I am an introvert. Always have been. Always will be. Dyed in the wool, so to speak. On personality tests I blow the end off the introvert-extrovert scale. I have always felt out of it and unable to communicate my thoughts verbally when I am talking face to face with someone. It is even more obvious when I’m in the company of two or more. I can’t seem to get in a word edgewise. That trait cost me dearly among my more chatty classmates during my school years. I was often given the feeling of being the weird one and relegated to the edge of the group.
For example: I am one of six female cousins. There used to be seven of us, but we lost one last April. Unfortunately, she was the most like me compared to the others. When we get together, it is extremely difficult for me to get in a word edgewise in order to contribute to the conversation. I usually resign myself to just sitting among them and listening. When I get bored, as it often occurs when I’m listening to social conversation, my mind thinks of other things. My cousins are not familiar with my contributing to their conversations. I used to think it was because I was the youngest. On the pecking order of cousins, the oldest gets to talk the most, and she usually does, followed very closely by my sister. After that, come two others who are virtually tied, followed by Sue, who is somewhat like me but better able to communicate verbally, with me dead last.
I had something very important to share with them at our bi-annual get together a few years ago. We were all sitting around chatting. I said, “I’d like to say something.” There was no response. I said, “There’s something I’d like to share with you.” Nothing. The third time I finally raised my voice loudly enough to be heard over the noise. “I’d like your prayers,” I practically yelled. I hate the stereotype of women talking being compared to the barnyard clucking of hens, but in the case of our family, I am often tempted to think just that.
Finally, I had their attention and the noise decreased. To my memory, for the first time ever, they were actually going to let me speak. I remember feeling a little nervous with this unaccustomed attention. This was a first in the history of our family get-togethers. My cousins take pride in the practicing of their religion so asking for their prayers was an attention getter.
I told them I was going to have some fairly serious surgery in the next couple of weeks. I had already made arrangements for Sue and another friend to come down to stay with me for the first two weeks. I needed nothing from any of them but their prayers. Then of course there were all kinds of questions. They were finally satisfied with the answers and turned once again to other topics.
Back to being an introvert. In one of my Wednesday night classes another woman shared something about herself that resonated with me. She talked about how she is slow to act and it has always bothered her when she didn’t immediately respond as quickly as others in crucial situations. She always felt there was something wrong with her. I’m much the same way and I told her so.
Last week we talked some more. I told her how difficult it was for me to communicate verbally. I have always been able to sit down first with my elementary school pencil and tablet, then at a typewriter, then the keyboard, and thirty minutes to an hour later,depending upon the topic, I’ve knocked out 1,000 words if there’s no research involved. She said, “I understand. I’m the same way. I am an introvert. Introverts process information differently than extroverts.” She used her finger to circle her head imitating the pathways the thought process has to follow before introverts speak. I had never in my life heard that. Light bulbs were flashing above my head. “Wow,” I thought, “I don’t have some kind of syndrome or brain abnormality after all. It’s just because I’m an introvert.”
This topic was so fascinating to me I just had to research it.
In one section of her book The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, Dr. Marti Olsen Laney talks about studies on the differences in introverts’ and extroverts’ brains, including what pathways in the brain have the most blood flow in introverts vs. extroverts and what neurotransmitters are used in the dominant pathway of each type’s brain. She mentions that we often do have trouble with word retrieval when speaking, because apparently we introverts are reaching into long-term memory for the words we want. And the reason we may have trouble with verbalizing our thoughts but not with writing or typing is that we are calling upon different parts of the brain for those activities. Well, so much for saying that someone should just snap out of being an introvert!
This blogger continues to say, In my own speaking, I’ve noticed that I converse in a rhythm that’s just as fast as everyone else’s when I’m talking to my friends and family about everyday things. I guess that’s because the thoughts are probably not too complex, plus I am totally relaxed with them. But add even a tiny bit of nervousness with unfamiliar people, and I may start to feel more like I’m floundering for the words I want. My sister has noticed that sometimes she’ll ask her husband something that requires thought and he will be totally silent until his complete answer finally comes to his lips. I haven’t tried just waiting like that myself, …..buffering….. but instead I’ll usually get started with as many words as I can come up with on the spot, occasionally having to really search for a technical term I don’t use much or worse still, someone’s name. I try to make a lot of eye contact while I’m actually speaking, so that when I do have a millisecond (or maybe more) delay in there they’ll know I’m actively answering and not give up on me. Bingo! That sounds so familiar.
I have noticed that for myself, I don’t make much eye contact. I’m too busy trying to find the words. I often speak hesitatingly. I even bore myself by the time I get a thought expressed. I forget to look at the faces of the people to whom I am talking.
I took a facebook quiz about which Bible character I would be and found out that I would be most like Moses. In Exodus 4, God wanted a spokesperson.
Then Moses said to the LORD, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”
11The LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12“Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.”
Then Moses becomes a little more obstinate and questions God about the assignment.
13But he said, “Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will.”
Aaron to Be Moses’ Mouthpiece
14Then the anger of the LORD burned against Moses, and He said, “Is there not your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he speaks fluently. And moreover, behold, he is coming out to meet you; when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15“You are to speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I, even I, will be with your mouth and his mouth, and I will teach you what you are to do. 16“Moreover, he shall speak for you to the people; and he will be as a mouth for you and you will be as God to him.
It probably isn’t wise to honk off God. I don’t think I would have been so brave. I’ve been taught thoughout the years Moses had a speech impediment. Perhaps his impediment was just the fact that he was an introvert. Wild idea, eh?
I’ve certainly had my share of Aaron’s in my life. People repeat what I’ve said to them to others as if they feel they are my spokesperson. One teacher did that constantly, “Annie says that…..” It used to drive me batty. I didn’t always want everything repeated.
I’ve read in one source that introverts make up about 25% of the population. Another source said about half. A third source said 60-75% of the population are extroverts. That means I’m definitely in the minority. That doesn’t bother me. Now that I am beginning to understand why I am the way that I am, I really don’t care that much any more. Namaste. Attic Annie