I am an introvert.
I am not shy. Shyness and introversion are not the same. Though introverts can be shy, for sure.
I love people. Like a lot. My heart is dialed to tender, and I am ubiquitously teary about the poignantly mundane. I get choked up over a kid I don’t even know struggling to cross the finish line at a cross country meet. I’m a softy.
I love people. All their words…..not so much.
I love public speaking. Though this is generally not the case for most introverts, I would rather speak to a thousand people than make small talk with one. I abhor it like nothing else.
I would rather sit and have someone pull out every hair on my head individually than participate in sorority rush again. Speed small talk with strangers; I have never done anything more contrary to my wiring than that.
But. If you want to immediately get to the guts of a conversation – without taking me through the hoops of drivel before we get there – let’s go. I think that may be part of why I love ministering to inmates; small talk doesn’t exist in jail.
I prefer group settings to one-on-one. In a group setting, I feel less pressure to interact. Because I can always count on you to keep the conversation going. You mask my withdrawal, allowing me time to think before I jump into the fray or allowing me to check out without much notice.
But, admittedly, I’m rotten in a fast-paced, high pressure meeting. The squeeze of the rapid-fire shuts me down. Often times you guys leave thinking we introverts had nothing to contribute. But if we were given a short window of time to process the discussion, the collective could benefit from all the ideas at the table. There is no research to suggest that the fastest speaker with the biggest personality has the best ideas.
I genuinely love being alone. I am not hiding or retreating. I am not insecure. I am reflective, and I have to think before I can express.
I have a low threshold for lots of interaction and stimulation. After a lot of activity – even bustle that is wholly fun and entertaining – my insides begin to vibrate. I feel like a juiced electric fence. I nap almost every day and it’s not so much because I don’t get enough sleep. It’s because I have to set aside time to shut down all stimulation and restore steadiness inside my skin. It doesn’t take long but without it I charge my family like the bulls of Pamplona.
So please don’t judge us as self-indulgent, selfish, or lazy.
Open work space is an introvert’s nightmare. I am less creative in an environment with more stimulation. The busyness and noise zaps and drains; it’s why I don’t write in coffee shops or with music.
I chase silence and allow it to insulate my thoughts.
So, your introvert employees/coworkers may go in search of a dark closet with a power outlet for a workspace. It doesn’t mean they aren’t a team player. It doesn’t mean they’re ditching you. It means their tolerance for activity is less than yours.
I often have to force myself to talk. And when I say force I mean I literally say to myself, “Okay, Cookie, you must share this. It’s unfair to the relationship if you don’t express this” or “This is a legit idea; you have a responsibility to share it. Ready, set, go.” It is especially difficult for me to share my feelings. That takes an extra firm internal nudge. Talking also takes extra resolve after I’ve been alone for an extended period of time. I can climb so far into myself that I have to push myself back out there.
Time and space for reflection is necessary. Even among you guys, our extroverted brethren. Our culture is built around extroverted ideals. We believe that aggressive sociability is imperative to success, so the introverts in the room are left feeling deficient. Like our wiring makes us inferior. That isn’t a thing. Luke 5:16 (emphasis added) makes time and space for reflection and prayer a wise priority for us all:
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
I am better in writing than I am in a conversation. When I can slow-cook my words, I have something worthwhile to add to a dialogue. The quality of what I can add on the fly is vastly diminished.
Chris, my husband, and I have learned to effectively navigate this in our communication. As much as you may disagree, he and I initially wade through a disagreement via text messages. We will always conclude it with an actual conversation, but in a text I have time to carefully and accurately compose my feelings and express them without the emotional charge of face-to-face. As the extrovert in the relationship, texting causes Chris to pause and think through his words before they are rashly released. It’s working really well for us.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, the book, and the site, Quiet Revolution, are great resources for introverts and extroverts alike. Many years ago I prayed that God would help me understand how He made me. That He would nurture the aspects of me that are consistent with what He put in me and how He wants to use me.
In the same prayer I prayed that He would help me see what I have learned to be that actually is contrary to how He made me. I asked Him to help me “unlearn” anything that hinders His plan for my continued transformation. And I believe He’s doing that.
At 42 I understand more about how I’m built. AND about how my story and circumstances have taught me things that sometimes stand against God’s purposes for me. It is my quest to walk more confidently in the things that He mixed in – like introversion – that make me me and to allow the scalpel of Truth to remove the things that have crept into my nature as a result of fear, hurt, loss, and even cultural expectations.
I make no attempt to speak for all introverts. What’s true for me may not be true for all introverts, but we do all kind of live in the same neighborhood.
I am listening to the audiobook version of Quiet and I took an informal assessment in the book. I scored 65% introvert, 35% extrovert, which I think is really pretty accurate. While there’s no such thing as a 100% introvert or extrovert, there are traits we share that cause us to operate differently.
Most of the time, gregarious friend, we wish we could get after it with your quick assault on life; rock on with all your words and high energy. Just know that a lot is happening in our brains…you’re just going to have to slow down to hear it.
Kindest regards from the hermitage…
Cookie[Images by Nguyen Hung Vu, Merri, & Brett Jordan]