Tag Archives: Introversion

Making conversation // I didn’t know how!

998524_tranquility_4I have always found it hard to talk to people that I don’t know well, and more specifically to initiate a conversation. This difficulty is multiplied when there are strangers involved, either in a social, or work situation, or in a completely random encounter at a shopping mall or on a plane.
I think this is probably because I am reasonably shy, and  part of it has been because of my introvert tendencies and not wanting to engage in meaningless conversation for the sake of filling in a moment of silence.

Why bother having conversations?
As I discussed in my earlier introversion posts <you can find them here> I believe that we humans are purpose-built for community and connection with other people. Conversation allows us to make these connections, to learn from other people, to be enriched, to be encouraged, to influence, to encourage others, to minister, to provide comfort, to develop relationships.

For years I avoided making conversation and making these connections. Over time I forgot how to do it, until I was rescued by my friend Andrew who attended a Caleb Ministries training course and learned about the conversation stack, which is a very simple system for initiating and developing conversations. Andrew’s a great, natural conversationalist anyway, but he knew I’d benefit from it, so he shared this tool with me and as I’ve experimented with the conversation stack over the past couple of years, I have learned a secret…people love to talk about themselves or about things that they are interested in. If I can get people talking about themselves, it takes the pressure of me and I don’t have to talk so much.

Here’s the stack (For most general conversations I rarely get past the tennis racquet.). The left column is what you can picture in your mind to remind you of what’s coming next, the right column is the basic question to ask (you’ll need to modify it to your own style otherwise you’ll sound like you’re working through a list…you want it to feel natural, take some time to practice on your family and friends if you like.)
NAMEPLATE                            What is your name?
HOUSE                                         Where do you live?
PEOPLE IN HOUSE                  Do you have family?
CLOCK                                         What do you do with your time?
AEROPLANE                             Travel?
TENNIS RACQUET                  Hobbies? Sports?
LIGHT BULB                              Ideas, points to bounce off
GOAL POSTS                              Do you have goals, dreams?
QUESTION MARK                    Problems? Frustrations? Concerns?
TROPHY                                       Achievements?
SUNSET                                        Inspirational people?

Here are a couple of points to remember when you’re using the conversation stack:

Respond, don’t interrogate:: Don’t just ask lots of questions and don’t get creepy…you’ll come off like you’re interrogating the person and they will more likely than not become defensive and clam up, defeating the purpose of using these kick-off questions. Respond to what the person shares, interact. Share about yourself a little.

Open ended questions :: Don’t ask questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Ask questions that require an answer that will allow the person to elaborate about their answer, and provide you with material to ask follow on questions.

Listen:: Don’t sit there thinking of your next brilliant contribution to the conversation. Really listen. Look out for gems, or places where your stories can intersect and you can connect.

No agendas:: Don’t go into any conversation with preconceived ideas of what the outcome will be. If the person thinks they are being manipulated they will shut down.

Don’t force it:: If they don’t want to talk…move on. Some people just really don’t want to talk (I’m betting you know how that is LOL)…don’t force them to.

I’ve found this system so helpful in getting past the awkward small talk that can plague so many social situations. I hope it helps you too.

Have you ever used a conversation stack? How does it work for you? Are you a natural conversationalist? Do you have to work at it like I do?

Into Introversion #5 // Introverts and churches

Just as in the public life (politics etc), extroverts tend to dominate churches, and the cultural perception of how church people should behave tends to fit the extrovert mold. Bubbly, excitable, chatty, uber-friendly, going to every advertised event in the church bulletin. And I would venture to say that in many instances, this is as much an internal perception as it is an external perception. Historically there have been a lot of “expected” behaviours in churches, but I think that’s all changing with the rise of Gen Y (who have highly tuned BS meters and don’t tolerate fakes)…and the authenticity movement that is bringing a breath of fresh air and a healthy dose  of real-ness to modern churches. (In the words of John Burke…come as you are…no perfect people allowed!)

