Being an introvert is not a disease or a disability. It’s not about being shy or lacking boldness. It is about how you were made to be by a loving God. How he made you is very good, introvert or extrovert. It seems pretty clear that God determined both personality types are needed in his kingdom on earth.
But what does it mean to be an introvert or an extrovert?
Twenty years ago, a landmark article by Jonathan Rauch appeared in The Atlantic titled “” The feedback from this article was “overwhelming.” The often disregarded introvert giant had awakened and was stirring.
Even though the idea of introverts and extroverts had been discussed in psychological literature since at least the early 1900s, being validated and accepted as an introvert was still a fairly new cultural concept at the turn of the century.
Introverts, in general, are more sensitive to all manner of external stimuli (environment), they prefer solitude to crowds (energy), and think deeply and slowly (focus).
Let’s look briefly at each of these three areas:
Energy. It seems to be well known that extroverts are energized in crowds and introverts are energized alone. Still, most introverts can adroitly navigate the interaction requirements of a career during the work day. At home at night we unplug and shutdown. The fallacies here are believing that introverts don’t ever like to be around people and that this is the only marker of an introvert. Neither is true. Introverts enjoy being with others, but aren’t fond of noisy crowds. There are many characteristics that define an introvert.
Environment. The worst type of office for an introvert to endure is an open office–layouts where everyone can see and hear each other. Recovering from interruptions takes minutes, not seconds. Any place with multiple conversations happening, where the lights are bright, or the music is loud can be overload for introverts. The reason, in short, is that our brains are way more active than an extrovert’s brain. We’re not smarter, but we process information very differently in a way that literally burns up more energy. Too much stimulation (sight, sound, scents, etc.) can be overwhelming.
Focus. Introverts mull. Often in meetings, by the time we form a comment or question, the discussion has already moved ahead several agenda items. Why? Introverts tend to be intricate thinkers. We carefully weigh things mentally. When we share, it’s important that what we share is meaningful and accurate. This can be a liability in fast-moving meetings populated with a lot of extroverts. Brainstorming sessions are the worst! Even after the meeting, we are still mulling. As Dr. Marti Laney writes in her book The Introvert Advantage, “long after they have taken in the information, [introverts] are still munching and crunching it–a little like cows chewing their cud.”
These are mere glimpses into a few of the fascinating elements that make up an introvert. In future columns, we’ll look at each characteristic in more detail.
Stephen R. Clark is a writer who lives in Lansdale, PA with his wife, BethAnn, where they attend 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 (tinyurl.com/cfwriters). 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 email@example.com. The content of this column is copyright © by Stephen R. Clark.