7 Thoughts to the Families of Introverts

Whenever I post about the subject of introversion I hear from fellow introverts. Some of these are apparently even more introverted than me. And, that’s a lot of introversion.

I usually am addressing introversion in leadership, but in talking with a young pastor after one of these posts I discovered there was another issue we needed to address. This particular pastor was having some issues at home with introversion. He had managed to be extroverted for his church, but when he got home, he had nothing left to give. He felt the tension. He wanted to push through it, but he didn’t know how. He didn’t want to talk about his day. He didn’t want to share what he was thinking. He was done. Words spent. Empty.

His wife was growing increasingly impatient with a lack of intimacy in communication, limited social life, and simply feeling left out of part of his life.

Of course, I only heard his side of the story. He knows what he needs to do, but he doesn’t know how to do it.

Her side of the story (according to him) – she doesn’t understand how he can be so introverted – even when it’s with his family.

I get it. I really do.

So, this post is to the families of introverts. There are a few things I’d love to say to you. I hope they are helpful.

Here are 7 words to families of introverts:

We aren’t crazy.

Sometimes you think we are, don’t you? Be honest. When we don’t talk for long periods of time – even when we are with people – you assume we must have a few screws loose somewhere. We probably do – as you possibly do – we are all desperately in need of grace. But introversion isn’t one of the things which make us crazy. We aren’t weird – okay, again, some of us might be, but not just because of introversion. In fact, you may not know this, but there are lots of introverts around. Lots. Mega lots. You may even have overlooked some of us because we aren’t always trying to get your attention. We may appear extroverted in public, often because it’s our job, but there are lots of us who are really introverted.

It isn’t personal. 

When we don’t not talk because we don’t want to communicate with someone. We don’t talk because we are introverted. We need to have something to say. We probably think a lot more than we say. It’s hard not to take it personal though, isn’t it? But, it most likely has little to do with you when we don’t talk to you as much as you wish we would.

We do love you.

This one is huge. The crazy thing about introverts – that I know some have a hard time believing – is that most of us really do love people. A lot. More than you can imagine. In fact, the measure of extroversion or introversion, from what I can tell, has no bearing on the degree of love a person has for others. That’s a whole other side to a person’s personality and character. If one expectation you have of love is talking a lot, you’re going to be disappointed at times. But, this may help to know – for some introverts, one expectation we have of love is giving the people we love time to not have to talk. (Figuring out how to balance those expectations is tough, isn’t it?)

We need time to recharge.

The amount of time is relative to the amount of extroversion we had to do to get to the opportunity for introversion and the degree of introversion we have. But, all of us need that time. We may even crave it. This is especially true after very extroverted events or settings. For my pastor friend I mentioned above, that’s Sunday afternoon following a Sunday morning. (Funny how Sunday afternoons always follow Sunday mornings.)

Preparation helps.

If you give us advance warning, we can often better prepare for conversation. We can gear up for it. I know that may be difficult to grasp for especially extroverted people, especially when it involves people we love so much. Please understand, though, that introversion impacts how we relate to others – not how we feel about them. I love my wife. More than anything. And, she shares my calendars so, thankfully, she knows the times I am more likely to revert to my introversion preferences. I find, however, that my wife and I having a routine time where we interact together at night, is the time I’m ready to dialogue with her best about my day and hers. And, she loves this time. I do too. Seriously. It works better for me because I’m prepared for it – actually looking forward to it – and it works better for her because I actually talk. And, want to.

We don’t have a right to ignore you.

Do I need to repeat that one? I will. We don’t have a right to ignore you. And, my introverted friends can get frustrated with me if they want to, but we don’t. You can expect communication. Relationships are built on communication. We just have to figure out how to make it work with your personality and ours. We can do that, can’t we? And, you can tell them I said it. Get an outside party (such as a counselor) to help you if you need it. We can’t expect people to ignore their personality – and we should work to respect other people’s personalities, but we can expect two people in a healthy relationship to find a balance that allows healthy, intimate conversation – at a level that meets the needs of both in the relationship.

Activity often produces conversation.

