Redefining Normal and Appreciating the Quiet Thinkers

Renee Bethel

iBelieve Contributing Writer
Published Jun 24, 2024
Redefining Normal and Appreciating the Quiet Thinkers

In a world that often rewards the loudest voices and the quickest responses, it's important to recognize and appreciate the value of quiet thinkers among us.

Have you ever been in a class or meeting at church and it seemed like the same people were doing all the talking week after week? How did it feel to have something to say and not be able to share? Maybe you are too polite or reserved to push your way into the conversation to share what you think.

How about picking up your preschooler from childcare at church and having the teacher tell you, “She’s so shy.” The labels start at a young age and follow your precious child as they get older, leaving them with hurt feelings of being "defective".

In a world that often rewards the loudest voices and the quickest responses, it's important to recognize and appreciate the value of quiet thinkers among us. Christian communities, just like any other, consist of diverse personalities, including those who may not be quick to speak yet possess deep wisdom and insight. Understanding and valuing these quiet individuals, especially as children of God, can enrich our interactions, strengthen the Body of Christ, and grow us personally.

The Bible offers wonderful wisdom on the virtues of thinking, being quiet, and reflecting. These scriptures remind us of the importance of listening and valuing the contributions of those who may not be the first to speak:

-James 1:19: "You know this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Now everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.”

-Proverbs 17:27-28: “One who withholds his words has knowledge, And one who has a cool spirit is a person of understanding. Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.”

-Ecclesiastes 3:7: "A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak."

The virtues of being thoughtful and restrained in speech encourage us to slow down and be attentive listeners, creating space for those who may take a bit longer to express their thoughts.

The Value of Quiet Thinkers

Quiet thinkers bring unique strengths to our Christian communities. Their tendency to reflect deeply before speaking means that when they do share, their contributions are often thorough and insightful. Here are several reasons to appreciate and make space for quiet thinkers:

-Quiet individuals often spend significant time reflecting on issues, leading to profound insights and thoughtful solutions.

-They are generally good listeners, providing a calming presence and often noticing things that others might miss.

-When they do speak, their words are usually carefully chosen and meaningful, adding significant value to discussions.

-Their patience and restraint in conversation can serve as a model for others, fostering a more respectful and slower-paced, thoughtful environment.

Challenges Quiet Thinkers Face

Quiet thinkers often face several challenges in environments that prioritize quick thinking and outspoken contributions. Understanding these challenges can help us create more welcoming opportunities for them to share, regardless if they are children or adults.

-Intimidation by Dominant Voices: In settings where quick thinkers and speakers dominate, quiet thinkers might feel intimidated and be reluctant to share.

-Misinterpreted as Disinterested: Quietness can sometimes be misinterpreted as disinterest or a lack of engagement. In reality, quiet individuals are often deeply engaged and are simply processing their thoughts before speaking.

Consider the example of a quiet child in a noisy classroom. When asked why she doesn't talk at school, she might respond, "There are a lot of kids, and the kids are loud." This is often seen as a problem with the quiet child who gets labeled as quiet or shy, and the loud children are seen as “normal”. In adult circles, the same thing happens where those who dominate conversations and fail to realize that others may have something valuable to say are seen as active participants. Those who don’t share are labeled as quiet and non-contributors when they truly had no opportunity to contribute to the discussion.

Action Steps for Engaging Quiet Thinkers

If you are a quick thinker or someone who is eager to share your opinion in a group setting, there are practical steps you can take to ensure that quiet thinkers in the group have the opportunity to share their insights:

1. Ask Direct Questions

Engage quiet thinkers by asking them direct questions. This can provide them with the opportunity to share their thoughts in a space where they feel invited to speak. For example:

"What do you think about this, (insert name)?"

"(Insert name), how would you approach this situation?"

2. Allow for Pauses in Conversation

Silence can be uncomfortable, and most of us rush to fill it. Allowing pauses in the conversation gives quiet thinkers the space they need to gather their thoughts and contribute.

Practice waiting a few seconds after someone speaks before jumping in with your response.

3. Encourage Written Responses

Some people may feel more comfortable expressing their thoughts in writing. Encourage the use of written communication in group settings, such as emails, notes, or online discussions.

"If you have any thoughts later, feel free to share them in our group chat or through email."

4. Create Smaller Discussion Groups

Large group settings can be intimidating for quiet thinkers. Organize smaller discussion groups or one-on-one conversations to make it easier for them to share their thoughts.

"Let's break into smaller groups so everyone has a chance to share."

5. Model Active Listening

Demonstrate active listening by summarizing what others have said and asking follow-up questions. This shows that you value their input and encourages participation.

"What I hear you saying is ________. Does that sound correct?"

6. Acknowledge and Appreciate Contributions

Publicly acknowledge the contributions of quiet thinkers to show that their input is valued and appreciated. This encourages them to continue sharing.

"That’s a great point, (insert name). Thank you for sharing your perspective."

Growth Steps for Quiet Thinkers

Just because you are a quiet thinker doesn't mean that you shouldn’t make an effort to participate in group settings. Here are a few tips for quiet thinkers to take steps to grow personally and become more comfortable with sharing their thoughts:

-Use Breath Prayers: When feeling anxious about sharing in a group, use a simple breath prayer where you breathe in and say to yourself, “Made in God’s image.” As you breathe out, say to yourself, “I can show up.” This can calm your nerves and remind you that you can do all things through Christ (Phillippians 4:13).

-Take Initiative: Challenge yourself to contribute at least one comment in every meeting or discussion. Even a brief comment can build your confidence over time.

-Prepare in Advance: If possible, review discussion topics beforehand and jot down your thoughts. This can make it easier to contribute when the time comes.

-Follow Up: If you need more time to process, offer to share your thoughts later. "I'll email my thoughts after I’ve had a chance to sit with this," is a perfectly acceptable response.

One type of thinker is not inherently better than the other. Quick thinkers and quiet thinkers both bring valuable perspectives to the table, and recognizing this range of personalities enriches our Christian community. The important thing to remember is to be aware of how you show up in group discussions and make adjustments as needed. In the 21st century, where constant noise often drowns out quieter voices, it's crucial to cultivate environments, especially in church settings, where everyone has space and feels comfortable to contribute.

By taking practical steps to engage quiet thinkers and by quiet individuals stepping out of their comfort zones, we can work together to help everyone feel heard and valued.   This approach not only honors the biblical admonition to be slow to speak and quick to listen but fosters a richer, more respectful Christian community where varied perspectives can be shared. 

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Harbucks

Renee Bethel headshotRenee Bethel, author of Finding Me: A Woman’s Guide to Learning More About Herself, is a Professional Christian Life Coach and a Certified Enneagram Coach. Her passion lies in guiding growth-minded Christian moms towards embracing their identity in Christ and finding freedom in the finished work of Jesus. If you're ready to change the way you view yourself and your place in the world, join her FREE 31 Day Challenge to Embrace Your Identity in Christ.