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externally processing extrovert – shelley west


My name is Shelley West and I am an externally processing extrovert.

As an externally processing extrovert I tend to get a little excited!

It can be a little confusing for the people I know well, let alone those who listen in on Sundays. Moderating myself is one of the harder jobs I have when preparing sermons. If preaching is “communicating truth through a personality in a way that engages listeners living in today’s world” I need to be constantly balancing who am against the engagement of the listeners.

As an example:

As I get excited the quicker I think (out loud) and the quicker I talk! The sentences get longer and longer with less pauses and more comma’s!!, the gestures of arms get wilder!!!, the tone and volume find all the extreme edges of scale !!!!, AND, because there is still more  sometimes I just run out of words, when I go to express something I just can’t so it comes out as just a sound a sort of just….ah….happy wordless explosion of sound!!!!

A past sermon I ran out of words. Despite careful planning and writing it got to a point where the right words were in front of me this expression and it came out :” his love for us is just so ______!!!!! (Imagine wild hand movement and a cross between a woman’s tennis service grunt and a happy squeal of a small child on Christmas morning.)

As the hand shaking happened after the service I had a few confused people who commented along the lines of “you didn’t finish the sentence, God’s love is like?” A few others who words went “I understand, it’s like a deep feeling down here“(cue wild gesturing – this time on their behalf.)

So for some this approach works, for others not so much.

Another example:

It’s easy for me – after spending days and weeks in study behind the scenes to hold all the information in my own noggin. When it comes to writing the physical words of the sermon my mind fills in the gaps and transition’s that I KNOW are there. If I’m not careful I miss this completely and can often leave those listening lost – the jump of the transitions or thoughts just too far for them to make.

I work hard to make sure I’m communicating well with my listeners. I have a process of moderation, a few steps that I follow.

  • During the week I work to be able to explain my sermon in just one sentence. This process crystallises the ideas in my own brain and this becomes the main thrust of my sermon.
  • I am thankful for a good friend who over a coffee is willing to listen to my external processing thoughts and pulls me up when the leaps are too far.
  • A good thesaurus that sits on my bookshelf at home for when that right world disappears out of my brain.
  • Adding in some more full stops before a final print.

These things are not rocket science by any means, and there probably are a few more handy hints you all could give me as I work towards balancing the truth we know with personality of ME the preacher. What do you all do – as a loud or a quiet one, a wildly gesturing or a more sombre  hands-on-the-pulpit-speaker to make sure you are way that you are engaging “listeners living in today’s world.”

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