How an Introvert Handles Awkward Situations

One thing middle age has done for me is make me more aware of who I really am and how I respond to life. I can wish I was wired differently, I can somewhat adapt my personality to my environment, and I can’t use my personality as an excuse for bad behavior, but I am coming to terms with how God made me. He made me an Introvert. In recent years I have come to terms with how the public side of me behaves in an extremely extroverted world. On Sundays, because I know and love our people and have a Kingdom mindset, I’m the extroverted pastor, but as my Myers Briggs indicates, I’m actually a preferred Introvert. (BTW, it amazes me how many pastors I know who are Introverts.)

To most Extroverts entering a crowded room of unknown people is not an awkward setting, but to someone wired like me, entering that same room, when not purposefully “working”, forces me into my introverted shell.

Here’s how I tend to respond when I enter a room full of people I don’t know:

  • I find something to occupy my time – Play with my phone, doodle on paper, read my Kindle (you wonder why I carry this stuff…)
  • I pretend I don’t see people…often I don’t…but I’m likely to pretend just in case.
  • I hide in the lobby until the last possible moment…
  • I find someone I do know and latch on to them…
  • I secretly hope some likable Extrovert will approach me and break the ice… (Really, it’s not that I don’t want to talk, it’s just starting the conversation that’s often difficult.)

The fact that an Introvert is in crowds of people does not mean he or she is comfortable beginning conversations. It also doesn’t mean the Introvert has no care or concern for the people in the room or that he or she doesn’t like being around people. It doesn’t even mean the Introvert has nothing to say, although he or she would probably prefer not to be put on the spot to say it. It’s that an Introvert’s preferred interaction with people is often more of listening than it is of talking and more one-to-one than speaking in large groups at the same time. For some reason, that I don’t understand, an Introvert can speak to a large crowd (the larger the better), but when it comes to having group conversation, an Introvert is more likely to feel awkward. (Hopefully some other Introverts will help me out with this post.)

Would you be considered an Introvert or an Extrovert? Introverts, how do you handle awkward situations?

I’m especially interested in hearing from Introverted pastors and other leaders. How do you respond to the crowded room?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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147 thoughts on “How an Introvert Handles Awkward Situations

  1. THANK YOU!! I am a pastor and an introvert. Our church has tripled in size over the past five years and you would think I would LOVE it, but it just means more people to speak to. I have learned how to be more outgoing, but talking to people one on one saps the energy right out of me. I know this sounds weird, but I am very comfortable in front of hundreds of people but I get VERY nervous around three. People see me in the pulpit and think, "He must love to talk to people;" but then they see me in Wal-Mart and I am very awkward. I have wondered so many times why God chose someone like me to do this. I guess when I am weak he is strong. Thanks for the post. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one out there.

  2. Love this post… As an introvert, I have no problem at all spending a great deal of time at home alone, working from my desk as an editor. But I also teach seven-hour seminars a few times each month to a crowd of strangers–and that's a whole different ball game. I truly enjoy it and I don't have any trouble interacting with my students, but as soon as it's over I spend the entire evening in quiet in order to "recover." I think the trick for me when it comes to doing seminars (or dealing with big crowds of people during ministry) is to tap into my love for people. I find them fascinating and funny and wonderful, and this sort of energizes me even though I can't handle huge doses days after day! It allows me to plunge into the moment knowing that I'll take the time later to regroup on my own during a jog, at home, etc.

  3. I am an Introvert. I love to do research! I love a good book, a good, empty, library. I have discovered that a lot of Extroverts are really good at starting a discussion, and I am not. I simply listen for the discussion and join in. They tend to enjoy the input. I enjoy somebody else starting ball rolling!

  4. Yes, I am very much an introvert…most people, once I get to know them, say they thought I was stuck up because I did not talk to them when I first meet them. Sadly, once I get to know someone..the more open I am and the more trusting I become.

  5. I'm kind of late commenting, but I just found this…

    …And I think I'd have to agree with the talking to big groups, but being a little awkward with small groups. When ever I need to give a presentation for school, it really doesn't bother me; maybe it's an introvert thing…or I've just learned to get over it and ignore any nervousness?

    Either way, good article! :)

    • Thanks Cassie. Better late than never :) But, interestingly, I've got another post on introversion coming tomorrow!

