Inside the mind of an Introvert

Over the road Tanya Marlow wrote a post on being an honorary introvert, it’s a great post and she invites us in to see what its like to be an extrovert at the dinner table. We see a glimpse of what its like to be an extrovert with an illness that keeps her indoors and through this she reflects on how she is an honorary introvert. It’s a great read and it got me thinking again about introverts and extroverts. I wrote some posts a while back on Introverts in the church that shared some of my thoughts from the book that I was reading on that subject.

I laughed a lot when Tanya said: “Sometimes, I will confess, I view introverts as a blank canvas onto which I splash my bright, oh-so-interesting stories.  It came as quite a shock when I entered Twitter and the Blogosphere, and discovered that introverts have thoughts.”

It made me laugh because as an introvert myself with edges of life dipping into pools of the extrovert world, I guess on the outside it would seem I was shy, lacking in confidence and have nothing meaningful to say. I am a blank canvas. But the truth is, inside my brain are a thousand thoughts and pictures, its like a firework display constantly going off. It is noisy. Thinking about conversations I have had, thinking about theology, thinking about conversations that I may have or may never have, thinking about what I will do next, thinking about what the person in front of me has just said – do I agree, don’t I agree? What does that person really mean when they say that? What will they think if I say this in response? …. mmm I wonder whats for dinner tonight.

Now if you ask me a question and there is a silence it doesn’t mean I don’t have an answer. Whats actually happening is that I am running through every situation in my head on how to answer this, I delve into the knowledge I might have around that question, the logical answer, the emotional answer, the truthful answer and I think about all the possible responses you may have to that answer which will determine whether I say it or not.

The danger of us introverts starting to say anything out loud is that someone will interrupt us and disrupt the thought pattern and ruin what we are going to say, which will cause us to start the thinking process again. Which takes time and if you are in a group with extroverts what probably has happened is that they are three topics ahead and the introverts are still mulling over what the first conversation was about. It’s quite funny really!

This is why I quite like twitter and blogging. It gives a great chance to spend time thinking and chewing through ideas before writing it down. Then you can look over it and change anything you want to.Without any interruptions. Check out Tanya’s post on introverts taking over the internet!

One thing I have learnt though is that at times I need to think and speak quicker and I don’t have to go through all scenarios before I say something to someone. I do have things to say, I just need to speak up at times.

Also extroverts do have good things to say. You see, I guess I sometimes think that as extroverts talk out their thoughts I am often thinking that they aren’t saying anything at all meaningful. If I actually sit and listen then I will find that there is a meaningful conclusion and if extroverts sit and wait for introverts then they will hear a meaningful conclusion too. The working out of that is either out loud or in their head. Noise and silence which will bring pain and awkwardness to both people. But in friendship as I learn with my friend Tanya, a bit of awkward noise or silence is well worth it in the end.

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10 thoughts on “Inside the mind of an Introvert

  1. This is so true for me too. It can be hard enough to categorise ourselves as either introvert or extrovert, never mind trying to work it out for others. Since joining Twitter I seem to have morphed from being a natural introvert (by history and experience) who suddenly finds herself acting like an extrovert by exploding with conversation all over the place. It’s like unleashing the stopper off a bottle of pop and being surprised as it gushes everywhere.
    I’m also held back from participating in the usual social gatherings by the limitations of having M.E and other chronic health conditions, which means I am often too weary for ‘actual’ conversation. But the ‘virtual’ ones are so compelling and draw me in almost without thinking. It can be so encouraging and convenient to meet with people without having to make any effort to get ready or leave the house! Plus, it is up to me when and what I join in with – although we can all get carried away there.
    The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that few people fit neatly or completely into either category as there may be situations where we react as one or the other depending on our experiences and level of confidence in being heard.
    So I find that my deep longing to connect and express myself (surely intrinsic to us all to some degree or other?) can be partly met by ‘talking to’ and commenting on other people’s ‘conversations’ and blogs – hence the entry here!

    • Joy, thanks so much for your comment! I can very much resonate with what you are saying – twitter and blogging allows you to unleash those thoughts and be able to engage in conversations that you wouldn’t normally have for various reasons. But what is great also is that you can re-read them, edit them and then send them – you can’t do that in the “real world”. I am very encouraged that others feel the same way 🙂 Thank you.

  2. I find it helpful to register the fact that I am going to speak by saying something such as ‘That’s an interesting question.’ I also often ask people to clarify their question (to narrow down the search in my head) which helps because then they stay on the subject I am thinking about. Good post. Thanks.

    • Thank you! Those are some handy tips – I often ask lots of questions too. It helps my thought process as well and it shows that I am engaging in the conversation!

  3. Great post, Cat. As always, you’ve got me thinking! And I agree with the paragraph about just needing to speak up and say something sometimes- I’ve found that even writing this comment I’ve changed what I wanted to say a couple of times, re-worded it and deleted it all and started again, thought about just not bothering and then decided to persevere… ! Phew, being an introvert – exhausting! For all that is good about thinking carefully and processing lots of ideas, the danger I face is that I just don’t interact with anyone! Like Joy said, I think we are all made to relate to others, so that’s a problem! In the end, I would like my interactions – on twitter, fb, blogs, in conversations etc. to be about encouraging others and being encouraged by others – that won’t happen without communication…

    • Emily! Its always a joy to hear your thoughts 🙂 I do that all the time with comments or posts. The more controversal the more I re-read and re-write!! I agree with you about wanting our interactions to be encouraging, I think that is so important but as you said, it means we have to communicate, which I guess means letting some of our thoughts seep out 🙂

  4. Cat, this puts into words so many of my (jumbled!) thoughts. Love your description of the internal firework display: just beautiful (and spot-on too).

  5. YESSS! You got everything spot on.

    “Now if you ask me a question and there is a silence it doesn’t mean I don’t have an answer. Whats actually happening is that I am running through every situation in my head on how to answer this, I delve into the knowledge I might have around that question, the logical answer, the emotional answer, the truthful answer and I think about all the possible responses you may have to that answer which will determine whether I say it or not.”

    This happens to me all the time! People ask me questions and never, NEVER wait for me to respond. My Boss asked me a question the other day (and you can tell I’m still thinking it over, right?!) and before I could answer he changed the subject, just like that! I think I’ve come to accept that I cant/wont share my thoughts in certain situations regardless of the conversation. Its just the way it is.

    On the other hand, I realize that I don’t really need to think as much about what I’m going to say when I’m with close friends and/or family.

    But thank you for this post. You made clear why I’m like this and that it really is normal for us ‘introverts’.

    • Aw im glad this post helped and made things a bit more clear 🙂 It is very frustrating when people don’t wait for a response while you are thinking – I get a bit annoyed too! Don’t give up though :)Thank you for commenting.

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