Last night, we spent an entire class talking about life from an introvert’s perspective, and that is my area of personal expertise. Today you can read my post on The Influence Blog with a behind-the-scenes look at teaching an online class (and the class list for April!).
This is a post for all the extroverts wondering how to love their introverted people better. I asked my extroverted friend, Tammy Perlmutter, to write this post, and she filled it with wisdom. You should absolutely pass it along!
I am an ENFJ married to an INFP. We have so much in common, but we have clashed in ways that can only be attributed to personality differences. We’re celebrating 16 years in May. We still have to make room for each other’s uniqueness. I also live in real-life community with over 200 other people. That’s a lot of personalities in one building. You will mishandle the extrovert or introvert in your life. You will never stop learning how to love each other.
Recognize and call out their gifts:
Due to their quieter nature, introverts can easily be overlooked and undervalued in the work place and in church as well. At times they are unfairly compared to other employees or members who are more outgoing and pioneering. Invest time into connecting with introverts, discover the richness of their personality, and affirm their unique gifting.
Keep pursuing them:
Extroverts can quickly find commonalities with others and can more easily establish connections. We like instant gratification. Introverts may not respond immediately to phone calls or emails, and may even appear shy and disinterested in person, but don’t let that dissuade you from reaching out. Everyone needs to feel pursued. New relationships naturally carry a bit of risk, and as an extrovert that’s easier for you to weather. So don’t give up if there isn’t an immediate response. Your interest and persistence will pay off.
Don’t pressure them to talk:
Introverts tend to think longer and more deeply about things, and are less likely to share their opinions in large groups or with people they don’t know well. Extroverts seem to always have something to say, can say it more quickly, and can sometimes steamroll people and conversation. Introverts need time and space to formulate their thoughts and feel confident and safe enough to share. When an introvert speaks in a group or meeting, please, don’t interrupt them. It may have taken a lot of courage for them to step out of their comfort zone and speak up, so let them talk without being talked over.
Respect their quietness and need for space:
Introverts thrive on solitude and silence. They need time and space to recharge. When an introvert excuses themselves from conversation or disappears in a group, it’s not personal. They need to breathe. They may decline invitations to large gatherings or weekend-long events. A retreat for you might be sensory overload for them. Respect the introvert’s personality and give them what they need without making it about you.
Give introverts a platform:
Just because an introvert is quiet doesn’t mean they don’t have something to say. In the right place, with the right people, you will glean extraordinary wisdom and insight from an introvert who knows how to listen. They are keen observers. Don’t underestimate their conviction or dedication due to their lack of vocalizing every thought that comes into their head. Follow up after group discussions or meetings, ask questions, let them know their voice matters.
Don’t force introverted children to socialize:
Extroverted children are seen as the norm, the introverted child is seen as shy, slow, timid, unresponsive, antisocial. Teachers have suggested that parents get their children tested due to their quietness and solitary behavior. Children are made to feel like something is wrong with them if they aren’t the first to put their hand up in class, initiate play with their peers, or prefer digging for bugs alone during recess. The solution is not a forced play date. Find ways to engage other kids while giving your child a safe space to be themselves.
Tammy Perlmutter writes about unabridged life, fragmented faith, and investing in the mess at her blog Raggle-Taggle. She lives communally at Jesus People USA in Chicago with her husband, daughter, hamster, and 250 other people. She will have an essay included in the forthcoming book Soul Bare: Reflections on Becoming Human, being published in the spring by Civitas Press.