This may sound strange unless you’ve experienced it, but as an introvert, I talk more — and am more comfortable doing so — when I am being physically active at the same time. Walking with Cheryl helps us communicate better. Our communication is strengthened when we have an activity we do together regularly. So, we walk often. Almost daily. It’s good for our health and our marriage. Certainly we walk enough so she feels we’ve communicated. What’s an activity you could do with your introverted family member which might produce more (and better) conversation? (Play a board game, go hiking, take a drive, etc.)

Here’s the disclaimer. Not all introverts are alike. Just as not all extraverts are alike. And, there are varying degrees of introversion and extroversion. It’s important not to put people into boxes – and that’s not what I’m trying to do here. Maybe the best follow up to this post is a conversation with your introvert on how the two of you could communicate better. More than anything, as a relationship counselor and pastor, I want to help people better communicate. Sadly, I’ve sat on the outside of dozens of relationships in trouble and communication is almost always one root of the problems in the relationship. This post isn’t counseling – and my intent was a very soft approach, but the issue here is huge for some couples. Don’t be afraid to get help if needed.

Are you an extrovert married to an introvert? Any tips you’ve learned that can help?

7 Ways Introversion Works Well for Me as a Senior Leader

As a pastor too...

I remember several years ago reading an article, which suggested the majority of senior leaders think extroversion is necessary to be an effective as a senior leader. Obviously – and hopeful I am correct – I disagree. And, I think we’ve come a long way in our thinking. Thankfully.

In fact, I see benefits in being an introverted senior leader.

I also know people who can’t believe I can pastor a large church and be introverted. I’ve written before about the false assumptions of introverts. Introverts can be just as caring, loving and “shepherding” as extroverts. It’s a personality trait, not a heart monitor.

But, again, I see benefits in being a lead pastor and an introvert.

Here are 7 ways introversion works well for me as a senior leader:

I think first and speak later.

I don’t stick my foot in my mouth very many times. I’m not saying extroverts do, but I am saying that as an introverts I tend to choose my words very carefully. One characteristic of the personality is we don’t speak quickly. We choose our words more intentionally. Understand, I do say things I regret, but it doesn’t happen often.

I’m less likely to struggle with the loneliness of leadership.

This is a real leadership emotion, and I certainly have it some, but I’m very comfortable being alone in a room to my thoughts. Long runs by myself are energizing to me. I know many extroverted leaders who can get very lonely – and some days for them are very difficult, especially when they are in the midst of harder leadership decisions.

I create intentional moments.

My introversion forces me to be very intentional about my time interacting with others. I say continually to introverted leaders – introversion should never be a crutch or an excuse for not engaging with people. Leadership is a relational process for all of us. But, my relational time is very focused. I tend to make the most of my time. A calendar is one of my essential leadership tools. Sunday mornings I’m the most extroverted person in our church building. It’s strategic, intentional, and I enjoy it – because I truly love people – even though it is draining.

It’s easy to concentrate on the big picture.

You’ll seldom find me chit-chatting. It’s not that I don’t have casual conversations – I certainly do when I’m connecting with people – but communication for me is usually very purposeful. As a result, I tend to be able to be very big picture oriented. Very strategic in my thinking. I step back and observe everything often. I’m a deep thinker. Those are traits especially strong with most introverts. That has proven to be very profitable for my leadership and the teams I lead.

Processed randomness.

People often wonder if I know how to have fun. “Pastor you seem so serious” or “What do you do for fun?” I hear comments like this frequently. Those are usually people who only see me when I’m working and don’t know me very well. And, I do work hard, but I can sometimes be seen as the class clown too – by those who get to know me. Some of this comes through online. But when those times occur, they are usually intentional times. My work is caught up, I have done all the things I have to get done, and I’m ready to “come out and play”. This quality can be in extroverts or introverts, but for me as an introvert, they are more intentional moments than spontaneous.

I network intentionally.

I recognize the value of every conversation I have. So, I have lots of conversations. Every Sunday is a gold mine of networking opportunities. Plus, I meet dozens of people every week in the community where I serve. I enjoy meeting people knowing that people are my purpose – and I love people – I really do. More than this, I love how God wants to develop and grow people, and I see my role in that as a teacher. People are the reason for everything I do.

I tend to listen well.

