Even Introverts Need Conversation

We all know the stereotypical perception of introverts and extroverts. Extroverts loving being the life of the party while introverts prefer to hide away by themselves. Luckily, most of us also know that this is not really how we are wired. I recently heard an excellent distinction on this matter which I think really helps: Rather than what do you "like" to do, whether you are an introvert or extrovert is found in where you are energized. I get this. I am an introvert, and know it, although I also definitely crave being around people. I think most introverts do, as we all have desires and needs to be in community and around other people.

There is nothing like good friends conversing over good food!
My life recently has been a bit of case study for just such a desire, within an introvert, to be around other people in community. I work for Fuller Theological Seminary, and in my position I work with prospective students as well as pastors, alumni, and others in Arizona to reach out and find those who are interested in pursuing a theological education. I love the conversations I have with prospective students, often one-on-one and trying to discern where God is leading them and whether Fuller is a part of that journey or not. Yet other circumstances of the job I find draining...particularly the initially reaching out and meeting of new individuals. This doesn't mean I do not like my job, or I don't learn how to do it to the best of my ability, but rather this particular part of the job drains my energy level. Often my weeks spent on recruitment and marketing tend to be long and tedious.

The other aspect of life which impacts this energy drain is the fact my wife Amanda is a Registered Nurse who works the night shift. When she works during the week we perhaps see each other for 15 to 25 minutes a day. I'm really not exaggerating, and there are several days where we don't see each other at all. We can text back and forth, and squeeze in a phone call in the morning or evening during our mutual shifts from home to work environments. Yet, we can't actually have true conversation that goes beyond important matters of schedule, finances, or family.

Being an introvert, this gives me a lot of time to myself. I should be full of energy, feeling good about life, right?

There are those evenings I do enjoy spending on my own, but when this schedule stretches into days upon days or weeks, often the energy effect is lost.

Honestly, the weeks where Amanda works the entire week are hard on me. 

A large reason of this difficulty is the lack of conversation, of connecting with someone on a truly personal level, and simply enjoying the time together. I can begin to feel like an outside observer to all that occurs in this sacred thing we call life if there is no connection with others.

I love my wife. She is truly an amazing person and someone I enjoy being around as much as I can. Truly, we are two people who have different interests, likes, and careers, but we also have much we share in common. In fact, these differences and similarities give us things to talk about! Sometimes the conversation is mostly one person talking, often about their work or thoughts on something they were studying (theology/philosophy and medicine being particularly one-sided at times!). Other times we can talk about the many different facets of our life and interactions with others.

During these busy weeks, I find I work, not having many conversations and then come home to an evening with our pets, with little conversation. In fact, I have noticed I tend to start conversations with my co-workers about non-work related (at least directly) topics more often during this time. Perhaps this is a subconscious fulfilling of my need to converse and be a part of community.

There are those times regularly in the schedule, a church study on Thursdays, basketball on another night, and I do try to find time to have lunch with a friend when our schedules allow for it. These are essential during these weeks, and still hint at the need to converse and connect, even for an introvert!

I'm an introvert, but I cherish conversation. With my wife as often as possible, but also genuine conversations with other people. It really does seem we are wired for community but also have our individuality. I'm sure extroverts need their time to withdraw and be alone, just as introverts need to be around others.

To bring spirituality into this, of course we have our present relationship with God that needs to be cultivated and time spent with: one aspect which is a constant and enables these hard weeks to pass with more peace. Yet, I do think there is wisdom and truth in the Genesis narrative when we see God created man and woman in his image (actually - "our" image, explicitly indicating a communal aspect to individuality). Then, God recognized man needed a companion and created woman. Co-equals in the image of God. This is true community, where people love and value each person equally for who they are in their created image. Their place in the community, in the conversation, has nothing to do with what they do for you, but in the fact they are THERE! We can find our needed individuality and space but also our acceptance, love, and place. In fact, can we truly even know ourselves if we don't know God or others? I think not.

All I really know on this subject is I truly am an introvert, needing my time away from the drain of corporate interactions and pressures. Yet I am also in consistent, constant need of conversation. To be around Amanda, friends, and family and spend time simply getting to know each other better, whether discussing medicine, philosophy, sad news, sports, or television shows.