by Barbara Glasson.
According to the Myers Briggs personality indicator I am very strongly introvert. ‘Don’t be silly, darling, of course you’re not!’ was the response of my extrovert mother. Which proved the point really; the point being that I thought she never listened and she thought I never told her anything.
As a child the thought of ‘being introvert’ hadn’t yet been invented. The definition was ‘being shy’ and this was something that you could clearly get over. Getting over being shy was just a matter of plucking up courage and saying something, learning some social graces and putting yourself ‘out there’. Being shy could stop you having friends and make you feel gauche and isolated. Being shy was a problem. But being introvert is most certainly not a problem – it’s a gift, it’s not something to be got over, it’s something to be claimed!
Being introvert is not the same as being unfriendly. As a friendly introvert one is in the cleft stick of really loving people and being totally exhausted by them. Really liking people means you will listen to them deeply and intently and really empathise with what they are saying; being introvert also means that all that intense listening is going to fill up your head until it has no room for thinking. The result is you forget things and get easily confused by simple tasks, well that’s my excuse for leaving my laptop behind.
I’ve just returned from the Greenbelt festival, which is why I am in a room upstairs on my own writing this (on my returned laptop) and recovering from being with fifteen thousand people for a whole weekend. It’s not that I don’t like people, I really do, I find them interesting and weird, complicated and funny. It’s just that, in my opinion, like chocolates, you’re better off enjoying them one at a time rather than by the box-full.
My Greenbelt didn’t seem much like anybody else’s. I didn’t go to any talks or any music or any stalls but I really got to know a lovely taxi driver from Ghana called Alec and the security guard on night duty at the gate and, whilst reading poetry out loud to myself in an empty tent I met two lovely young people and read them some poetry too. And on the Sunday morning, when there was the huge communion service in the main arena, which was all about Christmas and had camels and everything, I stayed in the Methodist sponsored tent called the Foundry to listen from afar.
But interestingly, so did about a hundred other people, all seeking quiet and gentle conversation and good coffee and that was so lovely. I moved outside on the grass and smiled, because there are a lot of us introverts around.
So what’s the story? They do say, if you don’t know what an extrovert is thinking you haven’t listened and if you don’t know what an introvert is thinking you haven’t asked. And an introvert’s ‘story’ will take time and pondering and gentleness to form and find words. We need space (and good coffee) and we’re not afraid of the silences and long pauses. In a group or meeting introverts may well be the last to speak, not because we are shy, but because we are still working out what to say. Just be patient, don’t keep asking if we are ok, just bear with us and eventually, with time, you never know there may well be a pearl of great price!