Have you ever wondered how to tell the difference between an introverted programmer and an extroverted programmer?
They say that an introverted programmer stares at their shoes while they talk. But an extroverted one stares at your shoes when they talk to you.
Joking aside, though, the best indicator between introverts and extroverts is not how they act socially, but how they recharge after a social experience.
Extroverts spend time with people, and then recharge with even more people. Introverts spend time with people, and then need time alone to recharge. This does not mean that extroverts never need to be alone or that introverts do not delight in time with people. Extroverts are energized by time with people; introverts are energized by time alone.
I’m an introvert, happily married to an introvert. I grew up surrounded by amazing and strong extroverts, so it’s taken a while to discover the healthy rhythms and strengths of introversion. After a party or an event, my husband Peter and I will head to different places of the house for some of that needed recharging time. After a time of aloneness, we are both ready to jump back into interactions with people.
Introverts think and feel deeply. Make sure you have one in your group. Chances are that when you ask a group for feedback, an introvert will not offer anything. But if you ask them directly, they have a well-thought out answer at the ready. It’s just what we do.
Introverts love deeply too. They often direct their attention toward one individual or group at a time with a personal interest and focused love.
You might be reading this as an extrovert thinking, “Wait, that’s what I do too.” I don’t know these things—I’m simply writing out of my own introverted musings and experiences.
You might be reading this as an introvert thinking, “I really wish I were more extroverted.” (Note that I did not say here “more friendly” or “more confident.” Friendliness and confidence are practiced and developed traits not on the introverted/extroverted scale.)
Dear introvert, be confident in this: God will never ask you to violate the personality that He designed. He will put you in special and challenging and growing circumstances, yes—but He will not violate the core of who you are and what He made. He made you, with your personality and introversion and loves and strengths!
Here are four ways you can use your introversion to your advantage this week:
1. Pray in the checkout line
Focus your attention on that harried human running the cashier. Pray for her as she helps other customers check out. Watch as she interacts. And then, when you get to the front of the line, smile and say something. You’ve had all that time to think of the words. They could be: “What’s the best thing that’s happened to you today?” or, “Thanks for making it happen!” or even: “Hey! I love to pray for people. Is there anything I can pray for you?” As you near a social interaction, pray for the person with whom you will be interacting.
2. Listen with love
Introverts tend to listen more than they speak. Use this to your advantage! One of the most impactful gifts you can give another person is the gift of your focused attention in a conversation and in life. Look for the subtle hints that others are sharing about who they are and what most interests them.
3. Focus in freedom
If I had a penny for every time I thought of a great comeback too late or had an idea that supported a conversation after the fact, I’d have a lot of pennies. Again, God made that personality and tendency in you. It’s perfectly acceptable to follow up with a person after a conversation to share additional thoughts or feedback. Many introverts do their best thinking either before or after an event. Create space to prepare for a purposeful gathering. Take notes. Give yourself the freedom to circle back. You are important, and have something of value to share with us!
4. Never use your introversion as an excuse
In an unhealthy space, us introverts can actually come across as judgmental, proud, unfriendly, or rude. It’s not because we are those things—it’s because we’re probably still observing and learning how best to interact in the current circumstance.
Unless, of course, we are being judgmental, proud, unfriendly, or rude. Your heart knows the answer. Ask God to free you from using your personality as an excuse for a character flaw. Give it to Jesus and ask Him to replace it with humble love and friendly attention.
So to the introverts among us: use your power. God has designed you to see, to observe. He has given you a deep love for people along with the need to separate at times into a quiet place for processing. It’s time for us introverts to unite around the common goals of loving God and loving others. It’s time for us to seize the day and engage in the present moments God has given. It’s time to use our strengths of focused love and kind observation. And it’s time to speak up. Power to the introverts!
Child of God, you cost Christ too much for him to forget you. —Charles Spurgeon