7 Ways You Can Love an Introvert

Last week I shared about being an introvert with a highly sensitive nervous system. And, wow, your responses amazed me. Many of you said, “I’m this way too and I wish the people in my life understood me better.” So let’s talk a bit more about this topic together.

Here are seven ways you can love the introverts in your life…

{What I’m sharing below is based on personal experience, my masters degree in counseling and training as a life coach as well as numerous books and articles I’ve read on this topic.}

7 Ways to Love an Introvert by Holley Gerth

1) Realize that introversion is not simply a personality trait; it’s a nervous system setting. Here’s how I like to explain it: Your nervous system is like a net that catches stimulation in your environment–things like noise, lights, words and facial expressions.

If you’re an extrovert, you’ve got extra large holes in your net. You can handle a lot of stimulation before you get overwhelmed. If you’re in the middle of extrovert-introvert you’ve got average size holes. If you’re an introvert with a highly sensitive nervous system you catch everything. So you’re easily and quickly overstimulated.

This is not about liking people or not–it’s about biology and how your system processes your environment. Please never make an introvert feel like she’s anti-social. She loves people just as much as you do; she just does it differently. Brain scans can actually show us this now.

2) Appreciate that because of the above, the introverts in your life will probably know you better and more deeply than anyone else. They may be quieter but they are taking it all in. They’re listening to you, reading between the lines, catching what you’re expressing that even you don’t realize you’re expressing.

So please don’t pressure introverts to be more outgoing. They’re doing what they do best and if you push them to be someone they’re not, you’re moving them away from who God created them to be and what he wants them to add to the world.

If you have a child who’s an introvert with a sensitive nervous system, nurture the unique gifts that come with that. Many of the world’s most influential artists, spiritual leaders and creative thinkers are in this group. Think of all we would have missed if someone had forced them to change.

3) Understand that introverts will want one-on-one time with you. Yes, we love your kids, husband and other friends too. And it’s occasionally fun to be at get-togethers {okay, maybe not–but we’ll make ourselves do it anyway}. But we will feel disconnected from you if we don’t get to the heart level in our conversations and that usually requires being one-on-one. In general, we don’t enjoy groups–they’re simply too much for our nervous systems to process.

And small talk often feels like a waste to introverts because we only have so much social energy/emotion to spend and because we love you so much we want to use it in the best way possible. We feel really guilty about this a lot of the time. But it truly is because we love you. We really want to know how you’re doing. We really want to listen to you. We really want to understand you. And surface-talking groups are so overwhelming that they make it almost impossible for us to do that well.

4) Let Introverts spend time away from you guilt-free. When an introvert withdraws, she’s not leaving…she’s loving. She’s saying, “My nervous system is overwhelmed right now. I physically have nothing left to give you. I need to let my nervous system have a break so I can come back to serve, love and listen well again.”

If an introvert stays at your house, tell her she’s welcome to sleep in, take naps, go off on her own to read or just spend time in her room. She’s not being anti-social. She’s doing what she needs to so she can love you well long-term. Remember, when she’s with you she will be there 100%–much more than you probably get from other folks.

Most introverts feel extremely guilty about their need for time alone and will usually push themselves to the brink–even to the point of getting physically sick–not to disappoint you. We need your help knowing our needs are valid and okay. 

5) Offer another option besides talking on the phone. Again, completely guilt-inducing but true. The phone strips conversations down to what stresses us out most–the verbal part. Being with you in person lets us see your facial expressions, gives us time to pause and process before we respond, and helps us use our amazing nervous system to your best benefit.

Introverts also often love to communicate in writing because it gets to the heart level, gives us time to think and lets us be very intentional about our words.

Again, this is not a personality trait–it’s a biological reality. Verbal communication skills reside in the left side of our brains. Written communication skills reside in the right side {which many introverts lean toward}. All communication is not created equal, and some forms are uncomfortable, anxiety-provoking and sometimes even downright painful for introverts–especially when we’re stressed or tired.

6) Recognize when introverts are tired or stressed they need extra rest and support. Introverts tend to sleep more and need naps because it’s one of the best ways to restore our nervous systems. We’re not lazy–we’re being wise about our resources. We may also need extra quiet spaces. Even sound and light can be painful when we’re depleted.

