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7 False Assumptions Made About Introverts

I am an introvert. Some people can question whether they are or not. I don’t. I’m certified in Myers Briggs, so I know the language well. I’ve studied the concept, but it didn’t require much study or an assessment for me. I know I’m in the club.

As a pastor, it meant I was more tired when I went home on Sunday. It means I avoid certain crowds unless I have a clear purpose for being there. It means I usually run amd exercise alone and I’m okay with that. It means I’m probably harder to get to know than some people. I get all that. I own it. It’s me.

I realize I have to work harder as a leader to allow my team to know me or what I’m thinking. I can’t allow introversion to be an excuse for poor leadership.

I’ve written before about the struggles of introversion in ministry before and how I adapted with it as a pastor. What surprises me, however, is how misunderstood introverts are sometimes. There are a lot of false assumptions made when someone is introverted; maybe especially an introverted leader. (And, I know lots of pastors – even of very large churches – who are introverted.)

Here are 7 false assumptions, which have been made of me as an introvert:

Some think I’m shy

That may be your word, but it’s not mine. I prefer purposeful for me. Others may call it something else. I talk when there’s a purpose and I’m not afraid to do so. Three year olds are shy when they hide behind their daddy. That’s not me.

Some have thought I must need more courage

“Why I oughta!” (You’ll get that only if you are a Moe Howard – Three Stooges fan.) Seriously, I “ain’t chicken”. Again, when I choose to speak I’ll speak. Choosing not to isn’t a fear. It’s just being comfortable.

It’s been thought that I must not have anything to say

Actually I have lots to say. Have you noticed I blog frequently? I wrote a book even. Have you noticed how often I update Twitter and Facebook? I have bunches to say. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t express it, but many times how I choose to communicate will be different than how others choose to communicate.

In some settings, when I’m quieter than others, it’s been assumed I’m not as intelligent as others in the room

And, that’s probably true in a lot of ways; depending on the subject. I try to surround myself with people smarter than me. And, I listen well. Actually, I have a few degrees hanging on my wall. But, in some ways I think I may be smarter than the one who never quits talking. You know the one. I am less likely to say the thing I wish I hadn’t said, because I didn’t think before I talked. It happens, but not as often as it might for some.

Sadly, some have thought I am arrogant or don’t like people

That is definitely not true. Honestly, I love everyone. I have a Biblical commitment and a personal goal to do so. Whether or not I talk to you will not be a good determination of whether or not I like you. It might even mean I respect you enough to listen more than speak. Maybe.

Some have thought I need someone to talk for me

And, actually I’d rather you not. Now that said, I sometimes let my wife talk for me. She’s good at it too. But, if I have an opinion I think needs sharing, I’ll speak for myself. Or regret later than I didn’t. But, either way, please don’t try to be my voice.

And, some have even told me I need to change, mature, grow as a person or leader

Yea, I had that said a number of times as a pastor. But, let me assure you there’s nothing wrong with me. Actually, there’s a lot wrong with me, but introversion isn’t one of the things. I’m just quieter than some leaders you may know — or your immediate perception of a leader.

Those are some of the false assumptions that have been made of this introvert.

Introverts, what misunderstandings have been made about you?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 61 Comments

  • Gina says:

    Thank you for this insightful article. I have a son who is introverted and I am extroverted. This helped me understand him even more.

  • A says:

    I’m accused of not being a “go getter” when it comes to sharing the gospel with everyone I meet… Or for not conversing with everyone at church to see how they are spiritually and otherwise….

    • A says:

      Do introverts gave a hard time formulating impromptu words and sentences under pressure?

      • ronedmondson says:

        It's not so much they have a hard time but they tend to want to think of just the right words before they say them

  • Kat Collins says:

    Yeah, you just described me in this article. It’s always been hard for me to be around people who are engaged in nonstop mindless chatter. I ask myself, when will they be finished? Often times, it’s impossible to get a word in edgewise. Not that I really want to. I am a person of few words at times, but make no mistake. When I have something to say, it will have meaning. The older I become, the more I just sit back and smile. Smile, until the waves and waves of ingratitude, self-adulation, or just general complaining about life subsides. Don’t get me wrong, I can carry on with the best of them on a wide variety of topics; if I want to. Great article, thanks!

  • Nathan says:

    It is refreshing to see articles like this. I love “there are many things wrong with me, but introversion isn’t one of them.” I am in the same camp and have often been discouraged from leading because of it. I hope many will benefit from and be encouraged by your article…especially those in the other camps!

  • Sherry says:

    For myself it is people think:

    1) I am stuck up, 2) Not courage & 3) Ignorance. The ignorance annoys me the most.

