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    Thinking Through The Introvert Advantage {Renewed in the Mind}

    January 20, 2010 by Brandy Vencel

    The Introvert Advantage:
    How to Thrive in an Extrovert World

    by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D.

    I just finished up Chapter 2, and before moving on to Chapter 3, I want to go through some quotes and talk about them. Before I do so, let’s define introverts and extroverts one more time: introversion and extroversion are two ends of an energy continuum, according to the author. On one end, we have the extroverts, who are energized by people and activity. On the other end, we have introverts, who are energized by solitude and ideas. I want to note that none of these is really a moral issue. God has made all sorts of people, and within His Body He has granted all kinds of gifts.

    However, it is important to note at the outset that it is God who refreshes His people. Jesus Himself says what?

    Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

    Matthew 11:28-29

    Without taking this too far, I do believe there is a sense in which both extroverts as well as introverts are actually different versions of the single human tendency to seek for rest and refreshment outside of the LORD. I say this because I see this in my own self. As an introvert, I am prone to lose the pursuit of the LORD and His thoughts due to the intrusion of my zest for ideas, ideas which I think out alone.

    I used the phrase renewed in the mind as my subtitle today because I want this to be the way in which my own thoughts are governed:

    …that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

    Ephesians 4:22-24

    I also think it is good for us to be cautious. We are reading a book here which is written by a non-Christian {as far as I know} author and which is highly influenced by Carl Jung’s psychological theories. While Jung claimed to be a believer, his theories tended to stray from the explicit meaning of Scripture which resulted in, among other things, a complete redefining of the Logos. What this means is that we must be Bereans and make sure we test all assertions, comparing them to Scripture.

    Extroverts: Thinking Out Loud

    If I have one extroverted quality, it is that I think out loud {I also think on paper, hence this blog}. Naturally, I only do this when surrounded by family and close friends, so it is rare to see me doing this in public. However, my husband loves that I blog so that I don’t verbally bombard him when he returns home.


    So I found this to be interesting:

    Extroverts think and talk all at one time. It is effortless to them. In fact, things become clearer as they speak out loud. Introverts, on the other hand, need time to think and don’t speak with spontaneity unless it’s a familiar subject.

    My husband and I are “switched” in this arena, for he is very thoughtful before speaking.

    Of course, and here I am thinking of an extremely small extrovert I know well, an extreme extrovert will not just think aloud when tackling an idea, but rather he will chatter the day away. In fact, because this is so true, I took the time to study a particular Scripture with a child who was behaving in this manner:

    When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
    But he who restrains his lips is wise.

    Proverbs 10:19

    While I firmly believe that children are created persons, that every child has a soul which must be respected throughout the parenting process, this doesn’t mean that we label the extroverted child as such and simply accept certain traits. You see, while it is not morally wrong to gain energy from people and activity, the Bible makes it very clear that thinking before speaking is the way of the wise. Our goal in parenting is not to produce introverts or extroverts, but to help the children attain a measure of wisdom.

    I have heard introverts complain before about extremely extroverted friends. They say things like:

    • Extrovert A talks the entire time we are together.
    • Extrovert A never asks me a question about myself.
    • Extrovert A says things which are hurtful to me and doesn’t even realize it.

    Here is, I think, the appropriate time to let you in on the direction I’m considering concerning this ‘vert business. In my mind, we have four actual categories {and then we still must remember that many people are simply somewhere along the continuum rather than absolutely at one end or the other}: Immature Extroverts {who I’ve called Extreme Extroverts up to this point}, Mature Extroverts, Immature {Extreme} Introverts, and Mature Introverts. We really can’t make these hard and fast categories because we are all being matured by Christ over time. Some areas are mature while others are still immature. Some areas are improving, while we don’t even realize the other areas which need work. And so on.

    My point is this: an extremely extroverted child who talks too much can mature into an adult who knows how to be appropriate in regard to both listening and talking. Likewise, an extremely introverted child can grow into an adult who shares thoughtful comments with the people around him. We do not have to get stuck in the negative aspects of whatever type of ‘vert we are, because we have been bought, paid for, and freed by Christ.

    Accepting Who God Made Us to Be

    One of the reasons for this book is that the author believes our country is an extroverted one, in which extroverted qualities are extolled and admired. Because of this, she says, it is hard for introverts to survive, and they often think that something is wrong with them, even to the point of suspecting themselves to be mentally ill.

    What a travesty! God created these people to be thoughtful and caring, and they are being fed a lie that because they are not gregarious, they are worthless, or perhaps even something is wrong with them.

    Unfortunately, our author sort of misses the bulls eye for the solution. She writes {emphasis mine}:

    [I]f a colleague asks you a question in a meeting and you want to respond but can’t think of anything to say, it may trigger a feeling of shame in you. You feel yourself wanting to hide. I am no good; I’m not smart, you think. Stop. Say to yourself, “That is just how my brain works. I don’t always have a quick answer. Neither did Albert Einstein. I can tell my colleague that I need to think the question over and get back to her.” Then let it go. The main antidote to shame is self-esteem.

    I was pretty much on board until the last sentence. At its core, esteeming oneself is a form of honoring or exalting oneself, something which is warned against in Scripture. However, what I really think she’s talking about is being realistic about who you are, about accepting who God made us to be. I can beat myself up over being awkward in public, or I can laugh it off. And though the world tends to value the shoot-from-the-hip fast answer, Scripture encourages us to be slow to speak. In the past, I have felt guilty because I couldn’t juggle fifteen balls like so-and-so could. Later, as I grew up a little, I realized that my job was to do well at juggling however many balls God had given to me, rather than looking around at what everyone else was doing.