People on my team usually have a very good chance of having their voice heard, because in any meeting setting, I don’t feel the need to be the one always talking. My introversion allows me to be quiet, sit back, listen, and reflect and offer input when and where most needed.

Sure there are struggles with being an introvert at times, but I have found it to be a blessing in my leadership. It is who I am – it is NOT a curse. Much of that has to do with how I manage my introversion in an often very extroverted world.

How does introversion make you an effective leader?

5 Ways I Breakout of My Introversion When Needed

I am frequently confused for an extrovert. On Sundays and other important days of ministry I can perform as an extrovert. I assure you, it’s not what comes natural for me.

I’m very much an introvert. I almost max out this preference on the Myers Briggs.

I’ve written extensively about introversion on this blog. You can read some of those posts in the suggested posts at the end of this one. But, my church often sees me look very much like an extrovert.

I don’t want to be fake – and I’m not trying to be. My church hears me say I’m an introvert. I’m not hiding the fact. But, I know my role calls for me to engage people.

As a result of my ability to appear extroverted, a question I receive frequently is: How do you do it? How do I appear so extroverted when I am so introverted?

Here are 5 ways I break away from my introversion to perform as an extrovert:

Love people. This sounds simple and may even sound trite, but I genuinely love people. I love connecting with people. I want to engage with others. Doing so doesn’t come natural to me, but it’s not because I don’t love first. In fact, I think it’s very hard to be a leader – and certainly not a pastor – unless you love people. (One of the biggest misunderstandings of introverts is when extroverts think we don’t love people. It’s not true for most of us.)

Be purposeful – Since I love people – and know connecting with them is a huge part of my position – I remind myself there is a reason to be extroverted in some occasions. Often people are waiting on me to engage them. To be a Kingdom-builder, I have to converse with others – even when it’s uncomfortable. The reason I am willing to act outside my comfort zone is I love people and value the connection with them more than I love my individual preference or comfort.

Prepare mentally – I have to prep myself before Sunday. I remind myself – I have a job to do, people are expecting me to engage with them, it’s not going to be easy, but I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. It’s a mental exercise before any event where I need to be outgoing. (And, some days I do better than others.) I also try to shut down on Saturday evening – planning few social events – and I plan to have adequate recovery time following an extremely extroverted event.

Discipline myself – At some point, I just do it. I simply have to make myself do what I may not at first want to do. Work the room. Make the initial approach for a new relationship. Talk! Engage! Connect! Do it! And, with practice it gets easier. It really does. I’m always glad when I do. (And, extroverts can understand this one – or maybe the whole post.)

Reward myself – After an extremely extroverted occasion I crash heartily. Sunday afternoon naps are the deepest sleeping I ever have. Plus, my family understands if I’m quieter than normal at Sunday lunch. Sometimes I go for a run. Sometimes I plan a walk with Cheryl. It’s my time to renew do I can do it again when needed.  

Okay, introverts, your turn. How do you breakout of your introversion when you need to do so?

9 Things You May Not Know About Introverts

I’ve been an introvert all of my life. I was born that way — or at least I’ve been that way as far as my memory carries me. As a child, I remember at social gatherings people asking me if there was something wrong with me. Because to some people it’s “wrong” to not be talkative. I had to force myself to engage others all through high school. And, I wasn’t a recluse. I was elected student body president of my high school.

And, if you’re really an introvert. I just said some things you understand.

The major problem with introversion — which, by the way, is not a disease — and not a problem — is the misunderstanding of it. People act like it’s a personality flaw. But, it’s nothing like that. Introversion is a preference in how we respond to life. Nothing more. It’s a wiring. But, there’s no flaw in the wiring.

So, I’ve attempted to change the misunderstanding to understanding. Helping you understand introverts.

That’s the point of this post.

Here are 9 things you may not know about introverts:

We can be very social. You should see me on Sunday. We can even be the life of the party if we choose to be.

We have humor. We may even be very funny. It might be a dry wit. You may have to “wait for it” — and pay careful attention. We usually have time to think about it before we project our humor on the world. And, when we do be prepared to laugh. Laugh hard.

We love people. Seriously. We do. Deeply. Just because you may talk more than us doesn’t mean we don’t love as much as you do. Introverts are often very loyal to the ones we love. Just like extroverts may be.

