Soup and Buns

Should Introverts be expected to act like Extroverts?

“You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush.”

This quotation from a tongue-in-cheek article by Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic Monthly summed up his premise that Extroverts do not understand or fully appreciate Introverts. Although I knew that I was an Extrovert, I found the actual definitions a bit surprising.

Tiring… or energizing?

Introverts are people who “find other people tiring,” who need to re-charge after a certain amount of socializing. They mull things over inside their brains and then talk about them. Being alone with their thoughts is as “restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating.” One suggested motto for them is, “I’m okay, you’re okay – in small doses.” Rauch’s own formula is that he needs “two hours alone for every hour of socializing.” A Google search estimates that about 25% of people are truly Introverts, but in the “gifted” community they are a majority.

Extroverts are “energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone.” They figure things out by discussing them with other people, and think by talking. They tend to dominate social settings with their “endless appetite for talk and attention.”

Understanding is a one-way street

Society in general views Extrovert behavior as more desirable, and this can sometimes be taken to a fault when Introvert behavior is criticized or not appreciated for its strengths. For instance, an Extrovert might be described as outgoing, happy, bighearted, vibrant, warm, and as a confident leader who is “a real people person.” Introverts are often described as loners, reserved, guarded, and taciturn (inclined to silence; reserved in speech; reluctant to join in conversation). It is as though an individual’s worth is determined only by their observable interactions in a group.

Rauch suggests that Introverts more often understand Extroverts because the latter put all of their thoughts and feelings out on the table. His concern as an Introvert, is that:

Extroverts have no idea of the torment they put us through…. Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion. They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome. They cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone; indeed, they often take umbrage at the suggestion.”

I wonder if any other Extroverts find themselves cringing and remembering times when they too felt offended because someone didn’t want their company.

Other differences

Extroverts tend to think that a lull in conversation is a bad thing, and they can feed off of small talk or deep conversation and enjoy large groups. Introverts need more time to think through what they will say and tend to dislike small talk while enjoying more meaningful discussion, especially in a more private setting.

Extroverts feel a need to “draw out” the Introverts and get them to participate, because to them participation is essential. Since they cannot imagine that a person might enjoy sitting quietly off to the side, they take on the role of encourager. Unfortunately, it often comes across to the Introvert as controller instead.

Smiley face 🙂

Expectations exist regarding facial expressions too. Smiles are expected as part of good manners, so we give them whether we feel like it or not. Often if a person’s face goes to its default serious expression, people jump to the conclusion that he is upset or depressed, whereas he might just be pondering a weighty subject or listening to conversations around him. Rauch suggests that Introverts may be less smiley, but not necessarily less joyful.

The differences are something to be considered in regards to church and family activities. As one Introvert explained to me, “At Ladies’ Bible Study, I often start formulating an answer to a question, but by the time I figure out what I want to say they have all gone on to a new subject or maybe even several subjects, so I rarely get to say anything.” Perhaps this is why some people feel more at home studying the Bible and praying with only a few friends. I wonder if our quick-sound-bite culture has lured us away from valuing long pauses with time to reflect? I’ve read that in some Japanese company meetings, they present the information and then sit in silence for a long time while everyone just thinks. What an Introverted thing to do!

My friend went on to say, “The same thing happens when our entire family is together.” Some family members would prefer more two-on-two social activities and fewer or less lengthy whole group situations. It is possible to consider both the Extrovert’s and the Introvert’s preferences.

Conclusion

God tells us to love one another, and the more we understand one another, the more we will know how to keep this commandment. We may have lived our entire life thus far “not knowing what we didn’t know.”

But now, we know.

This article first appeared in the May 2012 issue. Sharon L. Bratcher’s “Soup and Buns” book includes 45 of her RP articles. For information contact sharoncopy@gmail.com.


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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. RGB Rao

    July 5, 2019 at 2:03 pm

    ~ I am so glad to see this. Its an issue thats rarely discussed. I want to add one thing on a more macro level.

    Churches too can on the whole, corporately exhibit extro/intro personalities. If you are an introvert in a highly extroverted church, then it can be tough (and vice versa). You keep having to say no again and again to this or that activity. Yet, the knocks keep coming. On the flip side, if you are an extro in an overly introverted church and you want to go knocking on the doors of houses with the Gospel or get a group out for white water rafting and the church is like, “Um. Well. Um…”, you might feel frustrated.

    We both need each other and churches need to work towards being balanced.

    Ok. Now may I rhapsodize about something that I was thinking about the other day that is related and that I thought was cool? The following is not an exact illustration in terms of its detailed particulars, but does work on a general level.

    [[{Enter Deep Intro Mode}]]
    Churches are like stars (Rev. n:m). Stars work by way of expansion and collapse. Stars go/grow through a process where they expand outward and grow bigger and then after a certain point collapse back inward. As they collapse inwardly, elements are formed – boron, carbon, nitrogen, and so on.

    What happens when a star expands too much? You get a supernova. It blows up and dies. What happens certain stars collapses too much? They become black dwarfs. They’re dead.

    Like so churches ought to expand outward along missional lines, but then also regroup along discipleship lines. Its a back and forth, outward and inward process. The fellowship – getting back together is where the elements of spiritual formation are produced in a major way. I mean the spiritual formation is always there, but it is formed in a special and concentrated way when we come together. Fellowship is what kneads spiritual truth into our lives after all. Sooooo….

    What happens when churches expand too much? I’ve been to at least one mega-church where hardly the word “sin” was mentioned. Even talking to other members felt like I was doing evangelism. Yet, the church was chock-ful of activities. Too spread out. Too thin. Supernova. What happens when churches collapse too much? There are churches that simply are too ingrown and not growing. They need some extros to join.

    Ok. I better stop. I’ve ran my mouth too much. God Bless! Thanks for the post!

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