So what is an introvert to do? How does an introvert fit into a community that (whether they admit it or not) often judges your spiritual health by whether or not you come out to the whole-church potluck dinner, or by the number of other social events you attend?

I want to encourage you to NOT attempt to fit the cookie-cutter church-person-mold. Ultimately that will burn you out, you will be faking who you are to please people, and you will wind up resenting your community.

I want you to be who God created you to be, and to live up to the potential He has placed in your life!

I have found that there are two things that you need to understand to be able to be all that God created you to be and to function as a valued part of the body of Christ:

  1. understand and accept who you are as a child of God; and
  2. understand that God is in the people business. His whole plan for the salvation of humanity revolves around relationships.

Do not judge yourself according to what the people around you say or expect. Measure yourself against the standards that God sets. End of story. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

I have found that this approach has brought me a tonne of peace in my life. What have you discovered in your life?

Related posts:

The post that started it all

Into Introversion #1 // Do you know an introvert?

Into Introversion #2 // Introvert…Extrovert…Shy?

Into Introversion #3 //  Can Introverts and Extroverts Coexist?

Into Introversion #4 // What God can do with an Introvert?

Into Introversion #5 // Churches and Introverts

Into Introversion #4 // What can God do with an Introvert?

1124722_girls_talking_women_issues1The whole point of this series of posts about introversion has been to get to the point where I can share with you about what God has been doing in my life in this area in the past couple of years.

For a long time I struggled with a combination of shyness and introversion, brought about by a combination of family history and perhaps moving from a small country town to the city in my early adolescence (I’m sure the psychs would have something to say). Over the course of several years I got to the point where I avoided contact with people. I always made sure that I socialised with people I knew well, and I refused a lot of social invitations where I didn’t know many people.

All through school I had daily panic attacks about things as simple as walking into the classroom or buying food from the canteen. I experienced severe anxiety about the fellowship times at the end of church. I didn’t like talking to people I wasn’t close friends with. To be honest…I didn’t see the point, and I didn’t know why anyone would be vaguely interested in hearing about the minutiae of my life. And even as a teenager I felt as though there were something wrong with me because I didn’t enjoy these things the way I saw others seemingly thriving on this kind of interaction. I didn’t spend hours wandering the shopping malls or talking on the phone like I saw the teenagers on TV doing. What was wrong with me?

As a young mother it was even easier to avoid contact with people, after all I was busy with the kids (two boys in two years was hard work…a perfectly plausible excuse for isolation), but that was also the time when I started to look at the broader picture of what God might want in my life. I began to see God’s plan for reaching the world and I began to understand thatI needed to be in contact with people outside my normal circle so that God could work the way He wanted to. So I joined a mothers’ group in order to meet new people…which lead to a number of years of the most “out of my comfort zone” moments of my life. It was hard work! So many times I wanted to quit! But now, 11 years later, these women are some of my closest friends, and God has worked through their lives, and I’d like to think that God has used me in their lives too.

Over the years God has continued to work and change the way I relate to people, and the way I look after myself. I now feel comfortable up in front of people in a leadership role and in a public speaking role, I can even approach strangers and hold an extended conversation…that is a HUGE deal for me. It is a continual process though, and it takes ongoing awareness of both the advantages and the limitations of my introverted-ness (is that a real word?) so that i can get the support I need…here are some things I’ve learned over the years.

Six tips for being a Spirit-controlled introvert:

1.      Pray for self awareness. Ask God to show you when you are acting like an introvert, but would better serve your eternal purpose by engaging with people a little more.  We are only able to change something if we are aware of it. Introversion is one of those things that can really only be “managed” through the strength of the Holy Spirit, so if we know what we are doing, then we can ask for help. The Holy Spirit isn’t just going to barge in and take over…he waits to be invited into a willing participant’s daily activity.