  6. Not a pastor, but have been a deacon and church leader for many years, when I enter the church I am not ready for social chitchat so I make a beeline to the prayer room, but now we are encouraged to pray in the sanctuary and greet people and I just can't focus on God when being stretched that much. I look for someone I know and greet them, or I go and get a coffee, or sit down quietly and prepare my tithe, after worship I am much better with people, because I am focused and God tells me who to pray for, so I approach them. Our church is very much focused on greeting newcomers I often let others do that but if I see someone sitting quietly in a corner, or looking lonely or lost, I will go and introduce myself and ask their name, then I find something about them to comment on, a nice piece of jewellry they are wearing, thier friendly smile, ect. Then I ask if there is anything they would like me to pray for, I am fine if people come to me first so I will also smile at people and let them come to me, people will often look for a friendly face in an uncomfortable situation. In new settings churches or groups I will often find a ministry I am interested in and join that group in order to connect. In conferences I am fine sitting on my own and need to find quiet places during the breaks to get away from the crowds. I could not do evangelism out in the world well, but I have outgoing Christian sons who are now in thier teens and found that I was able to do it if they were with me, after all they were sent out two by two. It is great in ministry to hook up with someone more sociable and let them break the ice, my outgoing friends many times introduced me to people and asked me to pray for them. I too can talk in front of crowds but only if I have a subject and a message. At potlucks I find one or two lonely people at a table and sit with them or if it is crowded sit with people I know well, when all else fails I eat quickly and then start cleaning up the dishes or helping in the kitchen. I will often volunteer for setup or cleanup at big events, that way I am active and too busy to socialize, or if it requires prayer covering I hole up with the few souls in the prayer room. Or I offer to hold someones baby and walk them and put them to sleep. Our very outgoing extroverted pastor taught us all to do this, approach someone, ask their name, ask if they are visiting ( this can be embarrassing if they have been coming a while and you didn't notice so I changed that to I haven't met you yet, and my name) then ask if they would like prayer. Mostly I hide behind my kids and let them introduce me to people which they are always happy to do.

  7. That does sound more like introversion. Typically that means that you are passionate about kids, which is a good thing in your position, and so you break out of your personality preference for that. That's how I appear so extraverted on Sundays meeting people I love!

  8. I vary back and forth between extrovert and introvert, depending on my mood and how the day's gone when I take the tests. :-) I'm a kids pastor, and never have problems with kids…but adults…whole nother story. I'd MUCH rather address a crowd of 300 than enter a room with 30 and have to make small talk. And if you ask me to sit down at at table with 3…I tie myself in knots, although I manage to do it. One on one conversations with people I already know and trust are great–but wow…that whole stranger thing… I respond EXACTLY the way you do. :-)

  9. Wow, Ron when I read this story, it felt like I was reading the story of my life. I am an introvert to the max, and it's quite a challenge for me to initiate conversation. I try to be engaging at church, and I sincerely do love my church and everyone there. I have gotten better at engaging people over the years, but I tend to seek one-on-one conversations.

  10. according to my myers briggs, i am on the borderline. 1 point pushed me into the extroverted column. i try to push myself more into that column all the time but usually end up faking it. sometimes it works, too many times it doesn't. i am completely comfortable in a group of people that i supervise, normally from the first time i meet with them. in this sort of group i am usually always very high energy and on the go. but put me in a group of strangers or in a group with no purpose other than being there and it can go either way, but usually i shut down a little. wish i could change that.

    • I always thought you'd be on the border somewhere. I understand though. When you are borderline on a type, it makes it harder to discern.

  11. Being an introvert is very difficult, and makes connecting with people very difficult. Introverts don't know if or how to fit in. I think that is why it is hard for me to make and keep any deep meaningful friendships. I don't feel like I can pursue people to get connected because I am introverted, and people don't feel the need to pursue me and get connected because I am introverted. My husband and I are both introverts, and we have a very difficult time connecting to people and feeling we belong.

  12. I've known I am an introvert for a good many years. I married an extrovert, so I can latch onto him. :) He actually read the post on ways to help an introvert and laughed because it described our relationship – especially when we first started dating. I do find it ironic, however, that I can enter a room of children and feel completely at home and open (I'm a first grade teacher). As a matter of fact, most of my principals have assumed I'm an extrovert when in fact I'm not. It's small groups of adults or mingling situations that make me feel awkward.

    • In my experience Crystal, when I can be "in control" of the room, I can keep my introversion from controlling me. Thanks. Hope you guys are well.

  13. Wow. I always thought I was an extrovert, but now I’m rethinking. The statement you made about introverts loving large crowds is so true. I’m always fearful in smaller groups (forget one-on-ones with new people…I just know they’ll hate me), but put me in a group of 20+ and I’m golden. I think I might just be an extroverted introvert.

