One-third to one-half of Americans are introverts, but we are believed to be among the most extroverted of nations. According to Susan Cain in her book Quiet, there exists an Extrovert Ideal – a preference for extroverts in the workplace, at schools, religious institutions, and in roles of leadership. For example, historians believe that only one U.S. president (John Quincy Adams) was an introvert. Studies also show that talkative people are often considered smarter and better-looking. Cain writes, “there’s a bias against introverts… many introverts believe that there is something wrong with them and that they should try to ‘pass’ as extroverts. This bias leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and ultimately, happiness.”
It can be helpful to know whether God and life have shaped you more toward introversion or extroversion. If you aren’t sure whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, take the following short quiz. Count how many questions that you answer “true.”
- I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities
- I often prefer to express myself in writing
- I enjoy solitude
- I seem to care less than my peers about wealth, fame, and status
- I dislike small talk, but I enjoy talking in depth about topics that matter to me
- People tell me that I’m a good listener
- I’m not a big risk-taker
- I enjoy work that allows me to “dive in” with few interruptions
- I like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale, with only one or two close friends or family members
- People often describe me as “soft-spoken” or “mellow”
- I prefer not to show or discuss my work with others until it’s finished
- I dislike conflict
- I do my best work on my own
- I tend to think before I speak
- I feel drained after being out and about, even if I’ve enjoyed myself
- I often let calls go through to voice mail
- If I had to choose, I’d prefer a weekend with absolutely nothing to do to one with too many things scheduled
- I don’t enjoy multitasking
- I can concentrate easily
- In classroom situations, I prefer lectures to seminars
(quiz and most of this article were taken from Quiet by Susan Cain)
The more often you answered “true”, the more introverted you probably are. Of course none of us are completely one or the other. Carl Jung said, “there is no such thing as a pure extrovert or a pure introvert. Such a man would be in the lunatic asylum.” If you answered “true” about the same amount as you answered “false”, you may be an ambivert (yes that is a real word).
Here are some famous introverts:
- Bill Gates (he and others on this list demonstrate that you can be an introvert without being shy or afraid of public speaking)
- Albert Einstein
- Steven Spielberg
- Larry Page
- JK Rowling
- Rosa Parks
- Audrey Hepburn, who said “I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel.”
Tips for Understanding Introverts/Extroverts:
- Introverts tend to avoid conflict. Extroverts can be more ok with an up-front, argumentative style of disagreement.
- Introverts like people they meet in friendly contexts. Extroverts prefer those they compete with.
- Introversion is not antisocial behavior. Introverts tend to get tired being around people more than Extroverts.
Tips for Parents of an Introverted Child:
- Don’t just accept your child for who she is, treasure her.
- If your child is reluctant to try new things or meet new people, expose them to new experiences gradually .
- If your child is shy, don’t let her hear you call her that (Cain writes “she will start to experience her nervousness as a fixed trait rather than as an emotion that she can learn to control. She also knows full well that *shy* is usually a criticism in our society. When others call her shy in front of her, reframe it lightly saying things like, ‘Sophie likes to take her time to feel out new situations’”).
As members of the body of Christ, may we as Introverts and Extroverts celebrate our differences and learn to better understand and communicate with one another.