Part One of a Three-Part Series
Growing up in church, Sundays meant we were going to church service and then fellowship on the patio. Our church had weak coffee, Crystal Light lemonade, Danish butter cookies from a tin, and lots of people. We stayed and talked, always. So, you can imagine how it used to drive me crazy that my kids were always trying to get me to “Stop talking and go home,” after church service. We go to a church that could aptly be described as “mega” and I’ve been there 22 years. When I was the coordinator of our 150-women-strong Mothers of Preschoolers group, all those moms felt they knew me. I would walk from the sanctuary to the children’s building across campus, shaking hands and kissing babies like a politician. My kids rolled their eyes, and occasional pulled on my skirt in the direction of the parking lot. Such is the plight of the extroverted mama, raising an introvert and an ambivert (she’s right in the middle of the introvert/extrovert spectrum). I want to be with my friends when we’re out; I want to have my friends over to the house. But my family is really fine just the four of us, most of the time. But because my people love me, we are figuring out a balance that helps us all get what we need. Though American culture favors extroverts, that doesn’t mean we are without struggles in our personal relationships, and we need to be loved and understood, too. I polled my Extroverted Loved Ones followers on Instagram, and your responses confirmed that I’m on the right track. So, listen up, introverts. Here’s what your ELOs might want you to know. Don't judge us for needing more stimulation than you do. It’s how God made us. I had an introverted follower last week share that it’s hard to be close to her ELOs because they turn into someone she doesn’t recognize in groups. I explained to her that ELOs don’t have false public selves and true private selves, necessarily: They are people that need both the energizing presence of groups and the intimacy of quiet time with their closest friends. We might get louder and happier around people, but it’s probably because we feel happier, not because we are being phony. (In next week’s series, however, we will talk about the concept of learned extroverts, who perform out of desperation.) Send us out to party solo. We like wild events like group discussion in Bible study! It’s okay if you don’t. Over half the extroverts I polled said they were happy to let their ILO stay home when they go to gatherings. Sometimes we really want you with us, for significant events like our office Christmas party or a close friend’s wedding. But even in those instances, a self-aware ELO is okay with you staying off the dance floor and leaving early. (Just please don’t roll your eyes at us. Hear that, daughters?) Personally, I’ve learned that since I’m the most extroverted member of our family and I work from home, while the rest of my family is at work and school, I usually meet a friend for brunch or a walk on the weekends for a few hours while my people cocoon at home. They are as glad to see me go as I am to leave. Practice hospitality with us. This is one of my spiritual gifts. And it’s also one of my secular gifts. I’m a good cook, a manic seasonal decorator, and a collector of vintage dishes. I need to shine these lights and my dishes need to fulfill their destiny. I accept that my ILOs need our home to be a safe haven for them, so I don’t fill it with people on the daily. But they accept that hosting is part of my essential self. We compromise by prioritizing which events are party-worthy, spending a few holidays totally on our own, setting stop times on our gatherings that we stick to, and allowing the teens to retreat to their rooms and noise-cancelling headphones after they have dined and helped with dishes. I follow an enneagram teacher who posted this, below, and it helps me understand how important it is to respect my ILOs limits as I express myself.
Invite us. Extroverts are more likely the camp counselors of their groups, rallying the troops to gather. Now, my poll was split on whether this was important to the ELOs or not. So, it might be my own brokenness speaking, but being the one who reaches out and invites people in, sometimes I wonder if I would end up alone if I stopped being the initiator. When I’m invited over to your house instead of asking you to mine, I’m pretty thrilled! A good way to know if your extroverted friends feel this way? Ask them! You don't have to host them for dinner, but being the one to ask them out for coffee once in a while is awfully nice. Check on us. Just because we are peppier around people doesn’t mean we are happier than you – we covered this last week. So, call and text your ELOs now and then, simply to say, “How are you?” It’s easy to forget that we need this, because we seem so capable of connecting. But every human being likes to be pursued, chosen and cared for. Check us before we wreck us. Look, sometimes what makes us feel loved and what is actually loving are not the same thing. Relationships are not just about comfort and joy, but also about accountability and personal growth. Last week I wrote about social regret: Because the extroverted brain is more impulsive, we often say things we regret when we’re caught up in the moment, and end up sabotaging the connection we crave. So, though we might not want this, most of us need our closest friends or spouses to occasionally hold up a mirror, letting us know how we are being perceived by others: as dominating, insensitive, attention-seeking, over-sharing or over-the-top. My husband developed something we call his “reigning-in hand” for when we are in social situations. He gently lays one hand on my back if we are standing, and on my knee if we are sitting at a table. It’s his way of saying, “Sweetie, dial it back a bit.” When he first started doing this, I felt humiliated and furious. I would berate him on the car ride home, and I could get mean (“Just because you never tell anyone anything doesn’t mean I have to be so withdrawn.” Ouch.) But over time, I came to really trust two things about my husband. 1. He adores me. 2. He has good judgement. We came to agree that I needed a little help, and I gave him permission to give it. It took us years to get there. And I'm so glad, because I don't want to be one of those couples who stopped being open to feedback and just annoys each other for the rest of their lives. This is tricky stuff, my dudes, loving people unlike us. In Matthew 7, Jesus told us to “do to others as you would have them do to you.” And yet, even in this one aspect of personality – introversion and extroversion – we want to be treated differently than our counterparts do! So how do we follow this command? Jesus presented the solution: First to ask, seek and knock of God, who will give us good gifts and the Holy Spirit when we ask. Pursue these good things, my friends: Self-awareness and knowledge. Discernment, wisdom and the fruit of the Holy Spirit are awesome. Because God adores us, introverts and extroverts alike. And he has good judgement (a slight understatement). We will love each other better when we deeply embrace both these truths. So, your final actions steps of the day: 1. Ask God for wisdom about yourself and your loved ones. 2. And ask your loved ones how you can love them better.