  14. I am suposbily a intrivert but the more uncofortible I am the more I can't shut up, but I have come to see thats my way of hideing behind a wall of words so hopefully people won't pick up on the massive insecurty! but most of the people I know look shocked when I tell them I'm a intervert, but like you Ron I carry many things to ocupy myself so I feel I have a perpose, will also jump like a jackrabbit at any work possible to busy myself.

  15. I'm fairly introverted. What I think is interesting that you mention is the introvert in front of crowds vs. talking in groups.

    Personally, I feel extremely confident talking in small groups– you won't be able to get me to STOP talking ;)

    But it's when I'm in front of large groups I get awkward.

    But when I'm in a crowd, I'll typically grab on to an extrovert I know, like you do, so I can talk to /someone/ without being awkward in a group of people I don't know, or find any other friend I can have a conversation with.

    I think this might be a combo of being introvert and being shy/socially anxious, though. Because if I talk to one person who is an authority figure, I'm super nervous. I dunno what it is.

  16. Had to laugh….used to hide behind a camera! Did most church function pics…was there, knew what went on, but was too busy to visit! Too funny

    Now, I lead small Bible Study of seniors (have had up to 16 people attending) and was ok when all were there at same time after I knew ea. of them.

  17. like you said play with my phone, find something to clean, ask to help in some other job what ever keeps me busy instead of just standing there lost, but if someone accnoligess me I start rattling off like a fraight train & will just keep talking insesently if the other person dosent chime in between breaths, I know I do it becuse my heart is pounding, my head is throbbing & my stomic is tied in knots due to being scared spitless so I fill up the awcared silenc, but there has been many of my friends that swear I am one of the most exstreverted people they know! I do agree I do much better one on one or a very small group, & I have done many of theater productions & a few speaking engagements, I'm fine when i'm on stage but going on or comming off I'll leap in to a full panic attac many times, I doubt I helped any, but hopfully if nothing else you know your not alone.

  18. I'm kind of a pecler intervert, I will walk in to a crowded room with speed & purpose, like I know what i'm doing & wear i'm going, i'm lible to tip my hat or smile & nodd if someone looks my way & then will imidtly find something to do,

  19. I have always been an extrovert (ENTJ) but I completely understand where you are all coming from. Your strengths mirror my weaknesses. Up front is the same, a crowd is impersonal but I am in control and feel comfortable by focusing on individuals as I preach. A crowd in the fellowship hall is generally just an excuse to make small-talk but visitation scares the bejeebers out of me. I'm good once the conversation is started, I really do care about people and I really am interested in them but the prospect of making deeper personal interaction is very threatening. I have to set goals and make schedules and really force myself to get out the door if I know I'm going to meet with small groups or individuals.

  20. I really appreciate this topic coming out in the open. I am a pastor who only had extroverted pastors while growing up. That was my model, yet I am introverted. The first few of my 18 years of pastoral ministry were ROUGH, stressful and complicated. I just got Adam McHugh's book and am looking forward to its insights. It is still a mystery to me how I can speak to very large groups of people while preaching, and run from the "fellowship" afterwards… I still deal with feelings that "extroverted" is "normal" and that introversion is something that needs to be "fixed"… I'm still learning and accepting "me"

    • Jeff, I think there's a false expectation that pastors are to be extremely Extroverted. Personally I believe more in the priesthood of the believer than that. I'm glad there are those in my church that are over the top good at meeting new people, socializing, and engaging in conversation. They help complete me. (My wife is one of those BTW).

      • There is a false expectation…that's for sure. My wife is very extroverted, and that makes for a great compliment to my personality. I am so glad that I no longer feel "guilty" for being who I was created to be.

    • I've been communicating with Adam for several months, and his book has been a great blessing to us all. I've often referred to myself as the ultimate personality/church mismatch. I grew up in the Pentecostal tradition which expresses itself in a very extraverted fashion. I've been ridiculed more than a few times for being too quiet in my worship and being too analytical, but fortuately, my pastor is coming around to the idea that introverted styles of worship are acceptable to God, especially since I gave him a copy of Adam's book.

      Ironically, our youth minister is introverted (althought he won't admit it – I can tell the signs) and I prefer his preaching over all the other ministers we have when he gets up to address the whole church during our adult worship service.

  21. Ron,

    I truly appreciate your imput. As an introverted leader, I find myself trying to "look busy" instead of actively seeking to engage people on an individual level. Typically, this results in me just walking around in circles until the start of the worship service. :)

    Thanks for your post! I gained insights on myself – WH

  22. I'm such an introvert! When I was younger I could behave like an extrovert, and I still really do love people, but I find them draining and I feel so awkward in groups. As you said, I play with my phone, read a book or latch on to someone familiar and let them do all the talking!

