First let me share about the introvert. Introverts are not shy, they can be but by definition, an introvert is someone who gets energy by spending time alone. They are energized by developing meaningful relationships with a small circle of people. By contrast, an extrovert is someone that enjoys being around people, a lot of people, and as a result usually has larger friend groups.
Here are just a few things I’ve learned as an introvert.
Plan Alone Time: Often, in order to make an effort to get to know people I will try to adjust to their schedule. But as I schedule my calendar I will be sure I leave days open that doesn’t involve a lot of activity. I have learned that it is important for me to schedule a limited amount of time to do group activities. I need to allow for alone time to recharge my batteries.
Extroverts need to understand that the introvert is not being selfish about their time. It does not mean they do not want to spend time with you. It simply means they need to recharge.
Get UNcomfortable: I am most comfortable when I am reading a book, writing, spending a quiet lunch with a friend or being home with my family. I prefer small gatherings over large events. But it’s important to push myself to join larger groups and be apart of larger conversations.
Introverts need to get out of their comfort zone. We need to remember that even though you may not like small talk you need to learn to do it. It is a part of making friends, of being social. Taking part in small talk will also gives you an opportunity to learn about others. As you get to know them you can eventually go deeper with them. We introverts need to realize we don’t always have to go deep in our very first conversation with someone.
Remember who you are: You are an introvert. God created you with a distinct and beautiful personality. It’s okay if you only have a hand full of close meaningful friendships. Don’t let others make you feel like you are missing out just because you have a few friends.
Being an introvert is not a bad thing. You are not socially awkward. You are just different than your extroverted friends. People often joke that introvert do not like people. The truth is we like people just not groups of people over a long period of time.
For example I have learned that if I am away for a weekend retreat by Saturday evening I’m done and need quiet. It’s often gotten me in trouble if I go back to my room when every one else is out talking and playing. So I often opt to only go for part of the weekend or not at all. Sometimes I will do a whole weekend but know for sure that I will need solitude for a day before and after.
I realize that often our extrovert friends do not understand and often misread our need for times of quiet. But introverts do make better friends if they can have time away from the crowd. For an introvert crowds are too noisy, too much chatter and too distracting from meaningful conversations.
It’s not always about you: This one is really important and so often misunderstood. To an extrovert it may seem that it’s all about us. But it’s not, or at least it is not suppose to be. We do care and want to listen. In fact we love to listen to you and your stories. We want to hear your heart. But you just need to understand that in large groups of people we grow tired easily of too much stimuli.
An introvert also needs to not be so sensitive. Don’t get your feelings hurt every time some says, “How are you?” but then do not wait for a response. It’s just a greeting, they do not mean anything by it. They are being friendly. So just say fine and move on.
We need to remember that it really isn’t always about us.
The Christian introvert: Personally I think this has been the hardest area for me. I do not always understand where I fit. It seems the church is often filled with extroverts. But maybe it’s just because the extroverts are always “out there” ready to go. Ready to run.
Introverts are ready also, but often we need more time to process. We do not always think well on teams or committees. We will often sit through an entire meeting having said little to nothing only to get home and have a whole list of thoughts and ideas.
Christian community can be hard too. As Christ followers we are to be in community with one another. Often within church walls that means large groups and lots of activities. I am often told I need to be more social and I am not living in community. I need to remember who I am, who God created me to be and what His purposes are for me. I need to keep in mind that community to an introvert means something different than it will to the extrovert.
If my church has a weekend of events that I am expected to be at then maybe I need to limit my time at the event if possible. I can also remember to schedule nothing for Monday and maybe even Tuesday. I also need to remember that I have the power of the Holy Spirit within me and He will be my strength and guide. I can and must rely on Him.
Christ calls all the preach the gospel. He calls all to love one another, to help one another and to be in community. For the introvert that will most often mean that they will lead smaller groups of people. They may lead life/small groups. Listen to the broken hearted, one on one. They may lead Bible studies or teach classes. They will mentor and come along side to sit, love and encourage. They will not need to be in the midst of all the activity but will most often be found in a corner somewhere holding someone while they cry. Or listen as they share their struggles, their pain and their story.
It’s important to remember that God created introverts and extroverts alike. He created them unique and for a purpose. Each have their role in God’s kingdom. Both have their weaknesses and strengths. Neither is better than the other.
Both are Beloved of God and can be used mightily by Him.