Dear Extrovert…

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.

introvert sign

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]
The Smile of a Disposable Woman
The Vulnerability Hangover

12 Comments

  1. Donna Helms
    Donna HelmsReply
    November 3, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    OMG!!! You hit the nail sure on! I, too, am more comfortable in the quiet. We are very much alike, except for the public speaking.

    • Cookie Cawthon
      November 3, 2015 at 5:55 pm

      The public speaking is a bit of an anomaly. But I can prepare all the words in advance and it’s usually one-sided communication, so I actually love it for reasons that are still consistent with being an introvert.

  2. Heather
    HeatherReply
    November 3, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    Amen sister! I feel your pain and celebrate the calm, quiet places with you. I’m learning so much about me these days and dealing with introversion in an extroverted world is one of the hardest lessons. So thankful to have you in my introverted camp to help me along the way!

    • Cookie Cawthon
      November 3, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      It does seem like self-discovery has been on God’s agenda for both of us this past year or so… It’s so fun – and surprising – to learn new things about my very own self. Thankful for our parallel journeys that have been so different but with so many of the same lessons.

  3. Chad Logan
    Chad LoganReply
    November 4, 2015 at 10:39 am

    Thank you so much for this Cookie! It’s helped me learn a lot more on my journey towards self realization.

    • Cookie Cawthon
      November 4, 2015 at 10:43 am

      Thanks for reading, Chad! While we will continue to live in an extrovert’s world, we can be smart about how we interact with it without operating in a way that is contrary to our wiring. Hope you and your beautiful family are doing so well!!

  4. Debbie
    DebbieReply
    November 4, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    “Met” you through your article on purpose in suffering, which I LOVED!! And now, THIS! We could so be friends. Carry on, Cookie!

    • Cookie Cawthon
      November 4, 2015 at 4:34 pm

      I love this, Debbie! So nice to meet you…it’s always too fun to meet another gal cut from the same cloth. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  5. Roxann Wrightson
    Roxann WrightsonReply
    November 4, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    Cookie, this is so similar to what I’ve been discovering about myself recently. During my life, I’ve always considered myself an extrovert. I was the cheerleader, dancer, very ‘outgoing’, blah, blah, blah. But, in my older years, while I still love dealing with ‘the public’ on a regular basis, I find that I only have a couple of very close friends. I avoid one-on-one interaction, and love my alone time. I have always been like this, but am just recently becoming self-aware. Thank you so much for posting this!!

    • Cookie Cawthon
      November 4, 2015 at 4:38 pm

      Roxann, me too! I couldn’t believe it the first time I took Myers-Briggs. I love being my “big self” but can only do it for a defined period of time before I’m toast. Thank you for jumping into the conversation!

  6. Sheila Hilton
    Sheila HiltonReply
    November 17, 2015 at 10:17 am

    Cookie:
    Reading your blog reminds me of the day you interviewed for your first job at T. L. Hanna. Being an introvert, I can only imagine what an interview must have seemed like to you. I just want to let you know that of all the interviews I have ever done, yours was the most memorable. For years after that interview, I would remind committees that passionate new teachers, most often without any obvious experience, should always be highly considered for employment so that faculties can have a balance of veteran and new teachers. I don’t know if you remember or not, but at the end of your interview, you asked if you could say one more thing. You explained that you knew there were many applicants with more experience than you. You said that you wanted us to give you an opportunity to prove yourself to us, and you asked us to please consider you. When you walked out of the room, I turned to the committee and said, “I want to hire her. I see something in her that one does not always see in an applicant.” The other committee members readily agreed. That interview and your comments stayed with me for the rest of my career, and our committees were always told at the beginning of an interview process that new, young, passionate teachers could only energize our teaching staff. I just wanted to share that I saw something in you then that I continue to see in your blog — a strength and compassion that will always make the world a better place! Sheila Hilton

    • Cookie Cawthon
      November 17, 2015 at 7:42 pm

      Okay. I cried.

      I vividly remember my TLH interview and also remember that my roommate didn’t pay the phone bill, so it was disconnected when you tried to reach me. Thank you for seeing something in me that made you willing to take a chance. My journey to here has involved many twists, but my time at TL Hanna is still some of the sweetest. I learned so much and worked with some of the finest people I’ve ever known, present company included. Much respect and gratitude for your leadership. You left big shoes for me to fill when I moved into that classroom…

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