If your child buries their face in your shoulder when meeting strangers, don’t worry. Parents of shy kids feel a lot of external pressure to help our little introverts break out of their shells. Well-meaning relatives, bookstore shelves and Google searches offer parents plenty of advice about how to help a child overcome shyness—but there is actually plenty of research indicating that shyness isn’t the disadvantage society makes it out to be.
Let’s take a look at six reasons why shy kids have so much going for them—
1. They do have the words, they’re just not using them
Shyness doesn’t hamper language acquisition, according to researchers. A 2014 study out of the Universities of Connecticut and Colorado debunked previous research that indicated shy kids have weaker language skills than louder peers. The newer study examined twins from 14 months to 2 years old and found the shy twins weren’t quiet because they didn’t know their words. Rather, they knew them—they just weren’t as eager to use them.
2. They have complex inner lives and thoughts
Yes, they can be in their own little world, but they’re also very much in ours. Research indicates sensitive, shy people report richer and more complex inner lives. They’ve got a lot going on inside their minds, but they are better able to process what’s happening in the world around them. (Perhaps because they’re taking it all in instead of talking!)
3. They are great listeners + conversationalists
According to psychologists Bernardo Carducci and Philip Zimbardo, a pair who studied shyness for decades, shy people can be great at conversation because they’re great at listening. The key is catching them in low-pressure environments. And shy kids are “apt to be especially empathic,” a trait that makes them a great friend.
4. They may have emotional superpowers
A study of college students out of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale found young adults who identify as shy are better at reading the facial expressions of others, especially when it comes to sensing someone is sad or fearful. That’s definitely an ability that could come in handy in adulthood!
5. They make great leaders
Parents often worry that a shy child won’t grow up to be a leader, as society often identities extroverts as those with leadership potential. But Harvard research shows your quiet kid may grow up to be a great boss. “Introverted leaders tend to listen more carefully and show greater receptivity to suggestions, making them more effective leaders of vocal teams,” the researchers write. They tasked teams of college kids with folding clothes, and found then when the teams were led by introverts, they performed 28 percent better than those with extroverted leaders.
6. They are in good company
Some of the most-admired celebrities and luminaries out there have self-identified as shy—including Beyonce, Jessica Alba, Warren Buffet and Brene Brown. As Albert Einstein once said about the advantages of his introverted tendencies, “One of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is escape from everyday life. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from the personal life into the world of objective perception and thought.”
Society often seems to expect kids to be in-your-face and hyper social, but some of are born with a more reserved nature—and that’s perfectly fine.
Eventually, the little face buried in your shoulder will venture out to make great friends and do great things.