What to Do in Case of an Introvert

Part 3 of a 4-part series

6th Grade.  Clarendon School.  First day of Mrs. Domini’s class.

“Besides your homework, a big part of your grade will be class participation,” she announced.

I didn’t hear anything she said after that.

Asking me to raise my hand and make comments or ask questions in class was like asking me to bungee jump off a bridge blindfolded.  It was possible, but traumatic.

I wanted good grades, so I knew I had to make it happen.  Every morning, I’d listen to the topic and try to figure out something I could say.

It wasn’t because I had valuable comments.

It was because I wanted the grade.

I’d spend the next hour or so building up my courage.  Then, when the tension was too great, I’d shoot my hand up in the air, wait for her to call on me, and blurt out my comment.

It was over. The pressure was off.  I had made it through another day, and could relax until it started all over again tomorrow.

I was a pretty good student, and actually liked most of what I was learning.  But I was what we now call an “internal processor.”  I learned by thinking, not talking.  When I thinking of something to contribute, I wasn’t learning – I was performing.

All these years later, when someone asks me something, I often don’t immediately know how to answer.  I have to ponder for a while until my thoughts come together, then I can share those thoughts.

I was an introvert.  Mrs. Domini was an extrovert. 

I didn’t hear the term “introvert” until years later.  But I was in an environment where talking was much more valued than thinking.  I always felt like there was something wrong with me, and I had to become more vocal and outgoing if I was going to navigate this life thing.

I wondered why it was so hard.  Why couldn’t I just be like those other people that seemed so confident?

Because I wasn’t them.

I had to realize the value that only an introvert has to offer.

Sure, it’s important to learn to communicate.  I’ve spent my entire life focused on communication and relationships, and it’s what I’ve written and spoken about for years.  But it’s only effective in the context of who we are.  Anyone can learn to communicate effectively, but it has to be through their natural temperament, not trying to become someone else.

I can strap a set of wings on a turtle and say, “Go for it!  You can fly!  Look what great views you’ll have!” Well-meaning, but futile.  Maybe I could motivate that turtle to do more exploring and move beyond what he normally does, but it’ll always be on the ground.

Each of us has been created uniquely so we can live like nobody else can live.  When we try to become something we’re not, we rob the world of our unique contribution.

Extroverts tend to think faster. Introverts tend to think deeper.

Are you an introvert? Celebrate it.  Build your communication skills, but don’t try to change your temperament.  Become the best “you” possible so you can capitalize on your unique strengths.

Are you more outgoing? Recognize that the quiet people have a level of thinking that’s priceless, but you can’t just grab it and yank it out.  You have to mine it like diamonds – and like diamonds, the value makes it worth the effort.

What’s the best way to celebrate quiet people? It’s pretty simple:

  1. Recognize that each of us is unique, and we each bring something unique to life.
  2. Celebrate quiet people for who they are, then explore them like crazy.

You’ll be amazed at the hidden treasure you’ll find!

 

If you’re an introvert, what would you add?  Share your comments below.

Want more help understanding introverts (whether it’s you or someone else)?  Listen to Susan Cain’s TED talk called “The Power of Introverts” or pick up her bestselling book, Susan Cain: Quiet : The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Hardcover); 2012 Edition.

Next week: Part 4 – What to Do in Case of an Extrovert

The 3 People We Need In Our Lives

We hear a lot about “mentors” these days.

It’s a great idea, because there are people who know more than we do about a lot of things – including life in general.

We’re encouraged in articles, blogs, sermons and podcasts to find someone in that position, and try to develop a mentoring relationship with them. They agree to meet with us on a regular basis, and we learn from them and grow faster.

They’re the mentor. We’re the mentee.

It’s a fast-track to growth and success.

I’m a huge fan of the process, and have been in both roles over the years.

But sometimes, expectations can be misplaced. I’ve seen mentoring relationships where it’s one-sided, where the mentor is expected to give and the mentee is expected to receive.  The mentoring flows downward, from them to us.  It becomes more of a transaction than a relationship.

But that’s not how real life works. One-way relationships aren’t real, and they don’t last.