We are unique. We are unique from other introverts. We aren’t all alike. And, we are somewhat offended with a stereotype. (Just as any other stereotyped person is.) Introverts have a realm of introversion. Some appear more extroverted than others. Some more introverted.

We aren’t afraid of people. We usually don’t need you to speak on our behalf to remove our fears. Fear is not the reason we are introverted. It’s a personality.

We don’t need help formulating thoughts. I realize it seems at times that we don’t know what to say — but usually it’s because we are processing, taking our time, or simply don’t want to interrupt everyone else who seems to be talking incessantly. Believe me — thinking is not a problem for most introverts. We do it quite well.

We don’t always want to be left alone. Yes, we may like our time alone – or at least our quiet time — but we don’t have to be alone. Personally, I don’t enjoy life as much when Cheryl isn’t around. Even if we aren’t talking non-stop, I like her in my company.

We can have fun. Some extroverts think we can’t. Because to them more fun is more conversation. But, we can have fun. Lots of it. And, there doesn’t have to be constant noise to do that. And, sometimes there does. And, my definition of fun may not be yours. And, that’s okay. But, let’s hang sometime and I’ll show you how it’s done my way!

We aren’t weird. Well, maybe. But, it’s not because we are introverts. Something tells me at least one of my readers of this post will be weird. (I’ve got some weird tendencies — I guess we all do.) You may or my not be introverted.

So,there are a few things you may not know about introverts. Anything else you could share?

7 Ways I Help Ministry From Being Impacted by Introversion

I love people. Truly. It’s one reason I believe God called me into ministry. I love the people He loves. Even the rotten ones. 🙂

But, I’m also an introvert.

And, yes, that makes me an introverted pastor. Of a large church.

And, it happens more often than you might think. In fact, many of the large church pastors I know are introverted. Large churches. Smaller churches. Introversion is not a respecter of persons.

I previously posted 7 of my biggest pitfalls of being an introverted pastor. (You can read that post HERE.) In that post, I indicated I would share how I address each of these pitfalls to keep them from adversely impacting my ministry.

Here are 7 ways I work with my introversion to protect my ministry:

I discipline myself to be extroverted on Sunday mornings.

Years ago, in my first full-time church, an elderly deacon pulled me aside and said, “Son, if you will make these people feel welcome, they’ll be more likely to return.” I realized that it wasn’t enough to preach a good message, I needed to engage people on a personal level. That has proven to be one of the best decisions I ever made. I’m very extroverted on Sunday. And, as tired as I am when I leave, I’ve learned to love it. Really.

I try to handle correspondence by text or email as much as possible to cut down on verbal conversation.

It’s not that we can’t talk. But, if it doesn’t require a phone call, text or email work great for me. Obviously, not everyone knows that — and that’s okay — but for those who know me well and communicate with me often — it’s a great help for them to help me with this. Just point of information, you will always get a deeper, more engaged answer from me if we are communicating online or I have time to think through my response.

I see networking as a large part of my success in ministry.

As a purpose-driven person, I’m more likely to do that which brings results. Networking has become a leadership value for me. It’s a strategic part of my ministry. That’s why people see me as extroverted. I know the value of connection and I use it often.

I try to capitalize on my strengths.

There are some benefits to introversion. I think before I speak. I am less likely to put my foot in my mouth (although it still happens). I usually mean what I say. I’ll never waste your time with office chit chat. I am able to spend countless hours in my own thought world, which give me tons of ideas; which, by the way, is a big reason you see me online often.

My family knows who I am.

I am very protective of family time, but they know that I need downtime before I can engage fully. They are respectful of this time, knowing it will be rewarded as we enjoy each other more when I am mentally rested. (And, I strive to make sure they don’t feel neglected — that’s important Introverts.)

I value my wife and her partnership in ministry even more! Cheryl is an extrovert.

Cheryl loves people and when she is with me I am much more comfortable in an extroverted setting. That’s especially difficult if both are introverted, and probably requires extra discipline, but it’s a great blessing for me.

I have deeper, personal relationships.

