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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?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 53 Comments

  • Salim Ahmed says:

    Effective tips. Thanks

  • jimpemberton says:

    This is a pretty comprehensive list and I really can't add to it substantively. I have learned a few practical things that might help someone out to practice:

    1) Ask people questions about themselves and listen. Listen, listen, listen: I can't stress that enough! It can be hard to listen to someone especially if they are particularly self-interested and can talk for a long time. I've found that if I can weather it, most (most!) people who talk a lot about themselves eventually get to the end. Then they become more personable. I have a cousin like this who always has one or two lengthy monologues prepared for family get-togethers. Most of the family spend most of the time together running from her. I've found that if I sit down and listen to her go through the whole thing, then she's got it out of her system and it's actually easier on the rest of the family. She becomes open to actually having a nice conversation with.

    2) Provide brief feedback about yourself about common areas you detect. Many people actually want to know a little something about you. Key word: little. Don't bore them talking about yourself, but be ready with a few, short current accounts of your life that are broadly meaningful and at least mildly interesting; something that people can resonate with that doesn't sound boastful.

    2a) If you find that a person has a particular interest outside of their normal work and you have had some moderate experience, ask them for their experience in it relative to yours. This demonstrates that they are valuable to you in a practical way. This is a really nice step if you can get to it.

    3) If there are no common areas, take the opportunity to learn about something new from them. You can use this information to help you connect with someone else later, or even to connect others together if you find common interests between them.

  • Val says:

    As an introvert &ministry leader, I often also look for the introverts in the room. All of your "break out" techniques are absolutely useful and necessary to function but particularly on those extended ministry times when I can't get away as completely as I'd like, I look for my kind :). We can be quieter together and observe from the fringe for a short time but still feel that we've connected. Plus I often have the double bonus of having put another introvert (or several of them, if I can hook them up) at their ease in a setting that's not their forte.

    Thanks for the post(s). I've been digging through them with a mix of relief and wry grins.

  • Liz says:

    Great challenge! I really relate to your comment, " I genuinely want to engage with others. It simply doesn’t come natural to me. " That's exactly how I feel, so this was encouraging to read.

  • DavidaMW says:

    I LOVE this series of posts! I’m an introvert and so is my oldest teen son. He is a great kid but often doesn’t know how to start a conversation. I’ve thought so many times, poor baby, he got that from me.

    Even now I can identify with all of the points you listed. I’ve tried to “make myself” be friendly in social/professional situations, but I’d rather change a car engine than have to work a crowd of unfamiliar people! I intentionally arrive just in time for events to start as to avoid that awkward time of not knowing anyone. These posts have been most helpful. All my professions–business, ministry and patent require me to branch out to others which I often find draining although I really care about people.

  • @MickyDiaz73 says:

    I am grateful to the Lord for creating the opportunity of crossing paths with an awesome man of God like Ron Edmondson! Thank you greatly for this particular post because I have been an introvert for as long as I can remember. Thank you for the fresh perspective and amazing insight that you bring into your blog posts! God bless you!

  • acgheen says:

    I'm going on my ninth year in youth ministry and still get butterflies whenever I stand up in front of a group of people. I'm fine once I get going, but in that initial moment, I feel as if I'm about to choke. (One of my teens actually thought there was something wrong with me the first time we did a one on one activity. "You're so quiet. Is everything O.K.?" She was surprised to discover that my apparent extroversion is limited to those moments when I judge that what I have to share is more important than my own discomfort and that, most of the time, I'm just a quiet person!)

    This effect has been notably exaggerated over the course of the last few months, since I am now attempting to raise the support necessary to get me to the mission field. I've spoken at a different church nearly every week and I can feel the tension creep through my body every time I get up! I've actually discovered two ways to handle the stress, both of which work particularly well for me:

    1. My Associate Pastor prays with me before each engagement. Somehow, knowing that there is someone in ministry who is as committed to my ministry as I am, helps. If I get nervous, I can think back to that prayer and relax knowing that there is someone who shares my enthusiasm.

    2. I try to focus on people in the audience with whom I already have a relationship. I don't ignore others, but when the butterflies start, making eye contact with someone who already shares the vision really calms my nerves.

  • Mary says:

    I'm so glad to read a post by an introvert who doesn't appear to others as an introvert with comments from others saying the same thing! I am an introvert, but I have spent a lot of time developing social skills. There are some situations that are easier than others. I do a lot of the things mentioned in the post and comments: mentally prepare, have a topic ready to talk about, plan for breaks or time away, etc.

  • hey Ron, thanks for the follow on twitter. Going to check out some of your articles here and leave some comments πŸ™‚

    I am also an introvert who most people who don't know me think I am an extrovert since I tend to be animated, cracking jokes and the like. Yet I know exactly what you mean – feeling drained after social events. It's difficult at times, but it is my bit of cross to bear.