2.       Be aware of God’s purpose for humans. Purpose is one of those funny things that lets us transcend our self-obsessed human state (be that as an isolated introvert or as an in-your-face extrovert). The absolutely astonishing thing about God is that he has chosen humans as his vehicle for letting people know that He is good and that He has a plan for their lives. Knowing that this is the reason we are on earth  is an amazing motivator.

3.       Another facet of that plan is that our role is to be carried out through relationships….which is why we, as introverts, can’t avoid people all the time. Serving God is costly…this is where the rubber hits the road for introverts. It is going to cost us to make sure we are engaging people in authentic relationships all the time, but the good news is that we have the Holy Spirit to give us strength and to restore us.

4.       Recognise that you are an introvert because that’s the way God wired you. He knows that you will have fewer relationships than your extroverted counterparts, but that these relationships will tend to be deeper and more intense. Don’t stress about it, it’s not a competition! Never ever compare yourself to anyone else….especially an extrovert! 🙂  Relax, be yourself and make yourself available for God work through you. You are, more likely than not, the only one who is going to be able to meet that shy person in the corner where they’re at, and help them to be relaxed about who they’re wired to be.

5.       Pray for sensitivity to the needs of others, particularly your family – this is particularly important for husbands and wives.

6.       Make sure you take time out to recover and rest in God’s presence.  Don’t take the being with people thing to the extreme. You won’t be able to engage well with people if  you don’t take time to look after yourself.

The key to being a Spirit-controlled introvert is your willingness. If you are willing to be moulded and developed and grown by the influence of the Holy Spirit, then God will do amazing things through your life.

Share your story! How has God helped you cope as an introvert in an extrovert dominated world?

Michelle

Related posts:

The post that started it all

Into Introversion #1 // Do you know an introvert?

Into Introversion #2 // Introvert…Extrovert…Shy?

Into Introversion #3 //  Can Introverts and Extroverts Coexist?

Into Introversion #4 // What God can do with an Introvert?

Into Introversion #5 // Churches and Introverts

Into Introversion #2// Introvert…Extrovert…Shy??

542464_shy_girl_

Introversion  and extroversion rarely get confused, but introversion and shyness are often mistaken (some introverts are shy, but they don’t always go hand in hand).

Let’s take a layman’s look at how each of these are defined.

Shyness — A shy person is generally someone who is lacking in confidence, self conscious, anxious or frightened in social situations, sometimes to the point where they do not function at all in the presence of other people.

Introversion — Introverts do not dislike other people, they just find them tiring. They are stimulated by their own thoughts and imaginations rather than relying on other people for motivation or stimulus. After extended times of being sociable, introverts have to take time by themselves to recharge and recover. (One guy I read about had a formula for himself…one hour of social time requires two hours of alone time to recover…that’s about right for me too) Basically, other people are good in small doses. This is not being antisocial nor is it an illness that requires treatment or medication. For an introvert, time alone in our own head is as restorative as a good night’s sleep and provides nourishment to our soul like a wonderful meal. Making sure we look after our inner health in this way is an important element of creating a peaceful and sustainable life.

Extroversion — Extroverts on the other hand are energised by other people, and often seem bored when they are on their own. They reach for their mobiles after a minute or so without human contact. Extroverts figure out who they are by talking and interacting with other people. They are like the exuberant puppy you can’t get to stop barking or quite manage to shake off your heel after they’ve latched on. 🙂 Extroverts come to life when they are around other people.

Next time we’ll take a look at how introverts and extroverts can understand each other and get along :):)

Related posts:

The post that started it all

Into Introversion #1 // Do you know an introvert?

Into Introversion #2 // Introvert…Extrovert…Shy?

Into Introversion #3 //  Can Introverts and Extroverts Coexist?

Into Introversion #4 // What God can do with an Introvert?

Into Introversion #5 // Churches and Introverts

Into Introversion #1 // Do you know an introvert?

Six months ago I confessed to being an introvert. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting about what that means in practical terms. I want to let you know right up front that I am not an expert, but I am sharing my experiences and personal study with you.

