Quietly Faithful: Are you talking to me?

By Stephen R. Clark

by Danielle Dolin

Moving into a new situation can be challenging, especially for an introvert. When starting a new job, you don’t know anyone, don’t know where the supplies are, don’t know the culture or hierarchy, and may barely know where your desk is and where the bathrooms are! It’s a similar experience going to a new church.

As Donald Rumsfeld might have said, in a new situation, “There are known knowns. But there are also unknown unknowns—the things we don’t know we don’t know.”

New experiences are full of unknown unknowns! Introverts are not comfortable with the unknown. Given that introverts can become exhausted from too much input, it makes sense that a new situation can feel overwhelming. There’s a lot to learn and take in.

One way to ease the discomfort is to view the new situation as an opportunity to “spy out the land.” Yes, just like Moses sending spies to discover what’s what in the Promised Land (Numbers 13). Besides, people watching can be fun!

Whenever I find myself in a new situation, my go-to behavior is full-on introvert. I listen, observe, and remain as quiet as possible, almost invisible. I listen and observe to gather intel. Information is an introvert’s friend! The more we know the better we can relax in our environment.

If you’re inviting someone to an event who you know is an introvert, give them as much information as you can. The more they know in advance, the more likely they are to show up and engage.

Here’s a really interesting truth about introverts. Once we feel comfortable and safe in the new setting, we’ll become increasingly visible and start speaking up. There are often two reactions when we do:

  1. It startles those around us as we’re suddenly very seen and vocal.
  2. We are able to provide deep insights and valuable contributions.

As an introvert, I’ll often be quiet at the start of meetings. Listening and processing what’s being said. When I believe I have something of value to add, I’ll speak up. In fact, if the meeting topic is something I’m familiar with and passionate about (like a Bible study), I can become a chatty introvert!

Years ago I worked at AT&T developing proposals. One day in a staff meeting, the discussion got very intense. And I was right in the thick of it! Afterwards my boss looked at me smiling and said, “Who are you?” His point was that on this day a different Stephen showed up.

This is not unusual. Introverts learn to navigate the world and know how and when to be assertive and more “extroverted” in their behavior. Our speaking up can catch people off guard. They may ask, “Are you talking to me?” Yes, we are talking to you, and what we have to say is worth hearing. We’re still fully introverts and later will need to be quiet and recharge. We also have a valuable voice and know how to use it when given space.

Sound off! I would love to hear from you. Share your experience as an introvert. Suggest topics for future columns. Ask questions. Please email me at cnjintrovert@gmail.com.

Stephen R. Clark is a writer who lives in Lansdale, PA with his wife, BethAnn, where they are members of Immanuel Church. His website is www.StephenRayClark.com. He is a member of the Evangelical Press Association and managing editor of the Christian Freelance Writers Network blog. He is also a news writer for The Baptist Paper and contributor to the Englewood Review of Books. His writing has appeared in several publications. You can contact Stephen at cnjintrovert@gmail.com. The content of this column is copyright © by Stephen R. Clark.

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