In 2014, I worked as a volunteer facilitator at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. My job involved working in the interactive, hands-on sections of the museum, where I greeted guests and shared trivia on the exhibits in the gallery.
One function of my job involved a gigantic sandbox where “real” dinosaur bones were buried, which kids could dig up. We were encouraged to interact and play with the kids, teaching them about the specific bones buried in the sandbox. While a large part of the job involved my extroverted qualities, one of my fondest experiences had to do with introverted qualities.
It was a quiet day at the museum. There weren’t any people in the gallery. I was studying up on some of the trivia when a small boy came to play in the dinosaur sandbox. Whether it’s one kid or 10, we are encouraged to interact with them. I cautiously approached the boy, whose mother was watching him play, and asked if he would like to learn more about the dinosaurs he was digging up. He enthusiastically agreed. As I began to tell him more about the bones, he surprised me by asking a variety of different and intelligent questions. He wanted to know whether I’d ever heard of a number of particular dinosaurs that he was fond of and began telling me all these interesting facts about some of the dinosaurs he loved. He confessed to being a fan of dinosaur TV programs and spending a large majority of his time watching them.
Within a few minutes, he had me beat. While I knew enough trivia about dinosaurs to do my job, this kid was in a league of his own. He was so enthusiastic and passionate about dinosaurs that I wouldn’t be surprised if he grew up to be a paleontologist. Eventually, I let him take the reins and just listened to him tell me all these fascinating stories and facts. I learned more about dinosaurs that day than I had in a long while. It was a truly enjoyable afternoon.
As an introvert, I’ve always been more comfortable listening to other people and interpreting my responses from their actions. What I remember most about the experience was how great it was to listen to the little boy tell me about his interest in dinosaurs. I was able to use my listening skills to build on the conversation, making his day at the museum (and mine) even more enjoyable and productive.
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