Do TCKs’ social skills help them join in or shy away from new situations?

The concept of ‘repetitive change’ is very common for the TCK. Frequent and continuous change usually creates inner confidence and a strong sense of self-reliance. Some TCKs flourish in this permanent state of change, whilst others absolutely hate it, but either way, TCKs have the skills to adapt. Their extensive practice in adapting to different situations and cultures means they are adept enough to shift and see the human perspective without necessarily understanding the finer points of the surrounding culture.

A fantastic example of this is President Obama, who because of his experiences in childhood, was able to reach and truly connect with a range of racial and social groups throughout his presidential campaign. Growing up as the son of a single mother who at one point was receiving food stamps, he moved to Indonesia with her and his stepfather and attended the local schools. At the weekends he would eat hamburgers and spend time with Americans at the US Embassy, before moving to Hawaii to live with his white grandparents. These experiences were a huge help in setting him up to be able to blend in and connect with any new situation or environment with apparent ease.

This confidence is strengthened through the knowledge that the TCK will become more attuned to any new environment if given enough time to do so. They rarely shy away from new environments and situations and they are often recognised as bigger risk-takers because of this. This confidence will sometimes mean that the TCK believes they can contribute to solving the larger issues that face the world. On a more personal level, they do not fear travelling across the world on their own or not knowing who they will stay with or where. They remain confident that at some point they will make connections and therefore organisational factors become a secondary consideration against the bigger picture.

But of course, the TCK skillset has often got a flip side! It has been noted that this same feeling of confidence can actually paralyse a person from participating or initiating something through pure fear of making mistakes. As a chameleon slowly changes its colours to blend into its new environment, so the same can occur with TCKs. Standing on the peripheries they observe and slowly change according to their environment or at times they can decide to retreat to be hidden completely. Even those who have previously been outgoing in new situations may become extremely introverted all of a sudden. Perhaps a TCK has returned to Sweden, their home country, after spending many years in the tropics and has never learned how to ski, snowboard, or ice skate.  In these situations, they would rather not join in than be seen as hopeless!

The choice to hold back and not get involved also makes the TCK stand out when people wonder why they are not joining in. At the same time, if they join in and make a fool of themselves, they will quickly be labelled as a social misfit. This TCK cannot win and invariably those who have decided to retreat and not join in find comfort and seek out others who are not joining in too, which in turn gives them a sense of belonging, but these individuals are often the ones who seem to be always in trouble or fighting against the norm. If at some point the TCK decides to remove themselves from the group, unfortunately, they have already been labelled as belonging to another group.