Oh introverts… we are so misunderstood. Most people think being an introvert means being shy (it doesn’t). Or sad (it doesn’t) or anti-social (it mostly doesn’t).
I have to say, friends, even though these misconceptions are unfair labels sometimes we don’t do ourselves any favors.
Though yes, our energy works a certain way and that’s totally ok, there are sometimes when we use that as an excuse to eschew all social obligations, to hide in a corner to avoid small talk, or generally turtle when awkwardness is a threat.
My life frequently requires extroverted sensibilities even though I am a through and through textbook introvert. How do I accomplish this without losing it & hiding under my chair when strangers passby? Here are the lifehacks you need to know:
First and foremost, I don’t want to change you. You are perfectly fine just the way you are regardless of what those people in your life who are more prone to extroversion say. There were many years of my life where I was told I need to be outgoing or louder or more social – basically change my personality, you know, nbd. I tried. It did not work – at all. So now I embrace the title of introvert rather proudly and explore it instead of denying it.
Now, some people are surprised to find out I’m an introvert and that small talk is my mortal enemy and strangers frighten me. Not because I changed my personality, I’m just better able to be master of my energy instead of slave to it.
Here’s a bit of how I do it:
Sleep: When I’m tired it is soooooo difficult to gather the energy to come out of my shell. I’m much more likely to stare off into space in a chair in a corner (which I’m perfectly content to do) if I’m not rested. If I know the day ahead will require me to engage in much small talk, or it will not provide me many breaks to recharge, I try to make sure I’m well rested so I have an energy reserve to pull from. And, if that fails, I engage in some heavy caffeination. That’s not the best solution, probably, but it’s the one I got. I said these were life hacks, I didn’t say they were good ones.
Be Ok: Listen, it’s awkward. I learned that, instead of being scared off by the awkwardness of it all, it works much better if I just accept the fact that the space I’m required to be in will likely be awkward and that’s ok. The sooner you embrace it the less of an issue it becomes. For me, it will never not be awkward trying to construct a conversation out of thin air. I just let it wash over me like an oblong, badly knitted blanket and dive in.
Prefer Purpose: This works if you are shy, too. I was able to operate outside of my introversion when I realized that I was lifting my own feelings above what the situation required. Like, in the church lobby or doing that dreaded time in service when you are asked to talk to your fellow attendees for 60 seconds – I had to realize that the point of that time is to connect people to community and, ultimately, Christ. That is way more important than my predilection for hiding. Also, the things God has for me to do are going to require people, so if I want Him to use me, I’ve got to do the work. Once I began to think outside of myself, to prefer my neighbor & my purpose above my preference, it was easier to see that those things outweighed my need for comfort.
Plan: If I know I need to talk to other humans, I like to plan my time to recharge. I’m always thinking about when my next opportunity will be to sit in that warm silence we love so much. When I can keep that in mind, it’s easier to power through the uncomfortable moments that will require energy. I also plan a few conversational openers – I have my go-tos – so I don’t always have to think of them on the spot. Questions like, “Are you from around here?” or, “How long have you been (doing whatever thing you’re doing at the moment)?” or, “What do you do when you’re not here? (a much better question than, “what do you do for work.” in my opinion).” Get some go-to’s so you don’t want to run every time someone tries to talk to you.
Use Your Power: Introverts, we have a superpower. Listening. Most people don’t know how to do that. (Extroverts, I love you, but some of ya’ll need help.) Ask an open ended question and then just listen. That’s it. Grab a detail they said and then ask a question about that and then, listen. Chances are you won’t actually be doing most of the talking this way. It’s a win all around.
Try Again: Look, every social situation is not going to be a winner. There are some times I wish I could burst out of my box and be all effervescent and whatnot but the reality of the situation is I’m tired or I’m busy managing other emotions and haven’t the capacity to also function outside of predisposition. Sometimes I find myself looking around the room at conversations already in progress and realizing I don’t have the ability to jump into any of it at that time. I resolve to just go get in some me time and try again tomorrow. If this feels like every day for you – you are not utilizing the first 5 tips mentioned above. But every once in a while, it just is what it is and ain’t what it ain’t. Accept it with the knowledge that there’s always tomorrow.