Today we welcome Jaime Hlavin back to the blog. Jaime explores the sometimes head-scratching challenges facing introverts who have an extroverted calling . . . and what those introverts can do about it. Enjoy ~ John.
I am an introvert. I am very comfortable in my introversion. That wasn’t always the case.
For many years, I felt bad about being an introvert. That primarily had to do with the fact that every time my introversion came up in conversation, the extrovert I was talking to would reply one of two ways:
- “Oh! Don’t say that about yourself!!!” (As if introversion was a terrible affliction).
- “What?! No, you’re not! You are so (insert a list of all the ways my social competence “proved” that I was not, in fact, introverted).”
This week, my husband and I are at a leadership conference with a lot of other people. A lot of other people. I am currently huddled in my hotel room recharging.
My dear extroverted friends (I say this with all sincerity as I am married to one), please allow me to bust a few common myths about the mysterious introverts in your life:
Myth 1: They hate people
We don’t hate people. In fact, we love our people fiercely. Our friendships are strong and our loyalties deep. However, we find this exertion of emotion and energy tiring.
Myth 2: They don’t play well with others and are socially awkward
We do really well one-on-one or in small groups because our powers of observation and keen senses of humor are more readily appreciated and noticed in these spaces. We feel seen.
Myth 3: They are unable to be effective leaders
We are really good at building teams of people to complement our strengths and weaknesses. Those team members tend to be very loyal because they sense the deep affinity and loyalty we have toward them.
Generally speaking, the key to understanding an introvert is this: He or she gains energy from solitude, individual and/or quiet times of reflection/relaxation whereas an extrovert is energized by being directly involved with people and activity.
If you are an introvert operating in an “extroverted role,” (i.e., pastoring or leading or interacting with people constantly, serving alongside others and offering advice and guidance to teams or congregations), may I offer some tips, not for only surviving, but thriving in an extrovert’s world?
Tip 1: Make time for one-on-one interaction in group settings
If the opportunity arises, be sure to break off with one or two people and engage in meaningful conversation. Or find a fellow introvert and just enjoy some moments of quiet together.
Tip 2: Keep a set of go-to small talk topics or questions
Again, generally speaking, small talk is difficult for the introvert. A dear extrovert friend of my mine once suggested that I should keep a list of go-to topics in a note in my phone (after I relayed a particularly horrifying tale of my inability to small talk: I talked my new hairstylist’s ear off for 15 minutes about David Koresh and the 1993 Branch Davidian tragedy in Waco, TX).
So, when the conversation lags, and I’m tempted to regale someone with my vast knowledge of cults and cult leaders, I take a quick peek at my small talk note and steer the conversation somewhere less weird.
Tip 3: Have a “safe person” in a group; or if you’re leading a large event or service or project – have an “assistant.”
That extrovert friend who helped me with small talk topics is that person for me. If I’m leading an event, she’s my person. She knows all the details of said event and can answer any questions that come up. She also acts as my troubleshooter and contact person for logistics as needed. She knows when she needs to step in as my buffer and has been a lifesaver for me on many occasions.
Tip 4: After a big event, schedule in a chunk of time to recoup
This is very important. Whether it’s a few hours or an entire morning, take some time to recharge in solitude. Sometimes, that’s just running errands alone, taking a nap, or reading and journaling. This time of post-event wind-down is vital for me.
Tip 5: Create an introvert space/time in your calendar daily
Get up earlier than everyone in your home. Or go to bed later. Or take time for an evening walk by yourself. Maybe run an errand solo. Just that small amount of time to clear your head and charge your emotions works wonders.
Sometimes it’s easy to feel like we’re drowning in a sea of extroverts, but with a little concerted effort, you can thrive and lead well as an introvert.
I’m rooting and praying for you (alone…in my own house)!