The phrase “Better a man should be considered a fool than to open his mouth and remove all doubt” was probably referencing an extrovert from an introvert’s point of view.
If you have ever been offended by someone at church, it was most likely from an extrovert. Not intentional, just lacking that ‘think before you speak’ talent. (Unless it was from an introvert, then you can be sure it was well thought-out and intentional.)
We’ve all heard the idea that we should think before we speak. Introverts actually do.
As Marti Olsen Laney says in her book The Introvert Advantage, there is a longer neural pathway for stimuli processing for introverts. They have a more complicated path through long term memory and planning to process interactions and events. Introverts simultaneously are carefully attending to their internal thoughts and feelings while they process information.
An introvert may appear avoidant, or shy, while they are really just thinking before they speak. They process their thoughts internally. Extroverts have a difficult time thinking before they speak as they actually process their thoughts externally.
Introverts will share their ideas, but they have been formed and reached the desired shape first.
Knowing that we are wired differently can ease the discomfort of interacting with one another. Here are a few things to keep in mind when striving for a better experience at church.
1. Build on commonalities
Rather than finding the differences between people and causing separations, let’s focus on what we have in common and build on that.
In Psychology Today, Laurie Helgoe, PhD states that extroverts and introverts both report mood boosts from the company of others.
It is also noteworthy that the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test administered to two randomized national samples found that introverts make up 50 percent of the U.S. population. If you feel like you don’t fit in, it’s probably not as bad as it seems. It just looks like there are more extroverts because they make more noise.
Remember that we are all human and we attend church for the same purpose, ultimately to get closer to God: to learn more of His ways and to find His blessings.
Church, whatever variety you follow, should be considered pure and true while being run by mere humans who are by nature flawed and in need of attending church.
2. Realize you are needed and have many gifts and talents to share
Each personality type has pros and cons. Each should benefit from the other. We are made different on purpose to complement each other. As the body – head, neck, arms, and so forth complement each other. When each part works together the whole can progress.
Because introverts take more time to process information, they have better thought out ideas. It’s often not noticed because the extroverts are already done having the conversation. Go ahead and feel free to contribute to the conversation, even if the extroverts think it is finished. Re-visit it with confidence knowing that you have something valuable to share. Then be prepared for the action the extroverts will take, knowing that they must speak to process the information. Try not to take offense as they try to sort out their thoughts.
3. Take care of yourself
When you need a break give it to yourself. You deserve it. Everyone, introvert or extrovert, would benefit from paying attention to their personal needs. Just like young children get grumpy when they are tired or hungry, introverts need to take a break to recharge after a while.
Don’t feel pressured to overdo it. You don’t need to impress them as much as they think you do.
Studies of psychologist Hans Eysenck show that introverts require less stimulation from the world when compared with extroverts and are more easily overstimulated. Introverts process everything in their surroundings, which can contribute to the false idea that they are not paying attention to people. This can make an introvert feel compelled to act more extroverted.
Laurie Helgoe, PhD shares that introverts who acted like extroverts showed slower reaction times on cognitive tests than those allowed to be introverted. This is evidence that “acting counter-dispositionally is depleting.”
Because of the natural tendencies of introverts, anxiety and depression are more common for them according to Robert McPeek, director of research at the Center for Applications of Psychological Type.
4. Tell them
Be honest with yourself and with the people around you. Tell them when you are getting worn out or need a break. Tell them that you are thinking about the right way to answer the question, or thinking of an idea.
Let them participate with you in conversation by helping them know that you are thinking and that you will have something to say sometime in the future. That way they will be looking forward to hearing from you instead of annoyed that you started the conversation over. This will help them know that you are involved and not ignoring them.
5. Be confident in who you are and why you’re there
It’s not for them. You are there for you. As you become closer to God, you will feel His love more and it will fill you up to the point that eventually you will have a spill-over of love for the people around you. When you are so full of love there will not be room for anything else.
“For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind!”— 2 Timothy 1:7.
A sound mind is what we search for by attending church that is more natural for introverts. It is expressed again in Philippians 4:8 (King James Version):
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
We should all strive to be a little more introverted. Thinking more, especially while at church, would be of great benefit. It’s how we internalize what is being taught there. Becoming more introverted is one of the reasons for attending church. It’s how we become more of what God wants us to be.