Introverts are everywhere, but I think we are probably one of the most misunderstood minorities on the planet. As far as I can tell, there aren’t any definitive figures to say how many of us are out there, but generally you seem to find more of us in the arts community and in academia.

Here are some ways you can spot an introvert:

  • you think the person is “too serious”
  • they like to spend a lot of time alone
  • they don’t do small talk
  • they appear uncomfortable in groups of people, but are often good public speakers
  • you consider this person aloof, rude, or maybe arrogant
  • they like to have long conversations about feelings or ideas
  • they have to be dragged to parties or social events

Do you know someone that fits the bill? Chances are you know an introvert.

To an extrovert these things add up to a condition that requires medication to correct. To an introvert this is every day life. This is not a disease to be cured or managed. It’s the way we were created. Through this series of posts I hope to bring some awareness, not only for extroverts needing to know how to relate to an introvert, but for introverts who sometimes struggle to function well in a world where we are largely misunderstood.

Next time we’ll be looking at what defines an introvert from their perspective. What defines an extrovert. What is shyness and why it’s not the same as introversion.

Are you an introvert? Do you know and introvert?

Come and say g’day…let’s explore this together!

Michelle

Related posts:

The post that started it all

Into Introversion #1 // Do you know an introvert?

Into Introversion #2 // Introvert…Extrovert…Shy?

Into Introversion #3 //  Can Introverts and Extroverts Coexist?

Into Introversion #4 // What God can do with an Introvert?

Into Introversion #5 // Churches and Introverts

Totally Random Tuesday #3 – Making my way as an introvert

I am what is known as an introvert….which doesn’t mean necessarily that I am shy (I can be at times, more on that in a moment). It means that I draw my energy from internal things. I like to be alone. I NEED to be alone. If I don’t get time to myself every day I get the distinct sense that I am not in control, which in turn causes me stress. From an outsider’s perspective, us introverts can come across as snobby or aloof…which is not generally true…we would just prefer to be alone 🙂 . Our extroverted friends would have us believe that there is something seriously wrong with us if we don’t like to socialise and be around people 24/7. LOL

Up until a few years ago I was a painfully shy introvert, and prone to being extremely nervous and jittery even around people I knew well. I lacked confidence in a big way, even though I knew that I am an extremely competent person in a number of areas.

Over time I came to the realisation that although it was fine for me to be an introvert and need to have time to myself, that I needed to be able to interact with people without hyperventilating 🙂 …I needed this because I couldn’t work effectively without interacting with people, and I couldn’t build meaningful relationships with people if I was too busy worrying about what they thought of me. I was a bona fide people pleaser and that had to be changed. The really bizaare thing is that I feel very comfortable in public speaking or teaching roles…but flounder in one on one situations.

It has taken me a number of years to go from shy mouse to a little more confident in being around people.  I still have my panic attack moments, but through the strength of knowing who I truly am, I can get a strangle hold on those butterflies and move forward with purpose. I’ll write a more detailed post about that process soon.

These days I interact with a much wider group of people that I ever dreamed possible…last Saturday night I celebrated a friend’s birthday with a group of girls who were virtual strangers to me…and I felt remarkably comfortable and I had an absolute blast. This morning I’m running the bridge to bridge circuit with a couple of ladies that I met through working at the National Archives…I even accepted their invitation to join them without a second thought! That’s a huge step for me.

For the first time in my life I am truly excited about meeting people and getting to know them…building relationships! Heck! I even set up a blog so that I could get to know strangers from around the world! 🙂  Life in the 21st century is all about connecting to people. Engaging with people. Face to face, or on the ‘Net. It’s all good, and I’m ready! I think :S

Bring it on!

Michelle

Related posts:

The post that started it all

Into Introversion #1 // Do you know an introvert?

Into Introversion #2 // Introvert…Extrovert…Shy?

Into Introversion #3 //  Can Introverts and Extroverts Coexist?

Into Introversion #4 // What God can do with an Introvert?

Into Introversion #5 // Churches and Introverts