To My Extroverted Classmate

Dear Extroverted Classmate -

Last week, I sat in class with you for three days and really enjoyed getting to know you, though I fear you left without really knowing me.

On our second day of class, Professor Gerali talked about how women use seven times as many words per day as men. Afterward, you approached me and said, “That’s sure not true for you, huh?”

In that moment, I wanted to crawl under the table and hide because you suddenly made me the focus of everyone’s attention in a way that drew attention to my shyness. As an introvert, that attention is something I try desperately to avoid.

As an extrovert, I know it’s going to be hard for you to understand this, but please know that I actually like being introverted. Because I’m content as an introvert, I wish that you’d be content with that part of my personality. I wish you’d stop trying to fix me or trying to make me become more like you. Instead, I wish you’d recognize that being introverted is part of what makes me, me.

I also wish that you, my extroverted classmate, would understand that

- Even though I’m introverted, I still like people! You just tire me out and so sometimes, I need to withdraw in order to recharge.

- I’m much more comfortable being in 1:1 conversations than in a big group.

- I don’t have to be talking to feel included in a conversation. Instead, I can contentedly listen to others.

- Speaking all the time doesn’t make you better than me. Sometimes, I think you think I’m dumb because I’m not constantly talking. However, I’m a deep thinker who has creative, innovative ideas.

- Despite having creative, innovative ideas, I’m not going to fight you to talk. I’ll wait for you to take a breath & I’ll gladly jump in but if you start talking over me, I won’t stop you. I’ll just be quiet.

- I don’t need to be the center of everyone’s attention. Chances are, I’ll share what I feel I have to contribute and then I’ll ask YOU a question to engage you. Just once, I’d love it if you’d stop talking long enough to ask me a question too.

- Speaking of which, the best way to engage me in conversation is to ask me a question. Don’t comment on how little I talk. That just makes me self-conscious about being shy. Instead, ask me something. But only ask if you really want to listen to my response. If you ask me a question and then interrupt me to answer it yourself, it’ll only frustrate us both.

If you’d just remember a few of these things, my extroverted classmate, I really think we could be friends. When I look at you, I see someone who I appreciate it and value because I know that you connect with a different type of person than I do. I know that you bring something to a group of people that I don’t. I know that you’re a valuable part of the Body of Christ and that you contribute uniquely to it.

I only wish you’d learn that the same is true of me.

Comments

kb

Wow..that person must travel fast. I was around him all day yesterday in Central Illinois. Maybe he has a brother.

Posted by kb, over 9 years ago

Billy Bob

Jen:

You are probably right, and if I’m that classmate forgive me. It’s possible, though, that you’re reading me wrong. What if my sense of urgency compels me past the delicate intricacies of collegiality. What if I take heart from the men (and women!) of Scripture who seized bulls and baloney by the horns and wreaked havoc with evil and its stupid cousins? What if I’m not sure that silence doesn’t portend passive-aggressive ways of controlling group process? And what if I desperately seek to find quick assent among colleagues so that we can move forward efficiently and effectively?

Does any of this move past the simple notions of extroversion vs. introversion? Do my questions necessarily wait for your questions? And how much time do we have, really, for the work of God’s Spirit to simmer in our souls before it finds an out?

You’re probably still right and even righteous in the face of my behavaiors, but those of us who are extroverts also cry out, “How long, dear Lord, how long?”

And we might be righteous, too. . . .

Posted by Billy Bob, over 9 years ago

Tony

Jen,

As an extravert who had intoverted roommates in college, what you say is so great. At first I did not know what to make of them. But, I learned and what you write is so spot on. Great work!

Posted by Tony, over 9 years ago

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

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