I have been an extrovert in a crowd of introverts for several years. When you look at my close group of college girlfriends, it’s really easy to pick out the two of us who feel recharged after spending time with other people, and the rest who revive after an hour of alone time. Even when you look at my marriage, it’s pretty easy to see who’s what – my husband, who recently requested (in the nicest way) that I leave him alone for a good thirty minutes when he gets home before I bombard him with endless nonsensical chatter, is the introvert. I am an extrovert with all the extroverted tendencies, which means that in addition to recharging by being with people, I externally process my thoughts and feelings, AND my highest love language is quality time.
I’m pretty okay with being an extrovert most of the time. I doesn’t cause me a lot of problems. It’s who I am. But there are times I’ve been irritated by someone else’s “extrovert” stereotype, and one of those times was a couple weeks ago when this article surfaced.
When I expressed my frustration (not very eloquently) it came off like I was anti-introvert-empowerment or something. I’m not, so I apologize. All the power to the introverts! I married one, after all, and my two best friends and I complete almost the entire spectrum – we are an extroverted external processor, an introverted external processor, and an extroverted internal processor. I don’t discriminate.
Anyway, go look at the article. It’s called “Four Lies About Introverts.” I’m certain the author was not trying to threaten me. I’m certain my frustration is mostly internal, not aimed at anyone. And I’m mostly happy that the article resonated with a lot of my introverted friends. I especially like this paragraph,
The lie I’m most tempted to believe is that the way God has wired me is incompatible with the life he’s called me to live. The logical conclusion of this lie is that joy and contentment aren’t possible – and that constant frustration is inevitable.
But her first “lie” of these four lies is what pushed the button which started this whole post.
1. Extroversion is the biblical ideal
Alright, first of all, that’s not a lie about introverts. That’s a lie about extroverts. Cover your own turf. Secondly, who on earth is saying that? Which brings me to MY first point. (And bear with me because a lot of what I say all the time is fact mixed with my own emotional baggage.)
1. Extroversion is not the biblical ideal
It’s recently come to my attention that our culture has appointed extroversion as “ideal.” I wish they had told me I was so ideal a long time ago! Maybe then I could just cast off all these non-ideal things I was born with and struggle with every day!
Sorry. The button I referred to earlier also initiates heavy sarcasm.
But really, our culture does not idealize extroverts, it misunderstands us. Our culture thinks we’re great communicators and great leaders, and that introverts are the great thinkers. None of these are true. It’s just a practice of labeling attributes that are meant for individuals, not 50% of the entire world.When I think of all of my heroes, now and from childhood,I’m willing to bet that more than half of them are introverts.Abraham Lincoln. Several pastors at my church. Anne of Green Gables. Mr. Kirchhoff. And these people serve behind the scenes as well as in front of people.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that in my particular circle, it might be easier to be an introvert. It’s probably a grass-is-always-greener scenario, but in my world, in this generational Christian culture, there’s a huge emphasis on the importance of alone time. Time for reflection, prayer, reading the Word and theological books… There’s just this clearer picture of gaining wisdom through solitude than there is of gaining wisdom through interaction with others. I have this perception that introverts are more at peace because they enjoy quiet solitude. Even as a woman, I feel like I’d fit the mold better if I was a little quieter, a little more content doing things alone.
2. Extroverts aren’t all great at parties
I think society thinks that we are some sort of social junkies. Just because I might get overly excited for social gatherings and want to stick around longer when my husband already has one foot out the door doesn’t mean I’m the life of a party. I just like being there. Introverts aren’t the only people who deal with social awkwardness. I love being in a group of people, yet I have a constant fear that they don’t like me. And I’m really not good at being the center of attention. It extends my awkwardness by about a billion percent. It’s a really hurtful stereotype that extroverts have to be the center of attention. It makes us sound selfish. The author of the article I’m referencing says that extroverts have intrinsically good social skills, and alludes that some people who identify as extroverts are “caving to a cultural standard.” I don’t know how that sounds to introverts, but it sounds pretty condemning to me. As if by being an extrovert I’m lowering myself to conform to society. As if by being an extrovert I’m just trying to be noticed.
3. Extroverts aren’t bad listeners.
If you’re buying into society’s “extrovert ideal,” it would be easy to assume that extroverts are better talkers than listeners. Being more eager to speak than listen might be one of my own personal faults, but I don’t attribute it to being extroverted. A misconception that goes along with this is that extroverts are loud and talk too much. This one is personal. Because I hate hearing “Shhhh!” But not for my sake will I blame my loudness and tendency to rant on extroversion. Because this misconception can be hurtful. Here’s an example I’ve seen in my own Bible study – when an introvert (or someone who’s perceived to be an introvert because they’re more quiet or shy) speaks up in a group, everyone pays close attention and takes special care to listen. Often, someone will say of an introvert, “I want to hear what they have to say. They always have good insights.” But then an extrovert will speak up, and they are just not heard. They’re just being their talkative selves, and their words aren’t as valued.
Along with this is the assumption that extroverts love groups, and introverts like more one-on-one interaction with people. I’ve taken special care in the past few years to try to spend one-on-one time with my friends. It’s more difficult for me than being in a group, and I usually anticipate the “friend date” with mild anxiety. I don’t know if that’s because I’m extroverted, or if it’s just because things either get more personal or more awkward when you’re one-on-one. But I do it because I love my friends and want to listen to them and have quality time with them. What I’m saying is, I still get my “recharge” whether I’m doing most of the listening or most of the talking. If someone is doing all the talking during your interaction, it’s not because they’re an extrovert. They’re probably an external processor. Or just selfish.
I consulted my mom about this topic because she’s a wise person who is only an extrovert by a technicality, and she had the best thought. In all these personality differences – introvert/extrovert, feeler/thinker, etc – it seems likely that Jesus was right down the middle. Yet he saw it good to lay us out over the whole spectrum, all the way from one extreme to the other. Yet we all submit to the temptation of generalities, attributing things like selfishness or shyness to someone’s personality type. If I had no personality flaws, I’d still be an extrovert. If my husband and my best friend had no personality flaws, they would still be introverts. All of our personality-isms are meant to be GOOD. So there is no ideal or less ideal. There is only each individual person that is unique and different for a reason – just because it pleases God for it to be so.