    Actually, though I'm quite faithful at church and participate in so much, I often feel a bit isolated and lonely. Someone may call me a friend but I'm not sure I'd really call them a friend. I think I expect more deeper relationships than some of my extroverted friends.

    My pastor is also introverted so he seems to understand pretty well, though as you pointed out, most people don't "get" that he's so introverted. (he really is!) He comes across when he's speaking so extroverted and fulfills the (fairly) outgoing pastor role well on Sundays.

    Oftentimes I still don't feel like I fit in with the others at church but I'm slowly realizing that I do. I just see things a bit differently and have more expectations of connection than most.

  23. According to this site I'm an introverted, intuitive, feeling, perceiving (INFP) type of person. Also known as a "healer." I've very intersted now in what my Myers Briggs would be. Thanks for the link and the suggestion about the university.

    • That's cool. You can learn a lot by Googling Myers Briggs and reading about that type code to see if you match the descriptions. There are hundreds of sites that talk about Myers Briggs.

  24. Thanks Melissa. I am certified to administer Myers Briggs, so we've used it a lot on our team and it is a valuable resource. I also am surrounded by Extroverts. It does help when we understand each other. Thanks!

  25. Great post, Ron. I struggled for a long time being a very strongly preferred introvert in the ministry world. I'm in my 10th year as pastor of youth and missions in a large church. The other pastors are extroverts so it took a lot of discussion to understand one another. One of the greatest things we did was complete the Myers Briggs assessment as a team early on and had a facilitator lead us in a discussion of how this effected us as a team. We still refer to it today.

    No one ever guesses that I am an introvert. In fact, they argue with me trying to convince me that I have to be an extrovert. :) I have learned how to work and live in a very extroverted world. But not before serious burnout and depression forced me to face this dichotomy and make changes.

    Recently we had a celebration of my ten years of service. I was more nervous about being the center of attention for the evening than I have or ever will be about preaching to a thousand strangers.

  26. It started for me in Kindergarten…same seat every day, same picture drawn every day…haha! I am still that way, and have also been accused of being antisocial, arrogant, distant, cold, etc. It's not that at all; I'm glad I'm not the only one who clings to my extrovert friends!

  27. Yes! A fellow introvert who gets me. :) You're spot-on with all you've said. I can't tell you how many times someone has told me that I'm antisocial or rude because I don't "work the room" like some of my extroverted friends. I understand that I am wired to listen more than to speak. I enjoy getting to know people by hearing what they have to say. I also hate crowded rooms…I prefer smaller groups and one-one-one conversations. Thanks, Ron. This post makes me happy today!

  28. Probably the most awkward situation that I’ve experienced on my introverted level occurred about seven weeks ago. Now, this is not really “church-related,” but we as Christians do live in a world outside the church, and we must learn how to engage it.

    I have a half-sister and two nephews who started studying taekwondo, a Korean martial art based on karate, and they harassed me for six months to take it with them. I finally broke down, and being the observer that I am, I chose to sit on the mat and watch the students for one class. A good, safe distance. The next day I decided to participate, but I didn’t get even a hint of an introduction to what we were doing. Of course, I stuck with my older nephew for the partner drills doing punching and kicking techniques after the cardio workout (and I know I looked ridiculous).

    I was also instructed to attack a woman (a complete stranger at that!) so that she could demonstrat a self-defense technique throwing me to the ground. Needless to say I was incredibly sore after two days of martial arts training.

    But (and this is the point of my whole rant) it has ben a great learning experience. Probably the best way to handle an awkward experience is to try to learn something from it. It gives us an opportunity do what we as introverts do best – introspect. It’s like exercising our muscles. Every new technique I learn feels awkward at first, and my muscles get sore, but they also get stronger and more flexible. The other students have been very supportive, having been white belts (the strting rank) themselves, and I’ve made several new friends out of the experience. This Monday I’ll be wearing a new belt color.

    • Thanks for sharing your story Paul. That's actually a pretty amusing story. You are right though…Christians have lives outside the church and that's actually where some of our best work for the church is done!

  29. I am an introvert. I handle awkward situations the best I can. Some days I have a little extra energy and can just talk to people, though small talk is still difficult. Other days I avoid people like the plague. Even my next door neighbors and I live in an apartment!

    It's good to know that I am an introvert and what that looks like. Adam McHugh's book has helped me understand myself better.

    I get real annoyed when an extrovert tells me I need to come out of my shell. I think next time I will politely inform them that I am introvert and that I don't have a shell. When I am told to come out of my shell if feels like the other person telling me to not be the way God wired me.

