I’m an introvert. I also love talking with people. Impossible you say? Well, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. I consider myself to be a “social introvert” because while I enjoy spending time alone, I still enjoy social interaction.

Being introverted doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is shy. An introvert is someone who draws energy from spending time alone. On the other hand, an extrovert is someone who is energized by being around other people.

As I have gotten older, I have started to see my introverted tendencies as a strength rather than thinking that I am just shy.

I realized several years ago that, while I am an introvert, I do really enjoy being around people. This is why I call myself a social introvert. I love meeting and talking with new people, but I start to get overwhelmed when I’m in a large group of people I don’t know.

This was quite a revelation to me.

It isn’t just people in general that overwhelm me, it is when I am with a lot of new people. Getting coffee with a few close friends is where I feel at home, but put me in a party where I don’t know anyone and I feel intensely uncomfortable.

I can work with that.

I started going to a new church a couple years ago and I had a few friends there, but hadn’t met the majority of the people that attended the church. It was a little overwhelming. This made me a bit nervous and uncomfortable because I kept thinking about how difficult it would be to meet everyone. There were between three and four hundred people there and it seemed like a daunting task.

So I made a deal with myself.

I took the “social” part of social introvert and engaged that strength while still honoring my introvert side. I decided that I would have one meaningful conversation with someone new each week. Just the thought of meeting everyone there made me tense up, but one person a week? I could do that. I could even enjoy that.

I had read a book called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” the previous year, and the author suggested making deals with yourself. (It’s a great book if you are an introvert or know an introvert and struggle to see that quality as a strength and not a weakness.)

The author talked about a professor who loved teaching, but was uncomfortable with public speaking. Teaching was stressful but he loved it, so he made a deal with himself. He would set aside time after every lecture to spend by himself so that he could rest and re-energize. He needed to recover.

This story inspired me to make the deal with myself at my new church. I didn’t just want to shake hands with someone new because that would be too easy. I really wanted to connect with people because I thrive on meaningful conversations.

That is part of what makes me a good counselor and why went into this profession. I do draw energy from being alone – but a good, meaningful conversation can be energizing as well.

I really like the idea of making deals. Sometimes we have to do things that are important but uncomfortable. Things like giving a speech or having a hard conversation with someone you love. These things might not be easy, but you can taking them in small increments, play to your strengths, and give yourself a reward for doing something difficult. You can make those things much easier to handle and who know – you might even end up enjoying the very things you had come to fear.

This strategy has made many daunting tasks or challenges in my life much more doable,  and maybe it can help you too.

 

Cole Johnson is a psychotherapist at First Light Counseling with locations in Omaha and Blair Nebraska.

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