I not sure that mentoring only takes place from older to younger, from wiser to less experienced, from successful to a starter.

I think it happens when different people do life together.

Mentoring takes place any time two people come together in a real relationship, and have the humility to learn from each other. We’ve all had experiences that another person hasn’t had.  When we just simply listen to each other, we become different people.

It’s not a formal structure; it’s organic. It just happens because we care.

I’m not against formal mentoring at all. But if that’s the only way we define it, I wonder if we’re losing some priceless opportunities to impact others – and be impacted by them.

The purpose of a mentoring relationship is to “get better” and grow. Having (or being) a formal mentor is one great way to do that.  But in addition, there are three other people we need to have in our lives:

  • Someone we can follow – maybe someone older who’s further ahead on the path.
  • Someone we can walk with – a friend who’s in the same life stage we are.
  • Someone who we could lead – a person who is younger and further back on the path.

We’d revise the idea of just one person pouring into another person. It would involve just being friends – and changing because we’re traveling together.

Someone said that if two people think exactly alike, one of them is unnecessary

So what if we intentionally connected with others who are at different stages on the journey, and just walked with them?

Maybe we’d all get better.

 

Thoughts?

How You Can Change the Nation in 4 Years

The US Presidential election is over.

There are millions of people who are extremely happy.

There are millions of people who are extremely discouraged.

This country was founded on the right to think and feel differently.  That means it’s OK to disagree with each other.  “Free speech” in a democracy has always allowed people to hold different opinions without forcing them to change their perspectives.

But that’s changed.

We’ve come to a place where there are only two options for dealing with people we disagree with:

  • We’re afraid of them.
  • We hate them.

We’ve lost that ability to still have healthy relationships with people who we disagree with.  We’ve lost honest dialog and conversation.  We’re talking more and listening less.

We’ve stopped loving.

Today, we begin a new season for our country.  It’s more divided than it’s ever been.  Tolerance is no longer about people thinking differently; it’s become about people villainizing others that they disagree with.  It’s magnified in the media, as divisiveness is seen as the new normal.

It’s easy to feel hopeless: “What difference can I make?  I’m only one person.”

But that’s the only way change ever takes place – when individuals start making different choices.

Want the next four years to look different?  It can . . . and it starts with individuals.

It starts with you. And me.

What if we found someone we strongly disagreed with on some major issue, and took them out for coffee?  Not to change their mind, but simply to have human moments with another traveler?

What if we looked at their heart instead of their opinions?

What if we saw them as someone with God-given value, instead of a project to argue into submission?

What if we just cared about them – period?

If we do it with one person, it can change that relationship.  When it does, it gives us both permission to try it with others.

It can spread – one relationship at a time.

Society isn’t changed by angry demonstrations where people try to out-shout each other.  It’s changed when we treat others in the exact way we would like to be treated.

It’s called the Golden Rule.  And it’s been around for a really long time, because it works.

Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” He wasn’t kidding.

Try it with one person on the “other side” of your perspective.  Just one.  Listen to them, love on them, and enjoy them in spite of their position. Agree to disagree, because the relationship is more important than the issue.

It’s the way for us – as individuals – to make a serious difference in society over the next four years, no matter what happens in Washington.

 

Share this with your “tribe.”  Try it yourself, then come back here and share the results.

How to Actually Change the World

When my son, Tim was about 10 years old, we went to a sporting goods store and tried on ski goggles. Each one had a different color lens.

The clerk suggested that amber-colored lenses gave the best visibility in poor weather conditions, such as fog or haze. When I put them on, the entire store became brighter and sharper.

The problem was that everything was yellow.

We tried on other pairs of goggles, and found that the color of the lens impacted how we saw things. Red goggles made everything red; blue goggles made everything blue.

Tim put on blue lenses, and I put on red. I saw a jacket on a rack across the room and said, “Tim – what color is that jacket?”

“It’s blue,” he said.

“Nope,” I replied. “It’s red.”

He looked at me like I was crazy. “It is not.  It’s blue.”

Finally, we took off our goggles.