    So while we can identify certain immaturities to which each ‘vert is prone, this doesn’t mean maturity for each should be expected to look the same way. I may conquer my weaknesses, but I will never be a true extrovert.

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  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts January 25, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Emily, I loved the poem you shared! You always make me want to read more poetry. πŸ™‚

    And also…I am so glad that the Lord has healed you and shown you what He created you for. Peers can be so cruel, it is true.

    Rahime, you are the inspiration for my post tomorrow! I completely agree with you: Dr. Laney has equivocated on the term.

  • Reply Rahime January 25, 2010 at 7:39 am

    Ok, I’ve also wanted to comment on this post for a few days, but haven’t had a chance until now. First, Emily, I enjoy Emily Dickinson, and particularly that poem. πŸ˜‰

    We define the intro/extrovert based upon an energy continuum. You’re invigorated by being around people–you’re an extrovert; you’re drained by people and refreshed by alone time–you’re an introvert. When we start to bring in “introvert” and “extrovert” characteristics like this:

    Extroverts think and talk all at one time. It is effortless to them. In fact, things become clearer as they speak out loud. Introverts, on the other hand, need time to think and don’t speak with spontaneity unless it’s a familiar subject

    we change the basis of the assessment. When we say an extrovert “thinks out loud”, we’re now talking about the way a person processes information or express it. I think this can be related to how one is energized/refreshed, but not causally. I am extremely, and probably obnoxiously chatty when I get going. As an introvert, I too am only typically this way with people whom I know well (and on blog comments). If I were an extrovert (as I believe I was as a young child), I would be chatty with everyone. In fact, this was one of the biggest complaints my elementary school teachers had about me, I talked too much in class….by high school and college it was the reverse (I almost never spoke in class), and probably one of the biggest complaints of my Torrey tutors.

    My extrovert husband, like yours, processes things inside his head before blurting them out. I don’t really think of us as switched though because I don’t see an intrinsic link between the way one is reenergized and the way one processes information and forms thoughts.

    I think your mature vs. immature categories work though, and are also a continuum.

    I finally got the book, so I’m going to try and read it at some point.

  • Reply Emily January 24, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    Sorry to chime in so late, Brandy, but I got sidetracked by visitors on my way to the bus! πŸ™‚ So much for pondering.

    “I’m nobody! Who are you?
    Are you nobody, too?
    Then there’s a pair of us – don’t tell!
    They’d banish us, you know.

    How dreary to be somebody!
    How public, like a frog
    To tell your name the livelong day
    To an admiring bog!”

    (by Emily Dickinson, the ultimate introvert!)

    Yes, I was always made to feel as though there were something wrong with me. I mentioned in another comment that I had dropped out of high school. School was a very difficult place for me where I wanted to be a “nobody” but was not allowed to do so. I didn’t fit in, and retaining my individuality became a source of much anxiety and stress….the cruelty of ones peers can cause so much emotional damage.

    It took the Lord to heal me, to renew my mind, and to bring me out of the bondage of my past. I no longer fear people! However, I am still an introvert as God did not change that part of me, and I now accept – without sorrow – who I am as the Lord made me. I agree that self esteem is the wrong term to use. Maturity brings wisdom! I often joke that my reserved nature causes me to be a good listener, and if not for people like me, all the talkers would have no one to hear what they say. It’s all about balance, I suppose.

    I’ll never be “quick-witted” either, but that’s okay, and I don’t usually mind being dominated in coversation. It enables me to be a person to whom others feel comfortable unburdening themselves, and the Lord has given me the gift of encouragement, so it all works out.

    Our nature as introverts does not have to be a disability, and I believe that when we are content, the Lord will use us in that capacity. He is the enabler.

    My extrovert daughter does not quite understand the art of conversing without constantly interrupting to get her two cents in. It’s an uphill battle there, but I think the key is esteeming others higher than yourself, and as you said, “slow to speak” (and quick to hear).

    When I am in a situation with someone much more reserved than I (very rare), it helps to ask questions….gets the focus onto the other person and helps her feel at ease. Funny, though, that even “quiet” people tend to open up around me. Maybe they’re trying to fill that empty space. lol

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts January 21, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Emily, Spoken like a true introvert. πŸ˜‰ Enjoy your pondering.

    Jennifer, I agree. I have been around just such people, and speaking with them (or trying to), really is painful. I think the saying is “like pulling teeth.” The hard part for me in those situations is that I feel like I’m not a great conversationalist with people I don’t know well, so it’s a real struggle.

    I am trying to flesh out how love can be acted out in a conversation. What does it mean to love an extrovert, or an introvert, within the context of a conversation?

    I remember my parents actually training us in how to have a conversation. They equated it to a ball being thrown back and forth, told us that if someone throws you three balls and you haven’t bothered to throw at least one back, you’re not doing your job. I think I see the wisdom in that more now than I did then.

    By the way, YOU, though you be extroverted, are not someone I have ever noticed dominating a conversation.

    By the way…do you remember that day with you and Rebecca at the hospital after I had A.? I was on some drug and it made me talk and talk and I couldn’t stop, even though I wanted to? I still remember that with embarrassment!

  • Reply Jennifer January 21, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    An introvert might feel overwhelmed by an extrovert’s dominance of conversation. I would put forth that often, an extrovert feels overwhelmed by the thought that he or she must carry the conversation. It is painful for us to be around extreme introverts (which I don’t think you are) who almost refuse to talk!

    Like you say, I am constantly thankful for my refinement in Christ, and this is just another way I see God manifesting my sanctification.

    Jung claimed to be a believer…interesting!

    Would love to discuss more but I keep getting thrown up on…

  • Reply Emily January 21, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    So many points to ponder, Brandy. I’m going to go away and have a good think, but will be back later.

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