When an introvert gets drained, she will probably think things like, “What’s wrong with me?” or push herself to carry on to the point of making herself ill or depressed–all because she doesn’t want to disappoint you. Help her know that she can say “yes” or “no” to your invitations to connect and you will love her just the same.

7) Be kind: Introverts are already really hard on themselves. The highly sensitive nervous system that makes us very in tune with our external environment also means we are very aware and often critical of what’s going on inside us. We are very, very hard on ourselves and have a tendency to overanalyze. We’re not likely to be irresponsible or unaware of what we’re doing wrong. Instead, we’re far more likely to burn out or fall into depression because we are hyper-aware of all the ways we could do better. And if we think we’ve let you down, especially because we’re not meeting your social expectations, it’s very painful.

As you can see from all of the above, the greatest gifts you can give an introvert are acceptance and affirmation. We can tend to feel guilty, tired, anxious and like a disappointment. And you would probably never guess it. The way we’re wired is a gift but when we feel shame about it then it becomes a burden.

Recognize the strengths in the introverts in your life. Thank them for listening. Encourage their creativity. Remind them having a soft heart in a hard world is courage not weakness. In other words, support who God created us to be. We deeply love you and we truly need you to love us just as we are too.

What else would you add to this list? What resources {books, articles, etc.} have helped you better understand being or loving an introvert? I really want to hear…just not on the phone. :)

XOXO

Holley Gerth

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p.s. You know I love going to counseling–it’s like a spa day for your soul. {Counseling actually helped me process a lot of what I shared above.} My wise friend Roxanne Ross just got certified to do distance counseling, which means she can work with anyone, anywhere. I highly recommend Roxanne and you can connect with her at www.roxannerosscounseling.com.

A Prayer When Your Strength Feels Small

God's love

{this graphic is a goodie for you to enjoy & share however you’d like}

God, We want to be strong. We want to push through. But sometimes life just gets tough.

You know what that feels like, don’t you? After all, you lived here. And you died here too.

Because of that, you also know the victory that can come even when we least expect it.

Thank you for your grace in the moments when we are weary.

Thank you that you don’t condemn us for our humanity but instead hold us until we can move forward again.

Thank you that instead of guilt and shame you offer us compassion and grace.

What we need most is simply this: to know you love us no matter what.

Will you reassure us of that today? Our hearts need to hear again…

You will never give up on us.

You will never let us go.

You will always be for us.

You are the lifter of our heads, the mender of our hearts, the strengthener of our souls. And nothing can separate us from your love. Not our weakness. Not our failure. Not our fears.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39

Your love is what we need to carry on…

And what will carry us even when our strength feels small. 

XOXO

Holley Gerth

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When You’re Afraid of What People Might Think

Be Present by Holley Gerth

I stand in front of the mirror and lean in close. I pluck a stray from my eyebrows, pat down an unruly piece of my ponytail and wipe a lipstick smudge from the corner of my lip. I’m going to an event and somehow I believe that if I can make myself look just right then everyone will like me and I won’t be so afraid. We’ve talked about this before. 

By the end of the night the light is too dim to see any strays on my eyebrows, my ponytail has long since gone wild and my lipstick has been transferred to the edge of my mug where it will make trouble for a dishwasher later. And know what? No one cares. 

And I realize once again…

I can get so focused on being presentable.

And God is simply asking me to be present.

Yep, just show up. Be there. Dare to overcome the fear and reach out.

I do the same with my heart. Straighten up my worries. Tuck in my messes. Hide away my faults and failures. Or I simply don’t show up at all. I avoid the conversation, the step outside my comfort zone, the chasing-down-of-the-dream.

“I’ll wait until I have it more together,” I tell myself.

Here’s what I’m really saying: “I’ll wait until I believe I can do it perfectly because then it won’t be so scary.”

Sister, the day when we can do everything perfectly will come. There’s only one problem: we’ll be dead. Yep. If we’re gonna go for it in this life then being present always beats being perfect. God is not asking us to do anything flawlessly, just faithfully. He can make up for the rest. 

So, yes, put your “best” forward but don’t let insisting on perfection hold you back. We need you to show up. Because there’s a part of who God is that only gets shared with the world through who you are.

In other words, your presence is a present.

And it’s enough.

Because Jesus is enough in you.

XOXO

Holley Gerth

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