What does it really mean to be extroverted or introverted?
Adam McHugh is the author of Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. He shares some ways we can distinguish introversion from extroversion.
“On the most basic level, introversion is an inward orientation. Whereas, extroversion is an outward orientation. Introverts are more attentive to what is happening inside of us then we are to what’s happening outside of us.”
Adam says there are three classic distinctions between introverts and extroverts. The first has to do with how we find our energy.
“Introverts find their energy from being alone, or from being in a conversation with one or two close people that they know and love. Whereas extrovert find their energy from being around larger groups from outside of themselves. Introverts are going to find themselves wearing out of energy very quickly in a larger crowd. Whereas extroverts may actually find their energy expanding and building the more time they spend with other people.”
The second distinction has to do with how we process.
“Introverts process silently. Whereas extroverts tend to process outwardly. It’s been said that introverts think in order to speak. Whereas extroverts speak in order to think. Extroverts are going to process their ideas aloud. Introverts tend to go quiet and into our heads when we’re processing new information.”
Adam says this can be liable to much misinterpretation because introverts can often appear to be detached or aloof.
“People assume that we’re not engaged, or that we’re timid, or that we’re not paying attention, when in reality we’re just processing inside of our own heads.”
The third distinction has to do with whether you prefer depth or breadth.
“Introverts tend to have fewer relationships, but very close relationships. They tend to have fewer interests, but tend to be passionate about those particular interests.”
It’s important to understand these differences because Adam says that neither introversion or extroversion indicate a deficiency.
“It’s important to define our terms because I think there is still a lot of confusion in our culture about introversion and extroversion. I think the biggest problem is all to often, introverts get defined by what we aren’t, and I’m eager to define us for what we are and the gifts we have to contribute to other people.”
Adam McHugh is an ordained Presbyterian minister and spiritual director. He has served at two Presbyterian churches, as a hospice chaplain and as campus staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. He is the author of Introverts in the Church and lives in Santa Barbara, California.
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