“When you come home…” my roommate told me very kindly, “maybe you could just stop and say hi before you go into your room?”
Her advice sounded so basic. I already do that, I argued in my head. But suddenly the memories began to flood my mind of the countless dozens of times I had come home and headed straight for my room without so much as eye contact with the people I lived with.
I’ve always considered myself an introvert, a shy and reserved person. But in this moment I realized two new and very important truths:
- What I called “shyness” came across to others as unfriendly. I liked my roommates, but it never dawned on me that I should stop thinking of myself long enough to show them.
- I needed to learn some basic social/relational skills if I was going to make and keep new friends.
Building relationships is an essential part of our well-being as humans, and it’s key to making an impact on others (John 13:34-35). For someone who is naturally introverted, making new friends isn’t always easy – but I don’t think it’s impossible. I’ve had to learn and continue to learn to push myself out of my comfort zone. How? From a collection of lessons from friends and Scriptures. If you’re an introvert, enjoy these four tips as a guide to building relationships!
1. Become a learner
9 The heartfelt counsel of a friend
is as sweet as perfume and incense.
Proverbs 27:9 (NLT)
I’ve been fortunate to have friends who care enough about me to give me heartfelt counsel. If you’re naturally introverted, you can still build great relationships – you just might need to learn how. I am much more comfortable being alone because it’s easier for me and social situations tend to take more of my energy. But, I want friendships and I want to be a friend to others. So I need to learn from people who are better at it than me and be willing to hear advice even when it’s uncomfortable.
Who are some people in your life who are good relationship builders? What can you learn from them? If you’re close to them, tell them you admire how they build relationships and ask for input on how they do it.
2. Begin with the basics
Sometimes you have to be humble enough to start with the basics. I’ve had to learn to make myself smile, stop and say hi when I entered a room. I didn’t realize that if I didn’t make an effort like that to be loving, my default disposition was unfriendly.
Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Philippians 2:3-4 (Message)
According to this Scripture, being “deep-spirited friends” means you put yourself aside. I’ve found that most social skills involve “putting yourself aside” so you can think about what would encourage the other people in the room.
Thea Orozco from Introvertology has a great list of practicals for introverts about how to build relationships. Her practicals help me a lot – including learning to smile, accept that relationships take time, and learning to communicate that you want to stay in touch. Take time to read through her list and pick a few things to start practicing in your relationships.
3. Bring in the golden rule
“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”
Contrary to what many people think, the Bible is actually a book all about building relationships. It’s actually not about following a bunch of rules. Even the “golden rule” is actually about relationships.
I often feel insecure in relationships, and wonder what is the right thing to do or say in this situation? Whenever I feel uncertain, I’ve found this Scripture to be clutch. If it were me, what would I want someone to do or say?
Think of a few people you would like to be closer to. If you were in their shoes, what would encourage you and make you feel cared about? Put this Scripture into practice and you’ll find your relationships will get much closer.
4. Be aware of selfishness
When I get in social situations I often find myself consumed with thoughts like:
- What is (s)he thinking about me?
- Did I say the right thing?
- Does (s)he think I’m too [fill in the blank]?
- If I spend time with so-and-so I will have to think of things to say and that will be tiring so I’d rather stay at home.
One thing that has helped me a lot is identifying that these thoughts are actually selfish; they center all around me.
I think it’s good for everyone to have different temperaments and personalities – what a strange world we would live in if everyone were extroverted or if everyone were introverted. But whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you can choose whether you will be selfish or unselfish.
My personality may be more on the introverted side, but I can choose not to be selfish. I’ve found that one of the biggest hindrances to building relationships has not actually been my “introverted personality” but my selfishness. The great thing about identifying selfishness is that it’s something you can actually make choices to change. Changing your personality can be very difficult, but making decisions to be unselfish is much more concrete and tangible.
How does selfishness manifest itself in your life? Do your thoughts tend to center around yourself? Do you make decisions about whether to spend time with people based on what’s easiest for you?
23 Then he said to all of them, “Whoever wants to follow me must say no to themselves. They must pick up their cross every day and follow me. 24 Whoever wants to save their life will lose it. But whoever loses their life for me will save it.
Luke 9:23-24 (NIRV)
The concept from this Scripture is clear – if you want to be like Jesus, you will have to learn to say no to yourself. If you try to live only for yourself, you will lose out on real life and fulfilling relationships. How can you say no to yourself today in order to help someone else?