  • becky says:

    oooh yes, this is so true!

  • phyllis says:

    you have pulled the light cord to help me understand my daughter better. Reading your post and the responders truly has opened a whole room of understanding for me and I am sure my connection with my girl will be closer than ever. Thank you all so very much. God and His timing working thru his people.

  • Barb Irwin says:

    I've always been quiet. I like blogging and sometimes writing poetry. I also like sharing Bible studies I have researched and written, as well as my story in both small and larger groups. But going to a get-together used to be hard. Five years ago I had a stroke and had to relearn to speak, type, write and think well. (I am turning 62 this month and am still regaining skills.) But I've learned that if I don't go places while I feel uncomfortable, I will miss out on opportunities to grow, learn and share. I have also learned of necessity that I can be quiet and that it's okay. Even if I'm not as quick as others, it doesn't mean I'm inferior to others. I've also found that those I'm meant to connect with connect with me. A lot of times others need me to listen. I still have times I don't engage, but they are fewer and farther apart.

  • Angie says:

    Thank you!!!! Finally, I don't have to feel ashamed for who I am!! Nor do I have to explain why I am so tired after being in a crowd.

  • Counselorlady says:

    I like what you said for some introverts. I do however want to comment that not all introverts are quiet. Many of us are quite talkative in fact and many extroverts are rather quiet. Introverts simply recharge best alone or with few very precious people while extroverts recharge best in larger groups. People who don't know me, think I am an extrovert. Somehow they think just because I talk, have some confidence and am socially adept means I am extroverted. According to anyone close to me, myself and my Myers Briggs, I am clearly an introvert. I do not simply want lots of time alone, I NEED it. I am a horrible person if I do not get my introvert time. I love people, and I love talking but my introvert time is extremely important

  • @StevePerky says:

    Ron, thanks for your continued conversation on this topic. Another false assumption I have experienced is that we introverts are "not as committed to the ministry" as others are if we don't attend every event of the church on every day of the week at all hours of the day.

  • Lanny says:

    Thanks for this post. I served in a ministry for 2 years as an intern after college. One of my supervisors kept insisting that I needed more courage and needed to be less shy. He kept insisting that until I became different, I would be lacking in my ability to minister to others. On a weekly basis, I was having one on one conversations where I shared the Gospel with people I was ministering to, but unless I could light up a room when I walked in or immediately join groups easily, what I was doing wasn't enough. I became very discouraged in my ministry. After my 2 years were done, I was able to come to a different place where I have learned that I can serve God in the power of the Holy Spirit without changing my personality.

  • Debbie says:

    I am not an introvert. However, I do work for one. Several months, perhaps even a year, ago Time magazine's cover story was on introverts. It was fabulous! It brought how introverts don't require as much external stimulus as extroverts, among other interesting facts. It's wonderful that introverts are to getting the respect and honor they deserver for just being the way God made them.

  • Wendy says:

    Love how articulate you are! I have often told people that I am shy just to try and give them an explanation that will satisfy them, but truly 'shy' is not in my heart. I have difficulty generating words when nothing strikes me as important, when I am still formulating my thoughts on a matter, or when I don't feel I have anything constructive to add. How frustrating it is to me when folks try to put words in my mouth just because I have not yet chosen how to best express my thoughts in what they consider a timely fashion!

  • David Vogel says:

    If you haven't read it yet, I'd recommend "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain. It's a brilliant look about how our society has evolved to overvalue extroversion, and the often-overlooked strengths of introverts in business and life.

    This post, like the book, has helped me understand my wife (a highly-functional introvert) and introverts at work better, which I hope has translated into giving them the proper space to breathe, and enough silence to allow their input to come through. Thanks for sharing.

  • Diane Campanile says:

    Myers Briggs certified and an ISTJ…..though very friendly crowds exhaust me most just dont know it.

  • Bryan Ruffin

    I am an Intovert, but I love to teach! Give me a room full of people to mingle with and I’ll find a corner somewhere never to be heard from again! However, give me that same room full, for teaching, I may go on all day or night! I need to have a reason to speak. Small talk? I still don’t know why it even exists!! Some folks love it, I can’t figure it out. Most of the time, I need a little time to answer a question; there are times when I have already thought about that very thing and have an answer, mostly, I need time to think. Formulate the thought going through my head. If you need a person to “wor the room”, you’ll find me either reading a book or watching a movie-in a room- alone. I like me just fine. I don’t thrive off the eneregy of others.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Love it

    • Diane Campanile says:

      This is so perfectly stated. What subject matters do you teach? Does the size of the group matter to your comfort level?
      I do a lot of training in HR but find the greater the number of people the easier.