As an introvert, having to be so extroverted, I could easily close myself off when I’m not “working”. Recognizing the need for people to be involved in my life beyond surface level for my protection and the protection of my family and ministry, I have consistently solicited and allowed a few men to know me into my heart and life who can hold me accountable.

Are you an introvert? How do you keep it from adversely impacting your ministry?

7 of the Biggest Pitfalls of Being an Introvert as a Pastor

I am an introvert.

From all public appearances on Sunday morning — and with my frequent activity in the community — that surprises people.

But in my private life and with those closest to me there is no questioning of that fact. If anything, I have become even more introverted the larger our church has grown.

I can wish I was otherwise, but this is how I am wired. And, it’s not wrong. It’s not a personality flaw. It’s not cruelty. I love people. It’s how I’m wired — by God.

But, being an introvert has its downsides as a pastor.

Here are 7 pitfalls of being an introverted pastor:

People often think I’m arrogant, aloof or unfriendly.

I’m a lot of negative things. Those are not really the main three. People who know me tend to call me humble, although I’m not humble — I’ve just been humbled by life — and so I’m not looking down on anyone. Seriously. I sometimes, though, have to go back and apologize once I hear someone thinks I avoided them. This happens especially with extremely extroverted people.

I hesitate to make the connections I should.

Sometimes I miss opportunities to build my network. There can be the best connection in the room and I will let the moment pass and regret it later. I hate when I do that.

I’m worn out after a long day.

After a day of talking, I need time to rejuvenate. That can impact my family time if I’m not careful. It also leads to people at the end of the day telling me I look tired. Thanks! I love that comment. 🙂 But, guess what? I am!

Crowded rooms are intimidating.

I love crowded rooms in terms of reaching people for Christ. The more the merrier. But, they can actually be intimidating to me as a person. (Unless I’m speaking — then I’m not intimidated — just nervous like most people do before they speak. Isn’t that weird?)

I’m not as quick-witted in crowds.

People who know me tend to think I have a good sense of humor, I am easy to talk with and make them feel comfortable, but sometimes I appear awkward on first impressions when I try to make one. (Please give me more than one chance.)

I stress at the pressure to connect.

I realize the need to talk with people — it’s what I do — its what I need to do — but wrestling through the introverted tendencies actually adds even more stress to my life. The night before a big social event can be restless. Seriously. How’s that for transparency?

I can keep relationships shallow.

If I’m not careful — and thankfully I’m fairly disciplined here — I will close out people from really knowing me, which could subject me to all kinds of temptations, anxiety and even depression. The counselor training in me knows this well — and I see it often among introverts.

Are you an introvert? Do you see how it impacts your work?

(If any of this resonates with you, check out my next post. In THIS POST I share how I try to keep being an introvert from injuring my ministry — Link won’t work until after it’s live.)

7 Suggestions to Get the Introverts Sharing in Your Meetings, So You Don’t Miss Their Input

In a previous post, I shared 7 Reasons the Introvert Is Not Talking in Your Meetings. I committed then to share some suggestions. Read that post first, or this one will be harder to follow.

The fact is we miss out on a lot of valuable input if we don’t hear from the introverts on the team, but hearing from them is more challenging. They are introverted. That basically means they typically internalize their thoughts more than the externalize them. But, in order for them to be helpful you have to hear them. They have to externalize their thoughts.

These aren’t fool proof. Not all introverts are alike, just as not all extroverts are alike. All of us are unique.

But, these might help. If you’re not hearing from some of the introverts on your team, give some of these a try.

Keep in mind, these are coming from an introvert and a leader.

First, from the previous post…

Here were 7 reasons they may not be talking:

  • Everyone else keeps talking
  • You are rushing the answers
  • There are too many people, especially extroverts in the room
  • You have them in an uncomfortable seat
  • They’ve got nothing to say
  • The conversation isn’t going anywhere
  • You put them on the spot without warning

Now,

Here are 7 suggestions to get them talking:

First – Give them proper warning before the meeting to get them thinking ahead of time and let them know you’ll be expecting their input. With time to collect their thoughts in advance they’ll be more likely to share.

Second – Give them time after the meeting to reflect and specifically ask for their thoughts. In brainstorming, give them the questions before the meeting that you’ll be discussing. In some circumstances, I’ve even given introverts the freedom to email or text me or someone else during the meeting. (I’ve led a couple meetings where we put a live Google Docs on the screen to add our thoughts. Introverts could type in their response and Google Docs would update. They seemed to share more.)

