She sits quietly at the table with this deep wrinkle in the middle of her forehead between her eyebrows. She doesn’t say much but instead gazes intensely and seems to be deep in thought.
Conversations take place around her, and yet she says very little. She occasionally stands next to her husband or a close friend and participates in their conversations, but she rarely starts one of her own. She smiles, makes eye contact, refrains from holding a glance long enough to invite a conversation. Does she even want to talk to anyone?
Perhaps you’ve seen a person like this, maybe at church or even attending a business seminar. Maybe you wonder if she’s even happy to be there. Sometimes, you even see her reading. Really? Reading in a crowd of people?
She seems smart, yet you aren’t sure if she really wants to talk to anyone. You wonder why she doesn’t talk much. I mean, who doesn’t like to talk, right?
Should you approach her? Would she just ignore you or perhaps find an excuse to escape?
If you’ve ever crossed paths with an introvert, perhaps this all sounds familiar.
Interacting With an Introvert
Extroverts and introverts can coexist. In fact, some of my closest friends are extroverts. They’ve learned what it means to befriend an introvert.
Interacting with an introvert isn’t difficult. Consider the following if you want to feel more comfortable approaching an introvert who seems content being left alone.
- Approach them. Introverts generally want connection, especially if they put themselves in a social setting. The more you approach them, the more likely they will reciprocate in the future because they are comfortable and feel safe doing so.
- Let them listen. They are good at it, and they have less of a need to talk than you do. Many extroverts find that relationships with their introverted friends allow them to sort out their own thoughts in the way extroverts prefer… out loud.
- Let them think. Introverts typically take longer to form their responses than extroverts. They’re actually doing internally (i.e., thinking) what you generally do out loud. Silence really is okay. After thinking for a while, introverts usually have very valuable input.
- Revisit conversations. Chances are an introvert has done some thinking since the last time you talked and has more to say about a previous conversation. Go ahead and revisit what you talked about the last time you chatted, and you’ll likely enjoy an even deeper discussion.
- Remember that it’s all about energy. Introverts get their energy from time alone. Extroverts get their energy from interacting with others. Neither is wrong but both impact an individual’s approach to social situations. If an introvert turns down an invitation, it’s often for time to recharge. Don’t be offended.
In Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture, Adam McHugh talks about how introverts feel constantly pushed to be more outgoing and to change who they are at the core to properly serve Christ. With good intentions, extroverts sometimes encourage introverts toward extroversion not realizing that this is like asking a cat to be a dog.
“The central component of character is authenticity. Someone with character acts in unison with his or her God-given nature.”
At their core, introverts want desperately to not just be who God created them to be and for others to embrace and support them in that endeavor. They want to be authentic.