Introverts, Extroverts, Dandelions and Orchids

Over the course of the past couple of months I’ve become reluctantly accustomed to remote meetings. I now find that during the course of a day it’s not unusual for me to meet with fifty or more people through Zoom professional and client meetings, expanding my geographical network while remaining unmoved from my office chair. For some folks I suppose this might be a dream come true while for others, like me, it feels a bit hollow and reminds me of the children’s story, Flat Stanley, where although Stanley travelled the world, he did so as a two-dimensional slip of a person. Somehow without the physical presence of other people I feel less able to convey empathy, and my connections with other people feel more tenuous. That having been said, I’m grateful for the technology we have that allows us to be “connected” as much and in as many ways as we are. And of course there are silver linings… reconnecting with friends, colleagues and physically distant family members through virtual gatherings, game nights and cocktail parties.

During this challenging time I’ve noticed how different the challenges are for self- described extroverts and introverts. Many extroverts I talk with describe social distancing as a difficult “ask”, while many of the introverts I’ve talked to seem to feel like the world has finally caught up with their preferred style, allowing them to expand their social networks by having reduced or eliminated the “overwhelm” they often feel in the presence of many people. In her book Quiet Susan Cain talks about how society loses a great deal by undervaluing the contributions of introverts. Although introverts and extroverts are about evenly divided between personality types, we shine in different ways. Historically this difference has translated into extroverts having an easier time shining in workplace leadership positions while introverts have had a harder time being recognized in the workplace for their thoughts and ideas (they’re quieter). Now, without the noise created by open, collaborative offices and the expectation of being constantly connected, some introverts have told me they feel as though they are shining in the space of their own homes where quiet and solitude are allowing them to produce their best work.

Perhaps this also applies to children now being homeschooled. Despite the many complications parents are encountering as they juggle their work and home lives with their children’s schooling and needs at home, I’ve heard some parents talk about the positive changes they’re witnessing in their own children. I’m reminded of Dandelions and Orchids, a book written by pediatrician Tom Boyce in which he analogizes children to ‘dandelions’, who are able to survive and flourish under most circumstances, and ‘orchids’, who are more sensitive, susceptible and fragile, but given the right support, can thrive as much as, if not more than, other children. I hope to keep this analogy in mind when we re-integrate into more socially involved lives, ensuring our ‘orchids’ get the love and support they need as we seek to establish our new normal.

Perhaps a silver lining to this difficult, frustratingly avoidable, unprecedented and challenging time, will be our new found ability to more readily embrace the unique styles, sensitivities and gifts we each bring to the table. Possibly this time will be our collective chrysalis, a time from which we will emerge able to spread our wings, more accepting of one another, and better able to appreciate the quieter gifts that before this time often went unseen, unappreciated and undervalued.

In light of the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak, our physical Consilium office remains closed, however we continue to work remotely providing consultation, support and mediation services to our clients.  We are cognizant of the increased anxiety and newfound economic strain the Coronavirus is causing many of our clients, and we understand how these complications bear upon you and your families. We are fortunate to have the most up to date technology, assuring us secure and confidential computer and video conferencing access, and internal communication and storage for our clients’ privacy. Please reach out if you have questions we might be able to answer. We send a heartfelt wish to all that you are safe and stay healthy through the crisis, and beyond.

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