  30. Master of introvert here…..Out of my comfort zone? I wont talk to anyone, Large crowds?….I remain silent….If I say anything its only something humorous because its all I know to do..Church? I even duck away from people in walmart or restauranst and church…and Yeah I act like I dont see them hoping they will pass on by. Dont like answering phone calls u unless its my family. (thats bad) Yet if im performing in the band? Im fine! even in large crowds…

  31. Reading The Introvert Advantage (I highly recommend this for learning more about the introvert, even if you are one) helped me learn (or pin down) why it was that I have a great deal of trouble handling group conversation. I'd like to think I've gotten better at it since, although sometimes I'm not sure. Anyway, the reasons I remember she gave for why group conversation is difficult for the introvert were along these lines:
    - Introverts generally need to think to themselves about what they want to say before saying it.
    - If interrupted, the Introvert can often lose his train of thought. Introverts do not like to interrupt others, preferring to hear the complete thought of the other person first, before starting to formulate their thoughts.
    - Extroverts do not handle silence well and so are quick to start talking to fill any silences that form. They think by talking and so work out what they want to say as they speak rather than before. (This is why extroverts will often want to "talk out" a problem, because that is how they generally deal with confusion).

    The last time I took the Myers-Brigg test I was very strongly introverted (INTP). I usually set goals for myself before going to a gathering. Like: "I will learn the names of X number of people and at least one thing about each" if it is a new group or "I will contribute to this discussion at least once" for my large group Bible studies. Those goals help me to stretch myself and not withdraw too far when I'm out of my element.

    • Thanks Trin for sharing your experience. I agree that Extroverts don't handle silence well, especially in group settings. This is something my wife had to come to terms with…that if I was talking, it didn't mean something was wrong.

  32. Great conversation, Ron! God dealt with my hesitancy to be in large or small groups of people by sending me back to high school as a teacher. Learning to engage my students has helped me with my social skills. I look at my interactions with other people as opportunities to learn new things. It's amazing how much people know. I love learning and that love helps me overcome shyness.

    • See, Patricia, you give the impression of an Extrovert online. That's funny how that works. I think we mistakenly put teachers in that category naturally also. Thanks for always commenting.

  33. I'm an introvert, going through seminary, and not a fan of crowded rooms. I fear the proverbial crowded room and how I will have to act when I get into full time ministry. For now, I find my seat in the sanctuary and talk to whoever comes my way. I find the best way to handle the awkwardness of being misunderstood is hanging out with my best-friend who is very extroverted; he handles the awkwardness for me. I would recommed that people check out introvertedchurch.com (that's how I got to this site) and also I'm reading Adam's book. It's a fantastic book to figure out how to be an introvert in the Church and ministry.

    Also, I feel for the person who said they are an INTJ and misunderstood, I am too. I'm always in my head and people think that I am arrogant or judgmental.

  34. This is a great post :) Your blog is always insightful, but today's entry is much more personal and from the heart. I am going to have my hubby read it. He is the same way. Interesting how GOD is calling us ALL out of our comfort zones and into furthering HIS kingdom! Love it! Great job listening and sharing. :) Thank you :)

  35. Read your list. Do them all. It actually made me laugh to read it – guess I'm not the only one : ) I have absolutely no problem talking TO a large group – in fact, I really like it. But when I'm IN a large group? Forget it! I just crawl into my little shell and there I stay until the meeting starts or yes, an extrovert strikes up a conversation (at which point, I converse like a champ!)

  36. I think being an introvert pastor would be a good thing. Your spirit is quieter and you are more able to tune into the dynamics of a room or the underlying mood of a person. Extroverts are often so busy BEING that they miss what is going on around them. (I'm not saying they are egos or uncaring!!) I like being an introvert (most of the time) because not much gets past my radar.

    • Interesting…. I find this to be true in myself. I am strongly introverted but can force extroversion when the need arises. But thinking back, when I am in extrovert mode I miss so much. I actually don't remember any other details, I miss the social dynamics. Its as if a part of me shuts down (or is so overwhelmed it doesn't know what to do any more) when I'm acting as an extrovert. I actually dislike who I become in those settings because I become less sensitive to the people around me. Thanks for the idea to ponder…

      • One of the things the Myers Briggs teaches is that the psyche is self-balancing. We do a good job adjusting to our environment when we have to. It doesn't change our preferences though. Thanks!

  37. I don't know what I am; I am extroverted in a large crowd or even a small one, but I prefer to be with my wife or a close friend. In fact I prefer to stay home on any given night. I don't know what to call myself.

