I had a thought yesterday that maybe large changes in a culture and in the world start with the poets, artists, dreamers, and writers, the people who are more introspective and spend much time soul-searching. Jesus said that “the kingdom of heaven is within you”. Maybe people who spend more time “on the inside” are the first to catch a vision for what is possible and how to achieve that, then gradually those outer-directed people, the “doers”, catch that vision and work it out in practical ways.
This, of course, is an overly simplistic theory. No one is totally one kind of person or the other, and Jesus wasn’t just talking to the introspective people. After I thought about this for a while, though, I went to my bookshelf to find a book I had read a couple of years ago called The Introvert Advantage, and the first line on the first page said “Democracy cannot thrive without the guidance of a creative minority” (Harlan Stone). Interesting thought.
Many people have used the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator to learn, among other things, whether they are an introvert or an extrovert. I already had a pretty good idea that I was an introvert, but what helped me when I used this several years ago was learning that introverts are not necessarily shy or quiet, but they derive energy from their inward focus on ideas, emotions, and impressions, whereas extroverts gain energy by focusing outward on activities, people, places, and things. Both temperaments are okay and necessary, just different, but 75% of people are extroverts.
The author of the book, Marti Olsen Laney, Psy. D., says that introverts are often advisers – “people who work independently, who wrestle with decisions, who have had to learn how to put themselves in other people’s shoes and communicate with people. These workers are creative, imaginative, intelligent, and thoughtful. They are observers. Their work often impacts many people and they have the courage and perspective to say unpopular things. In her book ,The Highly Sensitive Person, Dr. Elaine Aron states that the other class, the warrior class, are the doers of the world. They need counsel from the advisers, and the advisers need the warriors to take action and make things happen. Many theorists feel that that is why only 25% of the population consists of introverted people – fewer introverts are needed.”
Maybe my theory does make sense. I do know that when I first read this book, I felt relieved to know that I wasn’t alone in needing time for reflection and regrouping, especially after a lot of social activity, and in needing internal processing time in order to make decisions and express myself.
The book also says that “when introverts appear reluctant to speak or speak slowly, they often don’t engage extroverts. Extroverts may think (introverts can think this, too) that the introverts don’t have anything to contribute. Introverts dislike interrupting, so they might say something softly or without emphasis. Other times comments made by introverts have more depth than the general level of the conversation; because this may make people feel uncomfortable, they ignore the comment. Later another person may say the same thing and receive a great response. The introverted person feels unseen. It’s frustrating and confusing for them.”
“Our country places a high value on silver-tongued folks who appear confident and decisive. Introverts often exhibit the exact opposite qualities of these “in-charge types” we esteem so highly. This creates a gap between the introverts and extroverts filled with misunderstanding and faultfinding.”
There are certainly other differences between people besides introversion and extroversion, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator brings some of these out, but the important thing to remember is that no two people are alike, and we all bring something important to the table. The Introvert Advantage is a great book to help bring understanding about introverted people and the contribution they can bring to the world of ideas. After all, everything begins with an idea, and the ideas of love, forgiveness, and mutual respect are ideas whose time has come.