Introverts in the World

By Kersley Fitzgerald

There have been a run on internet articles for introverts, lately. I'm very glad to see it. GotQuestions seems to collect introverts, but I may be their queen.

Many of the articles are aimed at extroverts, teaching them the proper care and feeding of their introverted friends and partners. Awesome. Wonderful. Even helpful for me. I recently found out why it is I don't look at someone when I'm speaking to them — too much sensory input during the difficult task of finding verbal words. Now I look away with pride and glance back occasionally to let them know I'm still here.

But I have yet to see an article by an introvert, telling introverts how they need to take care of their extroverts. It doesn't strike me as fair that extroverts should make all the allowances for their fragile neighbors. And it certainly isn't loving for introverts to assume they must. With that in mind, here are a few humble suggestions for introverts who wish to make an active, positive influence in their world.

Take responsibility for your down-time — and trust God to keep you filled if you don't get it.
Matthew 14:13-14 breaks my introverted heart every time:

Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.

John the Baptist has just been beheaded, and Jesus will face worse. More than anything, He wants to talk with His Father and recharge. But He can't. He often slipped out early or climbed mountains to get away from people. We introverts need to do that, too. We need downtime with God. But we also need to remember that God is not bound by our personality. If He has work that needs to be done, we need to be willing to do it, trusting that He will give us the strength in the moment and rest in the future.

This is especially hard with social engagements we don't care about and kids we do. I don't know how many Air Force functions I went to for Dev that I begged to leave early. It is good and proper to speak the words, "I'm shutting down; we need to leave soon." But it's even better to stay longer than you can on your own power, leaning on God's, instead. Kids are a whole 'nother issue. An introvert with toddlers is an introvert in need of chocolate.

Recognize when your extrovert needs to talk.
Introverts tend to be deep thinkers who often can't get complicated thoughts out clearly. Sometimes we feel we need to discuss something so badly we'll burst. But sometimes our best-beloved extrovert won't for the love of Mike Wazowski shut up. It could be her cat or her garden or niece's toddler's Easter dress. If you try to get a word in edge-wise, she rolls right over you. If you do manage to get out the beginning of a thought, she looks at you as if you've started using your hair for a Jell-O mold.

At this point, unless it is an emergency, it behooves the introvert to smile and listen politely. You know that sometime, perhaps after the caffeine has worn out, your friend will be able to have a serious discussion — if she wasn't capable, she wouldn't be your friend. But at this particular point in time, her brain is directly connected with her mouth and her ears are on a short sabbatical. It is no more a sin than those times when you need downtime to recoup — sometimes she just needs to talk. Be a friend and let her.

Speak words. Vocally. Loud enough that people can hear you.
This is important for two reasons. The first is that we must speak words if we want people to possess information. We can't assume that confident, loud, and enthusiastic mean the same thing as informed and wise. Our extroverted friends can't make fully informed decisions if we withhold information they need.

The second is related to the previous point. As an introvert, it's likely that you have already collected the data, analyzed the situation, done the market research, and taken a grand total of four seconds to realize the only logical course of action is to have spaghetti for dinner. Unfortunately, your extroverted spouse is not so gifted. He must discuss. In detail. Excruciatingly detailed detail. And, unlike the previous point, he not only must talk about the pros and cons of spaghetti v. sloppy joes, he must hear your feedback to his every point. And I promise, I know it would be easier to quickly explain, "We have spaghetti noodles but we have no hamburger buns," while you efficiently boil the water and thaw out the burger, but that won't be enough. You know it won't. And you know that if you fully engage in this conversation, it will make him feel so loved and respected.

Maybe even loved and respected enough that he puts the kids to bed and lets you take a bath.

Introverts need extroverts. We need them to carry awkward conversations and go with us to crowded places and listen to our deep thoughts. As part of the body of Christ, we also need to take care of our extroverts. Sometimes that means listening to ten minutes of non-stop talking, and sometimes that means excusing ourselves so we don't explode in frustration. They make lots of sacrifices for us; it's loving that we should do the same for them.

Published 9-10-13

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