    • All of us, Introverted or Extroverted, enjoy down time. The real question is which does the crowd do…energize you…or wear you out. Many times, if I don't know the crowd, it wears me out just thinking about being amongst it…

      • Is it possible to be introverted with an extroverted appearance or qualities?

        When I went to the Cowboys' monday night football game this year I as amazed at the stadium but could not wait to get out of there (and not just because I'm a redskin fan either). Same with ranger games, I either want to get there early or arrive after the first pitch just to avoid the crowd.

        However I have no problem striking up conversation with random people who are in a simular situation as I am. I can't count how many times I've initiated conversations with men standing outside of a women's dressing room, waiting to hit best buy next door after "one last dress." I'm curious what Myers Briggs would indicate.

        • Do you know your Myers Briggs? There are some online assessments that can give you an idea. They are not as accurate as the real thing, of course, but may help. The answer is yes, it's possible to be introverted with extroverted appearances. That's me every Sunday.

        • And keep in mind that no assessment can really tell who you are; only God knows that, but you could actually be very much in the middle and harder to assess on that one trait.

  38. Wow I felt like you were describing me! There are so many times I want to start conversations with others in groups of people but I end up feeling like I have nothing to say at all. I truly enjoy listening to people and what they have to say and I love spending time with others one on one. Good post!

  39. I'm generally introverted but have managed to make a career in sales/management. For me I find that I have to flip that switch internally and see people…as people. I have to get over the mental aspect and just see normal folks doing life, just like I am. If that doesn't work…I run away. Quickly. :)

  40. I love these sorts of discussions! Ron, thanks for initiating it and sharing about your introversion. I’m the guy who will look at every piece of artwork and read every plaque on the wall in a crowded room!

    For those of you who want to explore these issues in depth, I published a book called Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. I have two chapters on introverts in church leadership, along with sections on community, spirituality, worship, and more. I also have a blog devoted to the topic – http://www.introvertedchurch.com. There are a lot more of us out there than people think!

  41. Gonna be a little anonymous here, hope that's ok.

    I don't know if I am in introvert but I definitely wait till the last possible minute to enter the crowded room and would really rather not have to meet all the visitors after I am done preaching. I love to preach. I mean I really love it. But, as odd as this sounds, When I am preaching, it sometimes freaks me out to see everyone looking at me. Sometimes I will look at the floor too much (to which my wife will correct me in the evening).

    Since my wife will not allow me to avoid her family or social situations I have resigned my self to the "storm the gates" strategy and just dive in. I really hate it but once the ice is broken I never have a problem.

  42. I'm introverted to the nth degree but I've found ways over the years to force myself to be extroverted. Still, many times I'll just sit and watch people. One good thing to being a writer is that tendency to sit and watch from the wall gives you great ideas for characters and interactions.

  43. I'm wired to be an introvert. But if I am in a familiar situation, especially one where I am known, I am willing to be the leader and take charge if appropriate. I am not one to shy away from giving my opinion, even in a strange situation, if I am comfortable that my take on the topic is sound and I can back up my opinion.

    In a large crowd, I am likely to doodle with my phone or if at a table with handouts, cull through the handouts. I'm not likely to start the conversation, unless I see an obvious connection between me and the other person.

  44. It doesn't surprise me at all that you notice so many pastors are introverts. a) "It takes one to know one' (You know what you're looking at) and b) I'm convinced one needs a rich internal life (along w/ contentment/willingness, even eagerness to be alone) to *be* a pastor. It's like being a writer (which I have more experience with).

    Me in a crowded room?

    If I can't avoid it, and I have the energy I (mentally) play host/ess– be the initiator/connector. But it usually disintegrates into latching on to an individual like you said– maybe I'm just interviewing "hosts". I have my mother's voice in my head (and no electronic gizmos) so I can't hide in plain sight.

    One nice thing is that I currently attend a church where introverts are the majority: 2/3 to 3/4 of us, I estimate. We have regular "relationship-building" time every week between sermon & Sunday school, and a monthly potluck where we all sit down together for a few hours.

    Starting a non-purposed conversation is usually hard, and picking a place to sit at potluck, but once settled it's delightful for an introvert: meaningful conversation with the 1-3 people in earshot, rather than 16 how-are yous in 15-minutes.

    Granted, this set up is best for pro-active extroverts (I know some who appear to be systematically working through the whole congregation) but it has allowed me to build real relationships with people where I didn't expect it.

    • I love this Amy. Thanks for sharing how your church does this. I sent a previous comment to our small groups guy and will let him read this one. It's good for churches to be aware of this.