  • kmac4him

    Wow… I can relate to all of those! I can write up a storm, but I am most comfortable when I am not in the center of things. I can teach an online bible study chat with great confidence, but to stand up before others and teach it, my knees would shake through the whole thing. I am very uncomfortable in a large group of people, I am very uncomfortable in a new situation with new people. I am a behind the scenes servant warrior and because of that, I have been labeled as being introverted. People have wrongly assumed if I am quiet on a subject it is because I am not “educated”! I actually had a pastor tell me that I would go nowhere on his staff or in Christian ministry because I was not “educated”! I am quiet because I am not educated. Really? NOT! I am quiet because my tongue is controlled by the Holy Spirit and I have learned there are times HE does not want me to have an opinion. I study up on a lot of things, but I only talk up what HE tells me too. So I am educated, but my submission to God trumps that. I probably learn more out of this life because I listen more deeply than others do in my introverted ways. I hide behind my husband a lot, who is very outgoing and can speak to any stranger on the street, he has the gift of evangelism and gab and I have the gift of intercession and exhortation, very different deliveries! People tend to label intercessors as introverts and people think I am such a loner, I am not because I want to be, it is just hard for me to make new friends and people label me as “super spiritual”, I am not, I just share the things God gives me; yet when they have a need, they come to me first. Go figure? Sometimes I think the gifts God gives us come with a price and sometimes a label: Introvert! Hmmmmmmmmmm!

  • Suzanne Kidwell says:

    Thanks for Great Post!

    I was always an introvert growing up especially in my teenage years. Through life experience and usually

    depending on my surroundings I am now a bit of an Introvert/extrovert. My point is I used to relate self worth with being shy and introverted.

    People would say things like..Are you ok? You are so quiet! She must be a snob. It made me feel inadequate.

    I now understand as an adult that I am not at all. I think it is SO important our young people today understand

    the true definiton and it is okay to be an introvert.


  • Carter Smith says:

    I teach — about 25 students at a time (for an hour or so each time) and try to inject some "how to work with your style" life-lessons in class discussions. Students often chuckle or laugh aloud when I start a comment with "As an introvert, . . .." I think the problem is that extroverts think introverts can't learn how to operate in an extroverted world.

  • Russ says:

    I think the worst accusation we endure is that we don't like people. Totally untrue. We just need our space and often don't have a comment to make or don't want to comment at all. Your observations are dead-on.

  • Planting Potatoes says:

    I talk too much… when I feel it's time to shut up for a while……people think I'm mad at them or that I am no well. So I talk again to show I'm okay….then I talk too much and so go….kind of like a Disneyland ride!

  • joepuentes says:

    Great post! The older I get and the longer I'm in ministry I am becoming more and more of an introvert. In Myers Briggs I have always came out as an extrovert, but I have always recharged as an introvert. Thanks for helping me understand who I am becoming or who i have always been.

  • mightymicky73 says:

    We can easily be twin brothers (in an introverted way…:-)). Awesome post as always!

  • @mmj41 says:

    The hardest part of being on the introverted side is the constant misunderstandings. It's funny… people sometimes think that I'm conceited and that I feel that I'm better than them. In fact, what I'm often thinking of these people is "Man, you're awesome". It gets really frustrating at times. I used to try and clear these misconceptions up but found that just made things worse. Unfortunately, people are going to believe what they want believe.

  • kris13wolfe says:

    On personality tests I am right in the middle. Sometimes I come up extroverted, and sometimes introverted. I love people, but I don't always want to be surrounded by them. I don't enjoy small talk at all. My life is full, and I like it that way. I like conversations with a purpose and that are full of sincerity. I would rather get to know one person really well than to "make my rounds" around the room. I don't worry about being seen (although I do prefer if I am "seen" to look nice;-), I like making meaningful connections. The worst assumption about me that has been often made is that I am rude (I've heard worse words to describe the sentiment) because I tend to have a serious face. I THINK all the time. So my thinking face looks unapproachable. Also people think I am ignoring them because they say I looked right at them and then didn't say hi. I have never done that in my life. More likely, I was daydreaming, or planning out my week in my head and couldn't see past my nose. I have worked a lot on being more in the moment but more than likely I will always have "that face" as long as I live.

  • Amen to all of these! They are spot on correct. I have also encountered those who assume I have no thoughts on the subject because words aren't pouring out of my mouth. Trust me, many thoughts are processing through my mind. They just have to fully process before I'll share them.