The jacket was white.

kids-gogglesWhen we looked through those lenses, we were actually seeing the jacket in those colors. We believed we were right.  We couldn’t understand why the other person didn’t see it the same way, because it was so obvious.  We could have argued all day, trying to convince each other of our position.

But the lenses didn’t change the reality.

The jacket was still white.

Sound familiar? When we have people in our lives that we disagree with, we’re often on a mission to convince them that their position is wrong, and ours is right. We use logic and passion to explain why our position makes so much sense. We do it on Facebook and politics and marriages and work relationships.

They do the same thing with us.

How many times has your mind been changed in that way? Probably none.  We want to get our point across, so we say it louder or use more logic.

But as someone once said, “If I believe I’m right, do I really want your opinion?”

We’re not caring about the other person. We’re only focused on getting them to change and agree with us.

Everybody’s talking. Nobody’s listening.

On the other hand, think about a time when someone deeply listened to you. They didn’t agree with your position, but they let you talk.  They gave you a chance to share your position instead of forcing theirs. They gave up their agenda of changing you and switched to an agenda of caring about you.

They looked through your lenses.

How did that feel?

When we listen, it builds trust.

When trust is built, relationships grow.

When relationships grow, we feel safe looking through each other’s lenses. We can still disagree, but it doesn’t divide us.

It connects us – and opens the door for genuine dialogue.

Want to make a difference in the world today?

Talk less. Listen more.

Make it your mission to love somebody, no matter what they think.

Maybe they’ll do it back.

How to Motivate Our Kids

When my kids were born, I vowed never to say these words:

“Because I said so.”

I knew that parents resorted to those words when they were out of options. But I figured that if I was a good enough parent, I wouldn’t run out of options.

That made it even worse the first time I said it.

Motivating kidsIt’s tough to motivate others when they have a mind of their own.

When our kids are little, we’re in control. We tell them what to do, when to do it and how to do it.  We call the shots.

But as they get older, they become more independent. That’s healthy, because they need to know how to handle life on their own when we’re not around. 

 

But how do we motivate them when we can no longer control them?

Too often, parents resort to a boss/employee approach. If I’m your boss and I want to motivate you to clean your office, I have three options:

  1. I can say, “If you clean your office, I will give you $20.” (positive)
  2. I can say, “If you don’t clean your office, I will punch you in the nose.” (negative)
  3. I can influence you to want a clean office. (intrinsic)

With #1, you’ll learn to perform only if I keep paying you.  With #2, you’ll do it – but it makes everything harder in the future.

#3 produces long-term results, because the motivation comes from inside, not outside. 

So, how do we motivate our kids to make wise choices on their own?

I’m not pretending to have solid answers.  There are lots of books on the topic that promise to have “the answer.” But different kids need different approaches.  There’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution.

Instead, here are a few thoughts.  Don’t take them as advice, and it’s OK to disagree. Just use them as a catalyst for thinking about your own kids (no matter what age):

  • The older our kids become, the more we shift from control to influence.
  • Kids aren’t adults, so they need to test out their ways to handle life.  That means they’ll make mistakes.  They need an environment where it’s OK to mess up and still be loved.
  • We need to catch our kids doing things right and tell them.
  • Our communication needs to be scented with grace.  It’s hard to motivate someone in a positive direction when most of our comments are negative.
  • When our kids are making poor choices, it’s easy to make that the focal point of all our interaction.  Even in those tough times, we need casual, relaxed conversations about normal life stuff.
  • It’s enabling when people focus on our strengths instead of just our weaknesses.
  • Using a “win-win” approach with our kids let us explore solutions that will satisfy both of us, instead of us just calling all the shots.
  • When we need them to do something, we should be clear about outcomes.  Then allow them some flexibility and choice in how they reach that outcome.
  •  Everyone wants to feel valuable to others.  Our kids need to know they’re not invisible, and that we value them for who they are – not just for how they perform.

There are no guarantees or easy answers.  We just need an intentional strategy for motivating our kids, so we don’t get stuck saying, “Because I said so.”

What have you tried that has worked? (Comment below)