  45. As a middle-aged extrovert, (I/D), one of my favorite things in the entire world is to walk into a room of strangers because I consider them as people waiting to be met. My desire is not that they get to know me, but that I get to know more about them. As someone observed, when you ask the right questions, most people love to talk about themselves if you are genuinely interested in them. As a child, I was a complete introvert, shy to the point of dysfunction because I thought everyone was always examining me, and I knew I would always fall short. That type of thinking is lie-based, and it paralyzed me.

    • Thanks Mindi…I'm not there yet, but it's good to be stretched and encouraged. Just to clarify though, it's not a feeling of inferiority that makes me "shy" or introverted. I'm confident in what I have to offer, not because of me, but because of my sufficiency in Christ. It's truly a wiring thing for me.

  46. I completely agree with this post! I am an introvert and when I am working I have no problem approaching my colleagues to talk, but as soon as the professional setting turns social (ie, staff Christmas party), I am incredibly uncomfortable approaching people. I also agree with your statement about interaction. I love talking to large groups of people (the larger the better). I identify with everything you said in this article, and will be forwarding it to my friends so they understand me better. For some reason, all of my best friends are extreme etroverts with strong personalities.

    • Many people end up with the wrong Myers Briggs profile because of this. They are one person at work, but that is not who they are most comfortable being. Thanks for sharing.

  47. Thanks Lantz for adding to the discussion. As a youth pastor…and all pastors…it's very important to remember the Introverts in the room that are students. If they aren't made to feel connected/comfortable early in the setting, they are likely to disappear.

  48. Awesome post. It's almost like you pulled the words out of head. I have had many inner battles with myself wishing I could be different or worrying that my introverted nature would hinder God's plans, but He has been teaching me to be the best me, and not a mediocre someone else. He creates both introverts and extroverts to accomplish his purposes. It is encouraging to see pastors and leaders who are introverts doing incredible things for God's kingdom!

  49. I was intimated for several years because the Christian college I attended all the youth minister majors appeared to be extroverts. I was not comfortable in this environment and often wondered if I was made to be a minister especially to teens…I mean everyone seemed to be an extrovert. Well, I have grown to be comfortable in my own skin, but still battle "work" versus walking into a conference of people you don't know. I get what you are saying about having those little distractions to make yourself look busy. If we look busy, not only do we not have to interact, but it gives a false assumption that he has "important" things to do, which makes him valuable.

    I thrive with one on one conversations and I thrive on being able to speak to a large crowd, but please don't make me tell jokes or stories with a large group 10-20 people. Anyway, I could keep going, but thanks for the post…and yes there are a lot of introverts who are pastors.

  50. I can relate to the "purposefully working" comments in your post. If I give in to my preferences during face to face social functions I would be classified as an introvert as well. I have to "turn on" my extrovert to connect in potentially awkward social settings. I've often thought that online social networks help introverts more easily become or "turn on" their extrovert. I've used twitter and Facebook several times in social settings to connect with strangers and come away with new friends. Creating and enhancing relationships with others after all is the best way to earn a hearing of the Gospel. Hopefully they will be able to hear and see who you are rather than only what you say.

    Great post! Made me think. Thanks for sharing!
    Twitter: barbarosa1

  51. I remember you made a point to say hi to me in the lobby at Story Conference last fall. It stuck in my memory as a very "human" thing to do which (unfortunately) was atypical from most of the other bloggers at the conference.

    I appreciate it all the more now that I know you're also a natural introvert.

    • Thanks Kevin. Your comment encourages me to be more intentional…especially at conferences like this….in spite of my wiring or comfort zone. I'll be at Catalyst One Day next week and need to remember this.

  52. Ron, I appreciate the post. I'm an introverted minister as well. I can relate with everything you said about entering a room with people you don't know. I work with students, and I can easily turn on an extroverted switch when I'm in front of a large group. However, its just getting the conversation started, like you said, that is trouble for me in one on one or small group situations. I love talking with people and getting to know them more than anything, but I find sometimes its hard to do because of my introverted personality.

    I used to hate that about my personality. For years I wished God had made me an extrovert. A few years ago I finally came to grips with this being the way God made me and He's got purpose in that. At times, being an introvert has advantages. However, as you know, it also has its weaknesses. In those times of weakness, I am learning to rely on God to fill me with what I need to do the job He has entrusted me with.

  53. I respond the same way you do, Ron. Blend in and try not to be the center of attention…unless I intentionally prepare myself to be in "extrovert" mode. And I've noticed the more tired I am, the more introverted I become.