    Some of the things I do is prepare myself by praying. Not just praying that God give me 1) energy and strength to engage.. but also that.. 2) He give me strength to take purposefully advantage of every opportunity given to me to engage rather than shying away… (which is what I naturally want to do) including make eye contact, keep conversations going, use their names in conversation! and 3) time spent praying for the specific people I am about to gauge with…

    the last one helps me a lot as it takes focus away from how I feel to the need of the other.

    it is what it is! so we do what we can!

    – @paullee

  • Kari Scare

    Great tips! My "must" for breaking out of my introversion is to know I have scheduled time coming to be my introverted self. For example, I spoke at a Mother's Day Brunch this morning, and knowing that I had a quiet afternoon and evening helped me have the energy needed to enjoy the brunch in an extroverted way. So, just knowing I will have time to renew my energy and to be an introvert helps me better able to handle the times I need to be an extrovert.

  • John Harris

    This is me! Thanks for writing this!

  • Laurinda says:

    I do everything you listed along with some extra caffeine on days were a little more extroversion is needed!

  • @Bryankr says:

    It's not too bad, if the time I need to spend as Exo is short. I can do just about anything for a short period of time! The hard part is when I am required to really go out, like a Christmas party, or possibly a Church fellowship. Then I tend to take small "breaks". What I mean, is simply, when I have allowed the Exo's to start a good discussion, I'll get into it, have a good talk, then I will need to get another cup of coffee, or bathroom break, whatever. Anything that will allow me just a few minutes of time to say nothing to anyone. I can be polite, but I am on my way somewhere. When I have had a few minutes, I go back. Start again. Sometimes I luck out and I'm not required to say much to anyone after that, and I get to spend time just watching people.

  • Lorenzo says:

    I mostly identify with Jonathan Cliff, who posted above, in dealing with my introversion. For me it's about intentionally flipping that switch on, where there's a job to be done and I do as the occasion demands. As a pastor, there are certain things that I am responsible for that require me to be engaging with people, and I am happy to do so, though it doesn't come naturally to me. Outside of my official capacities, I'm the guy who's very content hanging out in the corner.

  • Kmac4him

    LOL… great! I was so there… a very shy, private introvert! What happened to me!! LOL! Jesus! Now I am a crazy extrovert who is way to “chatty” for her own good! Everything you wrote is true. Spent 14 years in youth ministry, the first four years I felt I was going to pass out every time I had to speak in front of a group of youth. It was so hard, but I kept trusting God, kept obeying, kept stepping out. Yes, I agree it got easier, the more I clung to HIM! One thing I would add is: Deep Expectation Breath! Inhale Jesus’ Strength-Exhale My Weakness; Inhale Jesus Ability – Exhale My Lack; Inhale His Confidence In Me; Exhale My Poor Self-Image; With every breath I inhaled expectation in God, exhaled reliance on myself! I could not do it, He could! Even to this day I say to God: “You want me to what? Are you sure”? I am hoping to get to that place where my YES is always on the table before He asks. I know He is hoping I get there one day too! Is there anything too hard for God?!

  • Jonathan Cliff says:

    I've learned that my message given as a speaker can be diminished by my introvertedness after speaking. I just tell myself that I'm not allowed to be introvert until in my car and driving away from where I've been. πŸ™‚

  • Vincent Wilson says:

    Mentally preparing before and after is a big part of preparing me to really engage with people. Also, remembering the bigger purpose of what I do helps me to push through. I have realized it sometimes helps to have a middle person or wingman/wingwoman.

  • Nita says:

    So many of us introverts act like extroverts, we should all be receiving academy awards, or tony awards, or something because we manage to 'fake it' so well. I didn't realize until reading your post, I also reward myself by crashing. I thought the crashing had to do with the travel time, but I think it has as much to do with the energy expended speaking and being out there in the public eye. You call it 'being purposeful' I call it, 'putting on my armor.' I put on an invisible cloak that allows me to act comfortable when speaking or meeting others. Yes, of course, Christ is that cloak. Not sure I could do it otherwise.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Ha! It does seem like a performance at times, but I try always to be genuine. I really do love when I breakout!

      • Nita says:

        Of course we're genuine, people wouldn't listen to us, or care what we said if we were fake. It's the method we use that makes me feel like it's a performance. Talking one on one to those I know, even slightly is much easier than going up to a stranger, sticking my hand out and introducing myself. Even that is easier than speaking in front of a group. Either way, with my 'cloak of strength' I manage to muddle through and hopefully, share with others.

  • — Just being intentional and conscious in our efforts.
    — Break from exaggerating the fear of speaking / interacting with others.
    — Embrace the opportunity to be an extrovert and learn from every experience.

  • Melissa says:

    Reflect, take time…sit, and reflect about the blessings of the event instead of the difficulty of the situation. It helps build me up for the next time. I love the idea of the Sunday afternoon nap…a restful nap is better than a hot fudge sundae!

  • Steph says:

    I try to schedule alone time before and after times that require me to be particularly extraverted. I agree with you that candidating is tough. I had to really push myself when my husband was candidating for his current position and we were required to participate in many events.