Confessions of a Reformed Introvert

After reading an article urging introverts to relinquish their self-oriented solitude for the sake of community, I decided to share my experience with attempting to do just that.

I am an introvert. I come from a completely introverted family: We avoid answering the door or the telephone when it’s a stranger calling. When I was in middle school, I read books while walking down the hallway—the better not to see you, my dear.

By the time I hit high school, I introduced myself to the girls seated on either side of me out of sheer desperation. I was tired of being picked last for group projects.

Since graduating from high school, however, I have discovered that life is a group project. No one goes it alone—God didn’t make us that way, as He informed us in the very beginning.[1] If I chose my friends for convenience, I would miss out on the joys of real companionship and mutual sharpening.

As my desire for friendship outside my family strengthened, my frustrations also grew. Making casual connections taxed me, and I sensed that my withdrawn manner veiled the warmth and confidence I wanted to express.

My silver bullet came in the form of a handout on interviewing skills, courtesy of 360 Speaking. The advice boils down to two key concepts: Relax your body and project happiness. Of the many suggested exercises for accomplishing that, I found these three most helpful:

Feel the ground under your feet. Focusing on the connection between the ground and your feet gives you something to think about besides your nerves. Balancing your weight requires you to adjust your posture to a natural but strong stance. Being well-grounded—literally—grants you confidence.

Imagine applause when you walk into a room. This one sounds dubious—what introvert wants to face a wave of applause?—but trust me, it works. Applause means affirmation. Notice how envisioning that causes you to straighten up and smile instead of shrinking as you enter a new environment.

Picture a golden bubble surrounds you and whoever you’re talking to. Again, this method sounds strange. Think about it, though: golden light means warmth, sunny afternoons, summer picnics…everything that makes you feel warm and relaxed. The bubble reminds you to focus on the person you’re spending time with. You can share a special moment in every new conversation.

In theory, you practice the golden bubble, grounded feet, and imaginary applause until it becomes your new habit. Then you can do without them.

Trying these methods out during my summer vacation produced immediate and tangible effects: Airport security joked with me in line. A stranger struck up a conversation at the gate. An acquaintance spontaneously offered me a ride. All of a sudden, people liked me—because they felt that I liked them.

This strategy promises results, but it also runs the risk of encouraging a utilitarian mindset about relationships. If we think of the “golden bubble” and so on as a tool for manipulating people, that’s no improvement over picking a nearby classmate for the convenience of a ready-made project partner.

Instead, these methods should be understood as means towards greater self-awareness. We communicate with the people around us constantly, not only through our words or even our actions, but through our very positions. Other people feel the energy we project with just our posture. This strategy teaches us to observe that energy and modify it to reflect our real intentions.

Really, it’s about knowing ourselves better, whether we are introverted or extraverted. In my case, I have always known myself to be an introvert. Now I know that being introverted doesn’t mean I have to struggle to make friends.

[1] Genesis 2:18

Author: Kittie Helmick

Kittie Helmick studied Comparative Literature and Critical Translation at the University of Oxford, after serving with the Peace Corps in South Africa. Her desire to speak truth in grace led her to found Salt and Iron: Seasoned Writing and its predecessor GoodTrueBeautiful. She has also published critiques of pop culture on The Critic, The Federalist, and Patheos.

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