  54. As an introvert itinerant pastor/worship leader your post was spot on for me; including the part about learning about myself as I enter middle age. I find may performers are introverts, as well. As I speak with them about this apparent dichotomy I find that "introvert-performers" makes perfect sense. Speaking to or leading worship for 100+ people leaves us in control of how vulnerable we are. There's a rather small chance that someone in the room will do or say something that surprises us or catches us off-guard. As the group gets smaller the interaction increases. This is why we introverts like to listen. It allows us "community" but we can measure the doses of ourselves that we let out.

    • Joe, the word "control" is the right word. It's tough for me to explain without sounding egotistical, but if I'm in the control situation I'm less likely to feel vulnerable. Thanks for adding to the discussion.

      • joe, you have described me and how i approach my leadership role in the church perfectly! i am the (female) bassist in our praise band. the contemporary service just switched from sunday evenings to sunday mornings, with an increase in worshippers from around 40 in the evenings to 150 in the mornings. i found it odd that the increase in people is actually more comforting to me, and that i am in no way intimidated or more nervous by a larger presence of people. i enjoy passing the peace and having the one-to-one contact it brings, but when service is over, i retreat and busy myself with packing my gear and music away so as to avoid any personal conversation with anyone other than fellow band members. i will chat with anyone who approaches and initiates the conversation, but rarely seek out someone unless i have a specific reason to talk with them. your words have "made it ok" for me to be the way i am.

  55. Ron: this is a great post. I have used the same techniques. I am quite talkative so I always thought of myself , and was perceived as, an extrovert. Yet I felt the inner contradiction of feeling uncomfortable in all the ways you described. I also get extremely tired when I am around many people I do not know. Socializing this way drains my energy — a typical symptom of an introverted person. It was only after I took the newest Myers-Briggs assessment that the puzzled was revelead and I was pegged as a Talkative Extrovert. Sometimes I use talking as a distraction but I haven't thought of it that way until now. Hmmm… thanks for this thought provoking post.

    • Lizette, your comment made me think as well. Having administered hundreds of Myers Briggs over the years it has amazes me how many appear extroverted and even think they must be but they have a preference to sit on the sidelines if they could. I had never considered that talking could be a coping mechanism for introversion. Thanks for sharing.

  56. THis is exactly me as well! It's hard for us introverts.
    One strategy I've been trying in crowded rooms is just going up to someone and saying "hi, my name is Jesse, what's your name." – sounds cheesy but it works great. One thing I've learned is that everyone wants to talk and be pleasent, it just takes someone to take the first step (which is often hard for me, for some reason).

    I think I've actually been changing my personality by taking these steps (I've changed a lot in 10 years).

  57. I am surprised but enlightened by this blog. As a MB ENFP I would probably be the one coming to talk with you. It was always my assumption (led to it by the guy who did my profile) that church leaders are E while their congregation are more often than not I. I do see the sense in introverts being better addressing crowds but the emergent prognosis … See Moreis that this isn't hitting the post modern button in most people's need for spiritual intimacy. I wish you every blesssing and peace in the call of Christ, thank you for your honesty.

  58. I hate the crowded room. My wife and I attend a very large church. We love the worship, but getting connected is hard. We have tried several times to get connected to a small group. But the only way our small groups happen is through these large group mingling sessions. We fought through one to get a group and the group fell apart before it met the first time. We tried a second time and because we live in an odd location (only about 20 mins from church, many live further away) there were not many people from our area. We don't have kids and we are not newly married so the married with kids group did not embrace us, the newly married group did not embrace us and there was not another group. We left without a group. An extroverted couple may have stuck around but we did not. We have even offered to be leaders (we have lead groups in the past) but our church rejected us as leaders because we have not finished the membership process yet (this is after finishing a four page application and being told that it was ok if we have not finished the process.)

    Back to the original question. In the large room, I usually go get food, go to the bathroom more often than needed, play with my phone, talk to my wife if she is around. Extroverts, if you really want to be helpful, hang around the food table and gently engage people that seem to be uncomfortable.

    • Adam, your comment is extremely helpful. As a self-proclaimed Introvert, your thoughts still challenge me in the way we do events like this as a church. We need to be mindful of those not wired like others. Thanks!

  59. I am a pastor and definitely an introvert. To be the outgoing pastor I have to put effort into it. You are right on…I love people and enjoy being with them. But in the natural I would rather take on the role of the listener. I love preaching and teaching, but that has come with many years of making myself press forward in that. I find that it helps me if I enter a room to make the extra effort to walk up to people and reach out my hand…look them in the eye, smile, ask them how they are and how their day is going. That will usually spur on conversation. On the inside I would be much more comfortable to walk around the room…look at what is on the wall, check for messages on my phone, or find something to look at such as a brochure. I still love being a pastor though!