Social gatherings – I love them. Really, I do. As an introvert, however, they can be very difficult. Introverts are typically far more likely to be placed in awkward, uncomfortable situations when the crowds are large. So, I have some standard ways I act at social gatherings.
The fact is people have a hard time believing I am introverted. Certainly, I’m not on Sunday. I intentionally try to meet as many people as possible. I have plenty experience in extroverted environments. I’ve even served in public office. I can work a room if I need to do so.
Introversion is a personality based on preferences. It’s how someone is wired by life. We don’t simply choose to be introverted. We are programmed that way in our core personality.
So, knowing most leaders find themselves in these uncomfortable situations frequently, I thought about how I respond in social settings where I’m not the host or where I don’t know most everyone in the room.
This may not be true for all introverts, but it is for me.
By the way, I had this discussion with a fellow introvert. He said he just avoids all social gatherings altogether. I don’t want to do that but knowing my reaction will hopefully keep me from hiding out in my personality and missing fun and networking I really do often want to have.
Here is how I typically act in social gatherings:
Find the corner –
I look for a place away from the crowds to adjust to that space. Before I even look around to see who is in the room, I find the corner. I’ve been told, “I waved at you when you entered the room“, but I didn’t see them. I promise, because I wasn’t even looking yet.
Survey the room –
After a pause, from the corner position, this is when I begin to process who is in the room. Who do I know? Where’s the “safe” place to begin conversation? It’s usually with people I somewhat know and can easily begin conversation.
Spot the extroverts –
It’s not that I don’t want to talk to them. Possibly they are some of the ones I most want to talk to, but I need time to “warm up” first. Many times, these people launch into heavy conversation as soon as an introvert hits the door. The thought that this might happen is many times one of our biggest fears – and a main reason I might avoid the social gathering altogether.
Look for an opportunity –
When can I best break into a conversation? Many times, if I can get started, I’m good. Getting started is the hardest part. I won’t likely interrupt. Introverts typically don’t do that. We are “polite” communicators.
Decide whether or not to move forward –
At this point, I will either make the best of it – and many times have a great time if I do – or flame out early. Or I could choose to never ignite at all. It’s sad, but true. I’ve gone through these routine countless times only to spend a few minutes at a gathering before exiting as quickly as possible.
So, introverts, let’s not miss the social gatherings we want to attend. If you want to stay home, then great. But I am committing not to allow my introversion to stop me. I’ll do this by disciplining myself to attend, adjust, and engage.
(I should note that if Cheryl (my extroverted wife) is with me this becomes far easier. She starts the conversations and I jump in more naturally. That’s another reason we have partnered well in ministry.)
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