    It is very true that introverts take more precautions than extroverts do and I don’t know if menopause has anything to do with it, but I’ve lost my “spunk” since it started and am a lot more careful than I used to be when I was younger. Based on my readings, fear seems to creep up on us women about the same time menopause does, probably due to a hormonal changes. I’d love to know if fear creeps up on men in their 50s as well and if it has something to do with being an introvert or not.

    As an introvert, I do think twice before I do something and ask myself a lot of questions before I just “jump in” without precaution, regardless of the situation I find myself in. I prefer to be safe than sorry. I’ve seen too many people negatively affected by their rashness, some of which wound up in their graves earlier than anticipated.

    I’m glad that the child (at the lake you were at) had his mom nearby to pull him out before he drowned. A young child drowned this past week in my region in a pool that had not yet been cleaned up since last year. He got away from his 26 year old baby-sitter for just a few minutes (she was also caring for a second child at the time) and that is all it took for him to run to the dirty pool in which he drowned. The only way they could tell he was in the pool was because they found his clothing beside it. The police had to use grapples to find him because the water was filthy and the surface was thick with green moss. Another young child also came close to drowning that same day, but they managed to get him out before he drowned although they don’t yet know if he’ll suffer irreparable damage to his brain from lack of oxygen. So I caution all moms out there to keep a close watch on their kids this summer, regardless of whether or not they are introverts. No one should have to bury their child.

  3. Luna on 21.06.2011 at 13:05 (Reply)

    Coming back from a family trip to London my son was seated next to me and spent almost the entire eight hour flight playing with a mitt full of plastiscene I had made and packed in his game backpack. He would occasionally share with me what he was making or what was going on in his little world but he was happy as could be just sitting there moulding this coloured ball into a multitude of shapes. I read to him a bit but he was always happy to go back to his games. A teenage Algerian boy visiting Canada for the first time was staring at him in complete amazement and asked me first what on Earth he was playing with and second how he could amuse himself so well for so long. He then turned to converse with the large group he was sitting with and began playing a game they had brought with them. At 17 my son still has that amazing capacity to focus on a task for extended periods as well as just do his own thing though he has good friends and excellent social skills. Both he and I find being around extroverted people too long draining. We like them and often find them supremely entertaining (sorry I don’t mean they are side show circus acts) but after a while I find my attention drifting as does he.

  4. sonata on 26.03.2012 at 02:07 (Reply)

    This is funny to me. When my daughter was almost two, we went to a big event where families gathered and left the kids (ranging in age from less than two to eight) in the care of a babysitter while they went off to be entertained. When I returned, all of the kids — all but my daughter — were sitting in front of the TV watching videos, lolling about on each other, giggling and sweating, etc. In the next room my daughter sat on the floor beside a stack of books, turning the pages of one after the other. The babysitter said, “Is that your little girl?” I said yes. “She was very good. But strange.” I was delighted about this in every way except her negative judgment.

  5. Catherine on 29.03.2013 at 07:54 (Reply)

    I’m 58 years old now, and remember when I was 10 and our family was moving from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. No one in my family drove, so we took a Greyhound bus. My Grandmother was very concerned that I’d be horribly bored on the long, 8 hour trip, so she brought all kinds of toys and dolls and coloring books, etc. I didn’t touch one … instead, I was mesmerized and oh-so-very-content to sit, quietly, just looking out the window, watching the trees and towns and lakes and rivers go by. To this day, one of my favorite pastimes is to get in the car with a few apples or granola bars, and some water … and just drive. No radio, no “company”, no destination. I am content and peaceful with my inner world, and yes, it recharges my batteries wonderfully!

    Loved the article … and yes, I absolutely would have been the one on the beach, quietly happy, building castles in the sun. :))

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