Third – Divide into smaller groups. Especially during brainstorming meetings or strategy sessions, divide out and then come back together to share. Depending on the size of the group, you could have an introvert serve on their own “team of one” during the breakout time with the assignment to come back and share.

Fourth – Let them choose their seat. Never force introverts to move to the front of the room. You can offer them the seat, but if they want to stand in the back of a crowded room, let them.

Fifth – Don’t make people talk. Don’t call out an introvert or put them on the spot for an immediate answer. Provide opportunities, but don’t force. As mentioned previously, to see if they have thoughts to share, write a question on the board and give some time to process — maybe even let the answers be written.

Sixth – Start meetings on time and with an agenda. If small talk is part of the culture — that’s okay — but give them something to read or focus on until the main meeting starts. And, don’t be upset if they are still working on their phone until the actual meeting starts.

Seventh – Give them a preassigned part in the meeting. Most introverts are not afraid of leading, even speaking in large groups (I do it every week), they just want time to prepare. Then watch them shine.

As I said in the previous post, leaders this means you must know the people you are trying to lead. If you aren’t sure — ask, do assessments, observe, get to know them.

Also, to my fellow introverts, I hear from you. Some of you cringe at the word “brainstorming”. You want a pass from anything that makes you particularly uncomfortable. I’m sorry, I can’t give that as a leader. We all have to do things uncomfortable at times — that includes my extroverted friends. Sometimes they’ll be forced to sit in silent activities on the teams I lead. Brainstorming can be an important part of team-building and idea creation. And, the team needs you. We just need to help leaders — especially extremely extroverted leaders — learn how to get us more involved.

What suggestions do you have?

7 Reasons Why The Introvert Is Not Talking And The Team Misses Out

Ever wonder why the introvert on your team isn’t talking?

Introverts can be highly creative. They have original ideas. They think things through thoroughly. You need to hear from them.

Chances are, if they aren’t sharing, you’re missing out on some good participation.

Here are 7 reasons they may not be talking:

Everyone else kept talking – Most introverts aren’t going to talk over other people. They’ll wait their turn. If it doesn’t come. They won’t share.

You are rushing the answers – You don’t give them time to process. Introverts take time to find the right words to say. If you press for quick responses, they’ll likely share less. That’s true in brainstorming too, where you’re looking for many responses.

There are too many people, especially extroverts in the room – If there are plenty of “talkers” an introvert will let others do the talking. Again, they won’t interrupt. If introverts are easily outnumbered they are usually silenced.

You have them in an uncomfortable seat – Maybe they were late to the meeting and all that was left was an awkward front row seat. Not happening. They won’t likely share if they feel they are being made the center of attention.

They’ve got nothing to say – Perhaps it isn’t their subject. Introverts aren’t as likely to talk about subjects they know less about as an extrovert will. Their words are typically based on thoughts they’ve processed longer, so if it’s a new subject, they may still be processing internally.

The conversation isn’t going anywhere – Introverts aren’t usually fans of small talk. If too much time at the beginning of the meeting was about nothing they consider of great importance, then you may have lost their interest .

You put them on the spot without warning – Introverts are often NOT opposed to making a presentation. (The “not” is capitalized on purpose.) The myth is that introverts are always silent. Not true. Or that they have nothing to say. Not true again. They simply want to be prepared before they share.

Of course, this means you need to understand the team you’re trying to lead. Who are the introverts — the true introverts — on your team? They may have thoughts you need to hear. Your challenge is to create an environment conducive for hearing from them.

Edited note: I always receive push back from introverts about brainstorming. (Remember, I am one. Fairly extreme one.) I don’t think the problem is brainstorming, but rather how we do it. The process is too important not to do it and the collective thoughts are too important to miss anyone. We don’t get an “out” of everything uncomfortable because we are introverts. No one does. We just have to adapt and leaders have to get better at leading everyone, which is the point of these posts.

Go to my 7 suggestions post for ideas for each of these to get the introverts sharing.

What other reasons do you know that keep introverts from sharing in a meeting?