Have you ever stood in the back of a crowded room to take a break from talking to people? Did you have an overpowering urge to turn down that party invitation to stay home and read a book? Does not talking for several hours at a time sound perfectly normal to you? Me too! As a fellow introvert, allow me to reassure you that you’re not weird or antisocial. Solitude and quiet enable us to recharge so we can go back out into this extroverted world with some energy left in our emotional and physical tanks.
There’s been a lot of talk about introverts lately, yet it’s only fitting that most of the “conversation” has been via articles instead of actual dialog. Susan Cain broke the ice with her TED Talk and book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Donald Miller wrote about having a “people hangover”. Justin Lathrop discussed the challenges of being an introverted pastor. These are just a few examples of excellent material about introverts that have been refreshing to see.
An introvert myself, I am reenergized by solitude. I love being around friends and family, yet after an extended interaction I need some time alone to recharge. That seems to be a common refrain among introverts. Our society tends to place a higher value on extroverted expression and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
So, how can introverted church leaders cut through the noise to lead and serve our congregations?
#1: Give yourself permission to say “no”.
Our extroverted friends may never understand why we need time alone and that’s okay. We don’t “get” their need to be around so many people all the time, either! The point is that you have to become okay with saying “no” on occasion; to take a break even though you may be misunderstood.
I’m very upfront about being an introvert and that’s been quite effective. Currently, I’m helping organize a women’s event and the other organizers know that I’ll have to go home for a long nap after the event is over. They don’t really “get it”, but at least they don’t think I’m upset with them or that I’m antisocial.
#2: Find ways to push past your comfort zone.
God created you with a purpose and that purpose will require interaction with others. Just like intense exercise brings muscle soreness along with increased strength, exercising your “extroverted muscles” may wear you out at first.
I’ve come to enjoy leading teams, attending events, and doing public speaking because I know these activities provide me an opportunity to serve others. I’ve expanded my capacity for interaction over time and have learned when to take breaks. You don’t have to try and become an extrovert, but go ahead and get out there to offer your unique talents.
#3: Speak up for fellow introverts.
It’s hard to get a word in during a meeting full of extroverts, but please make the effort. When your church is planning an event or special service, the focus tends to be on creating energy in the room. That’s extroverted speak for a fun, engaging experience and we should embrace their efforts.
We should also look for ways to help introverts enjoy the event. Recommend including an opportunity for quiet reflection during a worship service or leaving a few open spaces in the room for introverts to retreat to when they need some breathing room. Those spaces will feel “dead” to the extroverts, so you’ll need to explain how that helps some of their guests feel more comfortable.
To our extroverted friends: We really do love people; we just happen to love them in smaller doses. A big church event with loud music, lots of people and constant visual stimulation wears us out. We’re glad you’re having fun and that this type of event attracts people to church. Just don’t be alarmed if we disappear for several hours afterwards – we’re at home recharging and will come back shortly.
We all have a responsibility to use our unique abilities and personality traits for service. Introverts possess a quiet strength that is just as needed as an extrovert’s ability to energize a room. Offer your gifts, find ways to interact, and recharge when needed. Trust me, the effort involved is worth it and we need your contributions.
What other strategies have helped you work well with folks who have a different personality type than your own?