Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I’m an Introvert

As I write this I am extremely content. I am closed into a cave of sorts, my office at home. The door is closed so I only need to air condition this one room and the rest of the house is up to 85 or so. I am surrounded by my carefully planned office equipment all within reach and allowing maximum efficiency. No one is home, I am alone. In front of me is a huge marker board where my latest thoughts and ideas are listed and I will stare at them and cogitate on them for a while, adding a word or phrase where needed and then glancing away again and back to my computer screen leaving further development for a later cogitation.

I’m an introvert not an extravert. This doesn’t mean I am shy vs. bold; this simply refers to how I charge my inner batteries. Introverts gain energy from internal contemplation, centering and quiet time. Extraverts gain energy from external people, places, and things. Introverts rarely say what they are thinking; they only say what they have thought. Introverts think to talk. Extraverts talk to think.

When I am facing a problem or issue I go into a quiet place, close the door from the outside world, play “mood music” on my iPod and begin my search for the answer. My wife, the ultimate extravert, will strike up a conversation with whoever she can find and start discussing the issue and with enough talk and brainstorming and idea or answer comes to her. Extraverts get their best ideas from conversations.

One of the worst things to happen to me is sitting next to an extravert on an airplane: being stuck next to someone verbally vomiting for hours at a time is painful for us introverts. I have a good friend who is a crazy extravert and would consider every flight a waste unless he got to know one more person while flying. While most extraverts consider us introverts socially retarded, we introverts think extraverts are socially pushy and noisy.

Surveys show there are more extraverts than introverts in the States. And our society is set up to serve and FOR extraverts (just imagine a car dealership for introverts, you can’t can you?) So can we live together? Of course. When my wife and I went to church early in our marriage she would stay until the last person left and help the janitor turn off the lights and lock the doors to get her extroverted fix. This I learned quickly and began taking a book to church so after I talked with a few friends and went to the car to wait I would have something to do for the extra hour after church waiting for her. When I would go to seminars or conferences my wife would ask “How was it? What did you learn? What did you do? What were you thinking?” My normal response would be “Fine, a few things, not much, and I don’t know.” Frustrating my extroverted spouse. So I took to writing down thoughts and ideas during the conference and then sitting with her to discuss then when I got home; she felt a part of it all and it helped me organize my thinking.

Extraverts: give introverts time and space and don’t bombard them with questions all the time about whatever they were thinking. Introverts: listen more than you think is necessary, maintain eye contact, nod your head, smile, and ask questions to probe deeper or make things clearer. I think part of what love means is keeping each other’s batteries charged.

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