Patience Please! External vs. Internal Processors


I often talk about how anger is one of the responses to the feeling of fear. But fear and anger also lie next to each other as primary motivators for our behavior. We know this as the fight or flight response that is very familiar to all of us.

In the book Dealing With The Elephant In The Room, author Dr. Mike Bechtle asserts that our responses will be modified by whether we are introverted or extroverted.

He says that anger motivated extroverts will bring high energy to a conflict whereas introverts will just withdraw into quiet resentment. And fear motivated extroverts will respond with high anxiety, while the introverts will quietly become resigned to the situation. Ambiverts will probably vacillate between responses depending on the person they are dealing with at the moment.

If we can divide the two groups into either external processors (extroverts) or internal processors (introverts), it will help us to stay in relationship with each other when we hit a tough spot.

During a conversation, the external processors have not reached a conclusion yet. They are coming to an understanding “on the fly”, and it can be difficult to listen to their processing without becoming alarmed by the content or the intensity. But it is important to realize that they are not finished. Where they started out in their thinking and where they finish might be miles apart. It is wise to just listen and wait.

On the other hand the internal processors need time to gather their thoughts. They should not be forced to come to a conclusion right on the spot. This can be frustrating for the extroverts, but a better result can often be achieved by letting the person process alone and then come back later with a more thought out response.

This really describes Nan and me in our conversations about things that need to be decided. I really need process time. If she presses for an immediate decision on something, she can almost always be guaranteed a “no” reply. This is especially true when it involves social interactions or events. Given time I can often (sometimes?) become more comfortable with a “yes” response. This can, of course, be wearisome for her. But it’s not as frustrating as hitting a immovable object.

Patience Required

There is a common denominator in dealing with both styles. They both require patience. The introvert must be patient while listening to the extrovert, and the extrovert must be patient while waiting for the introvert to come to a thought-out conclusion. This can be difficult for both of them, but it will help to avoid a negative reaction. One of the fruits of the Spirit is patience, and it is necessary to navigate these interactions whether we are both introverts, both extroverts or opposites. So seek to be filled as you pursue connection.

Galations 5:22-23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.