Have you ever filled in one of those personality type tests with answers for the sort of person you wish you were instead of the real you? I have – desperate to be a social butterfly, the sort of person who walks into a room and can chat to anyone, longing to be just a tiny bit more of an extrovert. I often feel I have nothing to say, no chat and I walk into a room urgently seeking a familiar face so I don’t look so awkward.
I have often wondered why I’m like this, why don’t I have chat? Why do I often struggle to know what to say? Why did God make me this way?
According to a report by the American Management Association the overwhelming consensus of two hundred managers who participated in a survey, was that the most important skill of an executive is his or her ability to get along with people. With few exceptions, your success in life depends on your ability to establish and maintain relationships with the right people.
We have to be able to get along with people, we are created to be in social groups, we need to stop arriving at places late and leaving early with the hope of avoiding awkward conversation.
I once read an article that was designed to help people understand introverts in a church setting and it infuriated me, full of excuses; introverts need more time, don’t ask them direct questions and expect an answer straight away, send them an email… blah blah blah GET OVER YOURSELF AND GET ON WITH IT! I shout mainly to myself.
I don’t want to be given more time, I don’t want my introverted self to be an excuse or a barrier. I want to get over myself and accept who God has made me to be and the wonderful qualities that I do have but to learn some strategies that help me to cope in the world.
I have a wonderful friend who is also an introvert but she has chat… she has learned to always have a relevant question at hand ready to fill a gap in conversation. “What are your plans for the weekend?” “Are you going away at Easter/Christmas/half term?” Etc.. To most people, this will be really obvious and incredibly simple, but to me, watching her in action was a revelation.
So, inspired by her, and from the lessons I have learned in the last few years of accepting who I am, here are my top tips for being more friendly and less like my awkward introverted self. Everyone can learn to be friendly:
- Smile! It takes seventy-two muscles to frown, only fourteen to smile – and a smile warms hearts and encourages conversation.
- Maintain eye contact. When you talk to people, look them in the eye.
- Talk to others about their favourite topic – themselves.
- Try to remember names.
- Find an occasion to give a word of encouragement, a compliment, or show an act of kindness. Everyone loves to receive a compliment.
- Always have a question ready for that awkward silence.
It’s all simple stuff but really useful if you too struggle with your introverted self.