The misunderstandings people have about introverts are astounding and sometimes even hurtful. Here are a few that have been cast my way and toward fellow introverts:
1. We are all the same.
While all introverts are reserved, constantly quiet and unsocial, introverts are nevertheless a diverse group, with varying degrees of introversion. For example, if you give me the authority, I will lead the meeting. No problem. But this would never be comfortable for some introverts.
2. We are shy.
This may be your word, but it is not mine. I prefer purposeful. Others may call it something else. I talk when there is a purpose. I am not afraid to do so. Three-year-olds are shy when they hide behind their daddy. That is not me.
3. We need more courage.
Why I oughta … (You will get this sarcasm only if you are a Three Stooges fan.) Seriously, I’m not chicken when I choose not to speak. I am being comfortable with who I am.
4. We have nothing to say.
Actually I have lots to say. After all, I blog almost daily. I did a daily devotional for more than a dozen years, and I had a radio program for 17 years. Have you ever seen how often I update Twitter and Facebook? I have plenty to say. Sometimes I do and sometimes I do not express it, but often how I choose to communicate will be different from how others choose to communicate.
5. We are not as intelligent, because we do not speak as much.
Yeah, in a lot of ways I am ignorant. It was not until I was about 50 years old that I began to understand all I do not know. I am not trying to be funny, but in some ways I am smarter than the guy who never quits talking. (You know the one.) I am less likely to say the thing I wish I had not said because I did not think before I talked. It happens with me, too, but not as often as it might for some.
6. We are arrogant, aloof or unfriendly.
I am a lot of negative things, but those are not really the main three. People who know me tend to call me humble, though I am not necessarily humble. I have just been humbled by life. And so I am not looking down on anyone. I sometimes, though, have to go back and apologize once I hear that someone thinks I avoided them. This happens especially with extremely extroverted people.
Honestly, I love everyone. Or at least my biblical commitment and personal goal is to do so. Whether or not I talk to you will not be a good determinant of whether or not I like you. It might even mean I respect you enough to listen more than speak.
7. We need you to talk for us.
Um, actually we would rather you not. This said, I sometimes let my wife talk for me. She is good at it, too. But if I have an opinion I think needs sharing, I can speak for myself. Or I can regret later that I did not. But either way, please do not try to be my voice.
8. We need to change, mature or grow as a person.
I have heard this so many times, mostly about other leaders someone is trying to coach and asking for my advice about. Wrong. Introversion is not a maturity problem. They may need to mature in how they respond as a leader, but they do not need to mature in personality.
The truth is, I am quieter than some leaders you know—or your perception of a leader—but my personality has not changed a ton in all the years I have been leading. There are lots of things wrong with me. Introversion is not one of them.
Taken from The Mythical Leader: The Seven Myths of Leadership by Ron Edmondson. Copyright © 2017 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com.
Ron Edmondson is pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, veteran church planter and author of several books. For more: RonEdmondson.com