Friendship Introversion Living Connected

Living Connected: An Introvert’s Guide to Friendship

. . . an excerpt

For most of my life, I have viewed my “quiet soul” as a liability.

And then I discovered Susan Cain’s profoundly thoughtful book Quiet, I began to think differently about my introversion. In fact, I began to see my introversion as a gift, particularly in the area of building friendships. What a surprise!

And then I went on to read Adam McHugh’s book, Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. I underlined liberally and nodded my head often. I particularly like his definition of introverts: “If your preference is toward your inner world, and even when you are out socializing you are thinking of a quiet place, you win the label ‘introvert.’”[1]

For too long I shoved aside my natural, introverted ways and tried to imitate my extroverted friends. Now, rather than trying to ignore my introversion, I recognize it, embrace it, and make changes in my life that accommodate and even enrich it. I feel better!

I don’t write this book as an expert with all the answers; rather, I write this book as a fellow traveler, learning as I go about living connected as an introvert.

When I type the word introvert into a search engine on my computer, I see funny cartoons about people having a wonderful night in or people having a strong aversion to talking on the phone. I laugh and nod my head. But then I also see T-shirts and Pinterest quotations that display some version of “I’m an introvert. Go away!” Those images make me wince. On one hand, I agree. Living next to people presents challenges and inevitable conflicts. On the other hand, I believe my faith in God calls me to live connected.

I see the power of connection in the Book of Nehemiah as the people of Jerusalem worked together to restore their city. I see it in the story of the paralyzed man whose friends brought him to the feet of Jesus for healing as recorded in Mark 2. I see it in 1 Corinthians 12 as Paul described the many parts of the human body to illustrate the connectedness of believers in God.

I can’t ignore God’s powerful call to living connected. I also can’t ignore my internal wiring as an introvert.

So how do I live connected while also living well as an introvert?

I wrestle with this question. Daily.

Of course, I set out to answer this question introvert-style, which included reading a lot of books. I returned to one of the first books I read on friendship: The Friendship Factor by Alan Loy McGinnis, published in 1979 and still in print today. I also read books and blogs by current writers.

And I had a lot of one-on-one conversations with people, including my husband and favorite extrovert. He knows that quiet fuels me. I know that people-activity fuels him. We give each other space, time, and respect to grow and live. And we’ve worked to find common ground. (And yes, we had some adjusting to do when his job moved home during our shelter-in-place order. But that’s another story.) We both greatly value our friendship with each other and our friendships with others. We speak often of friendships and how to nurture them. Much of what appears in this book first began as a discussion with John.

As a result of those discussions in combination with reading, thinking, and praying about my own quiet soul, I’ve landed on some words that I want to incorporate into my own friendships, words that help me follow God’s call to connect: honesty, generosity, approachability, curiosity, empathy, loyalty, confidentiality, consistency, flexibility, creativity, hospitality, and humility.

Some of these words represent great challenge for me. And I bungle in friendship all the time. (Just ask my friends!) But I do hold these words in my head and heart and want them to shape the way I connect, even as an introvert.

As my college English professor used to say, “Come with me on this journey!”

[1] Adam S. McHugh, Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2017), loc. 487 of 3337, Kindle.

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