I have a confession to make about myself; one that has taken me years to embrace. I am an introvert. Some people are surprised by that. I teach bible studies, have shared a testimony in church, and taught women’s conferences with over 300 women. I love speaking publicly. I love teaching, it is my gift. I also love being with people in small groups and having deep discussion. But after a while, all the people time drains me. I have to cloister myself to recharge. Recently I had a week at work that was non-stop conversations and crisis interventions. After 4 days and some 32 hours plus, I was done. I felt as if I had literally hit a wall. I went home and crawled into bed at 6pm and barely spoke a word the rest of the night. I am thankful that I now recognize this need in myself and make it a priority to recharge. I have gotten over feeling guilty at not doing “something” because I know how vital this down time is to my own health and sanity.
There are some other aspects of my introversion that you may not know. I do not like small talk. It is difficult for me. I would rather teach a conference to hundreds of women than go to a dinner party where I know no one and have to make small talk. My husband is a pro at small talk. He immediately makes everyone feel comfortable and chats away while I try to hide my discomfort. We will come away with business cards of many new friends after such a dinner party, while I will be relieved that I survived. Some people think this means I do not like people. On the contrary, I love meeting new people, but I prefer deep meaningful conversations over small talk.
Some other ways that my introversion shapes me is that I prefer writing over talking. Writing and journaling is common among introverts. Because I am a deep thinker and I take time to process things, writing is a better tool for my communication. Most of the very gifted writers that I know in the church are introverts.
I also find it hard to interrupt people when they are talking and I do not like to be interrupted. That may seem like a no-brainer but I have found that it does not bother most extroverts. In fact most of my extroverted friends are adept at interrupting. They don’t realize that is what they are doing though. Their brain works so fast that the thoughts and words just tumble out of their mouths. I have learned to not take offense and if I have been known to interrupt if I have a pressing need to be heard.
Introversion and extroversion is in our DNA from the time that God formed us in our mother’s womb. Most people are somewhere along the spectrum, but some people are extreme extroverts or extreme introverts. In a nutshell, extroverts get their energy from being with people and introverts spend energy by being with people; hence the need to recharge. The differences between the two are too numerous to cover in this article. So what’s the point and why is it important to know this about others and ourselves?
Knowing ourselves helps us to recognize our strengths and weakness. It helps us to be aware of our “growth areas” so that we can work on improving them. God is in the business of change. He invites us to come as we are (for He has perfectly made us) but not stay as we are. I have heard many people say about themselves, “that is just the way I am and people will have to deal with it.” Boloney! We are the ones who need to deal with it. I dislike small talk but that does not give me an excuse to opt of out it completely.
God wants us to not only know ourselves but also to be sensitive to the personalities of others. I know that if I ask an extrovert in my bible study to share what God is doing in her life, most likely she will jump at the chance. If the woman I want to ask to share is an introvert however, I will take a different tactic. I would ask her privately and give her plenty of time to prepare. I would gently encourage her, affirm her, and reassure her that she can do this.
We are all ministers of Jesus Christ and we need to learn to work with others in a way that best for them, not necessarily what it best for us. That means as an introvert I need to learn how to minister to extroverts. That means that I need to be patient while they talk things out. Extroverts tend to process their thoughts by talking. I need to encourage their enthusiasm and respect their independence. I need to not be annoyed when they interrupt knowing they are not being rude. Their thoughts often come so fast that the words spill out when they think of them. I need to not expect extroverts to be like me.
Extroverts need to learn how to minister and be more sensitive to introverts. They need to allow introverts time to process new situations. Be patient while they process their thoughts. Respect their privacy. I am a deeply private person and I am uncomfortable sharing personal information with people unless they are a trusted friend. Also I prefer to be the one sharing that information. Extroverts can learn how to not interrupt introverts, but allow them to finish sharing. Introverts tend to be uncomfortable when the spotlight is on them. Extroverts should keep this in mind. Most introverts prefer to receive both praise and correction privately. Extroverts need to respect the alone time introverts need to recharge, and to remember that introverts are just “wired” differently than them.
These are just some of the distinctions between extroverts and introverts. All of us need to respect that God has given us all different personalities, gifts, talents, and temperaments. We need to keep this in mind when having relationships with one another and judge one another charitably (with love) and not critically.
Our best example of dealing with people is Jesus himself. He was a master at it. His message never changed but his methodology did. He dealt differently with different people. He was firm and sometimes harsh with the Pharisees. He was firm but gentle with the woman at the well. Yet the message was the same. Repent, turn from your sins, and follow me.
Relationships with others are joyous, wonderful, frustrating, and messy. Yet the only thing that is eternal on this earth is the souls of men and women. When we seek to live in harmony and understanding with others, we give glory to our Savior and we open doors to genuine relationships that testify of the saving work of Christ.