Friday, January 25, 2013

Introverts and favorites

It’s been awhile since I've thought about being an introvert. Maybe I’ve overcome some of the issues, or maybe I just haven’t had to face them lately! There were two books I wanted to review a few years ago, and never got around to it.

The first one was called “The Introvert Advantage: Making the Most of Your Inner Strengths," by Marti Olsen Laney. I like it because it explains the difference between introverts and extroverts in a more factual way. And it helps me understand why I possess certain oddities.

What's your favorite _____________?

Recently, we had a reflection time at Bible study and were asked to name some favorite parts of 2012, as it came to a close. While it seemed like a good idea, I had a pretty hard time answering. In fact, I have a hard time naming my favorite anything! Of course I don’t forget factual information like my date of birth, but when it comes to how I feel about something, I have a hard time retrieving the information. I have to make up things like my favorite book or favorite color.

So it was a relief to read that our memories actually DO work differently. Without including the long-winded information about brain signals, here is the gist of it:
"...we introverts think nothing relevant is in our head because we haven’t triggered the association to our long-term memory. Our mind seems blank. This is why introverts can even forget what we like to do or what we are good at." (p.81)*
Losing our train of thought...

It may sound like a lame excuse, but here's a reason that we can't find the right words sometimes:
Often introverts have trouble finding the word they want when they are speaking out loud. Our brains use many different areas for speaking, reading, and writing; therefore, information needs to flow freely between the separate areas. Word retrieval may be a problem for introverts because the information moves slowly. One cause of this is that we use long-term memory, so it takes longer and requires the right association (something that reminds us of the word) to reach back into our long-term memory to locate the exact word we want. If we are anxious, it may be even more difficult to find and articulate a word. Written words use different pathways in the brain, which seems to flow fluently for many introverts. (pp.69-70)

Socially "awkward"

Meanwhile, here are some behavior "oddities" that I'm definitely guilty of:

An introvert may:
-Reduce eye contact when speaking to focus on collecting words and thoughts; increase eye contact when listening to take in information • Surprise others with their wealth of information • Shy away from too much attention or focus • Appear glazed, dazed, or zoned out when stressed, tired, or in groups...
The dominance of the l-o-n-g acetylcholine pathway means that introverts :
• May start talking in the middle of a thought, which can confuse others • Have a good memory but take a long time to retrieve memories • Can forget things they know very well—might stumble around when explaining their job or temporarily forget a word they want to use • May think they told you something when they just have thought it • Are clearer about ideas, thoughts, and feelings after sleeping on them • May not be aware of their thoughts unless they write or talk about them ( pp. 84-85)

When it's hard to retrieve those thoughts, I have trouble doing things like praying out loud, explaining to someone what I do, telling someone about my day...

But introverts CAN be public speakers. It isn't a fear of people, it's a fear of the words not making their way onto one's tongue. It IS possible to memorize speeches and come across quite eloquently. It IS possible to memorize the appropriate answers to common questions, for both formal and informal settings, and use personalized memory triggers to access those answers.

When I studied foreign languages, I would sometimes give false answers to questions about myself. For example, I would usually say I had "one brother and one sister" (it's actually more than that) because it used the easiest noun endings. For college interviews, I had to do a little acting. What were my goals in life? How did I feel about the upcoming transition to college life? I said the first things that came to my mind. In situations like these it isn't the most true-to-life information, but it works for passing the test.

But what if you want to have a REAL conversation? Introverts may need time to reflect. Or, if you check your email a few hours after a conversation with an introvert, you may find some very thoughtful answers, which have finally made themselves known. :)

* All quotations are from: Laney Psy.D., Marti Olsen (2002-02-01). The Introvert Advantage: Making the Most of Your Inner Strengths (p. 69). Workman Publishing - A. Kindle Edition.


  1. Thank you for sharing that - just this morning I was on my way to work and thinking about how I can remember WAY back into childhood, but at the same time, my memory seems full of holes when I am faced with a question like "What do you like to do in your spare time?"...

    Need to put that book on my list of to-read books... (Gosh, will it ever stop increasing?)


    1. Yep! I'm also reading "Introverts in the Church" to get some insight about ministry. That is, I read it a few years ago and now I'm rereading it.

  2. I heard this writer interviewed on public radio and found her (and her topic) very interesting. When I take tests I come out 100% extrovert. Truly. It is terrifying. I've had the people leading these exercises sort-of look at my score and back away....(literally)

    I often only know what I think when I hear myself say it out loud! I wonder how we'd get along communicating together! Funny to imagine.

    1. 100% extrovert?! :) Yet you are a very reflective writer...I don't think it comes across which "type" you are.

      I suppose you would do the talking, if we got together!


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