Before any introverts go on a (quiet) rampage, muttering that introverts are just as good as extraverts and it’s just because of the way culture is set up that they’re at a disadvantage etc. etc… I am and always have been a major introvert. I do the whole stereotypical act: reading books late at night, looking for any excuse to miss a social engagement, sticking close to my extravert friends so they’ll do the talking for me.
So I come in peace.
But this idea that I bring forth today is one that has served me well even as I struggle kicking and screaming to learn it. So what is this crazy idea? Introverts should try to be extraverts sometimes.
First of all, let’s look at what these two terms mean. They are usually defined as a description of where a person gains their energy. An introvert feels energized after a dark and stormy night of reading and tea. An extravert feels energized after being the life of the party and dancing until dawn. Or something like that. The simple difference is that introverts get their energy from being alone and extraverts get it from being around people.
So how does my revolutionary idea work? Are those of us who are better acquainted with C.S. Lewis than our nextdoor neighbors supposed to flip a switch and suddenly love to socialize? Goodness, no! It has more to do with some of the (generalized) traits of either type of person.
When you think of your favorite introvert, what words come to mind? I bet they’re something like quiet, alone, antisocial, and so on. Now what about extraverts? Loud, outgoing, exciting, adventerous. These are stereotypes, of course, but they do hold merit.
Okay, so we introverts are supposed to try to adopt some of these traits. Right. Not gonna happen. Hold on, though. Before we write the idea off completely, let’s look at why it’s important for us to come out of our shells every once in a great while.
Raise your hand if you’ve been adopted by an extravert who wants to be your friend. Yeah, most of us have. It’s a strange phenomenon where those loud and outgoing people for some reason want to befriend the quiet and shy. And it works! But think back to how you met that person.
For one of my friends in particular, I met her at a park. She was loud and wanted to play all sorts of games. I just wanted to survive the afternoon. But now we’ve seen each other every week for eight years and somehow our friendship works. She said hi, I said hi back, and we were friends.
What if we introverts did that? It can seem overwhelming to walk up to a random stranger and introduce yourself, I know. It’s not easy. But that’s how you make friends. That’s how you get to know people. I’ll be leaving for college in just a few months and I won’t know anybody. So I’m going to say hello to people, starting with the RUF pastor. Then maybe my roommate. And so on. You don’t have to try to befriend everyone you ever meet, but the simple act of swallowing the discomfort and introducing yourself could lead to the best friend you’ve ever had.
Getting a Job
I am by no means an expert in this category of life, but I have interviewed for two retail jobs and several petsitting/babysitting/cleaning jobs over the past year and a half. At first, I was very shy. I honestly don’t know why they hired me at my first job. (Yes I do, the store was closing in two months and people were dropping like flies – they needed more humans to run the cash registers.)
Over time, I’ve learned a few things about interviewing. It turns out, looking comfortable is a huge mark in your favor. Don’t look as though you’d like to sprint out the door after every question. No matter how hard it is, it pays to keep your body relaxed while interviewing (and it can help you actually feel relaxed too).
Also, talk about yourself. Point out your strengths. Be honest about your weaknesses. Avoid one-word answers. Don’t be obnoxious, but do remember that the whole purpose of the interview is for the potential employer to learn more about you. I know this can feel terrifying. My mouth still goes dry sometimes when asked why I want the job. But a good interview can literally get you the job you want. Resolve ahead of time to be a little more extravert-like for the few minutes that you’re in the interview. It will take a lot of energy, but you’ll always be glad you did.
At some point in each of our lives, we are placed in positions of leadership. And that’s kinda scary. It’s overwhelming to have people looking up to you and trusting you and (gulp) waiting for you to speak and tell them what to do.
But if you think back over the people who have been in leadership over you in the past, one quality that probably contributed to the greatness of some was their ability to communicate honestly and clearly. They didn’t skirt around what they wanted to say because it might offend someone. They were loving, but they were honest.
This isn’t so much an extravert-specific area, but it can be one in which introverts have to work a little harder. Don’t shy away from the difficult conversations. The situation could only get worse. Strive to be a leader that others can come to with problems and trust that you will do your best, even when you don’t want to.
Showing You Care
This is similar to the “Making Friends” idea. We all know lots of people. Maybe we have a few very close friends and a bunch of not-so-close friends, but we still know lots of people. Often, we can show people we love them and care about them by reaching out. But reaching out takes energy.
Going out for coffee to catch up with someone takes energy, but it might be just the encouragement they need right now. Inviting a few people over takes energy, but it shows an open home and an open heart. Even sending an email asking about a sick friend can take energy (wording those things often takes longer than I’d like), but it tells them you’re thinking about them while they’re in pain.
We are called to love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). And that can mean being the one to open up and reach out rather than hiding at home and avoiding people.
Being an introvert is a wonderful thing. Introverts have great ideas, they’re observant, they’re quiet, and they make great tea. But sometimes we’re called to step out of our bubble of introversion for the good of both ourselves and others. Sometimes it can be selfish to stay hidden away.
We don’t need to be outgoing like our extravert friends all the time. We can take our time to recharge and enjoy a day at home. But when it is better to put ourselves out there, that is what we must do. So, go forth and extravert (sometimes)!