Believe me, this personality trait makes being a believer in Jesus very, super duper hard, because the whole foundation of my faith rests on the nonnegotiable fact that I am called to be a servant to others, that God works through me and that absolutely involves interacting with people. And Lord as my witness, merely attending corporate church services is a mighty act of courage and ginormous leap of faith for me-- to which I'm positive God awards me extra heaps of brownie points for participating (I kid).
2. I don't want to be caught dead in a situation that is embarrassing or makes me feel uncomfortable or awkward. And who does, really? But the nature of these group gatherings are notorious for doing just that. Most introverts don't wear their hearts on their sleeves and small talk rates the same on our fun-list as sanding our teeth on a rock. Unfortunately, these "Team Builders" usually necessitate exercising both criteria to be deemed "successful." And to many of my emotionally extroverted peeps, getting someone to cry is the holy freaking grail.
3. The reality is, most of these embellished communal events are put on and designed by extroverts, people who are energized by social interaction. Extroverts are prone to enjoy stuff like games and competition. They are typically more vocal and visible-literally and emotionally. They excel in sales and public arenas. For these reasons they are necessary and beloved part of society. In fact, the majority of my friends, including my husband, are extroverts! I personally look to them to pick up my slack, they complete me. (Ha!) But seriously, bless their hearts, sometimes (by default) they get it wrong. Most likely because they can't wrap their heads around why we introverts are so reserved or how we gain empowerment in solitude. They don't relate.
4. I suspect sometimes our extroverted friends/bosses/church leaders who create these events have positive and genuine albeit ulterior motives:
1. Because gathering in one place to play games, marinate in tears, "go deep" and bare their souls with like-minded people is FUN (they thrive on this stuff), it endears them to each other and they see it as a positive way to grow together, foster trust and lasting relationships.
Or, 2. Because they think some of their members or employees are shy, withdrawn, aloof or depressed and need an outlet to feel included in the team and "connect" by being coaxed into feeling our feelings and given a 'safe' environment to express ourselves...surrounded by others doing the exact same thing. Oh, the irony! If somehow you've roped me into one of these situations, (and my friends can testify) Most likely I'll be caught sneaking out the back door in a mad dash to my car, exhaling an audible sigh of relief, completely tickled with myself for making the escape.
How To Coerce An Introvert Into Attending, Staying and Participating In Your Team Building Activity
1. Understand our personality characteristics. Just because we don't initiate or engage, doesn't mean we aren't interested or motivated. Just because we are quiet or reserved doesn't mean we are shy or depressed. We learn by watching patterns and inconsistencies. We see everything, it is our blessing and our curse.
Introverts live mostly in our heads, in constant dialogue. Many of us aren't great at articulating our emotions and prefer to use alternative, artistic outlets to express our feelings. We value and prefer intimacy over chit-chat but unless we know you, like you and trust you, we'll probably not share our personal feelings directly with you. This is why 'small talk' feels so banal to us. If conversation isn't organic or authentic, it is a waste of time. We can decipher pretty quick if a conversation is not going to go anywhere and we have a hard time justifying its purpose. Though many of us aren't linear thinkers, we're known for being pretty logical when problem solving. We are usually very introspective and learn a lot by listening, which makes us great profilers and good at diagnosing you. This is not a comprehensive list and extroverts are certainly capable of identifying with many of these personality markers but it's the 'gist' of how an introvert is typically wired.
2. Don't "Emotionally" set up your event. Don't play or pander to your target audiences feelings by over promising and under delivering. So often I hear events being touted as "Life Changing..Amazing...or The MOST ______ EVER!" People don't like being told how they will "feel" about something. There's no faster way to ignite my defenses than to suggests this or that is gonna make me cry. And, ever notice how things always seem less-funny when we're told what we're about to see/hear is hilarious. Yeah, that. Stoppit.
3. Introverts are not total party-poopers; whether we will sign-up is all about the delivery. Present your "Team Builder" event as a recreational affair, a celebration, a good-spirited roast, fundraiser, employee/members appreciation night or self-discovery workshop, a "vision" concert or line-up of motivational speakers. If some of that includes Ice-breakers, games or getting-to-know you activities, make them optional. Don't pressure your guests to play. Give them a table or section to go and commiserate with other introverts. If the object of your event is to promote camaraderie, these killjoys will bond with each other over not wanting to bond, I promise.
4. Give us a job. Introverts must have a purpose. We crave meaning in everything. We need to be needed or at least wanted in order to be motivated to "join the group."
If you're able, identify who your introverts are, and appeal to their gifts, talents or expertise. Do they cook, sing, paint? Are they artsy-crafty, can they write, design, play an instrument? Are they funny, intuitive, can they dance, photograph, sew? Are they thrifty, have a specialized skill? Are they organized, type-A? Do they posses excess quantities of materials or resources that could be utilized or borrowed for your event?
USE THEM! They can make your event an absolute slam dunk just by incorporating their wherewithal. And, you will encounter much less hesitation or resistance and not have to worry whether they're gonna bolt when their expressive counterparts start doing the Macarana or busting out the Kumbayah.
5. Whatever the function, always, ALWAYS offer food and drinks--salty and sweet, a good balance of healthy, savory and indulgent. Even bad parties are good parties if there is grub to banter over; even if it's to complain about how much the party sucks.
6. Incorporate music. Have a diverse, energetic (or whatever tone you're going for) playlist, even better, have a band perform as a highlight or in the background. Tool around your social sphere, you'll discover there's probably multiple closet bands among you who would chomp at the bit at this aspect.
7. Allow us to be an "observer." Give us permission to do nothing. Hear me when I tell you, just because we aren't responding to your poignant, convicting message by running to the front for hands-on prayer or to buy your materials, doesn't mean the message didn't sink into our innermost parts. Our outward response is not reflection or a measuring stick of your transforming skillz to "bring it home." It is not unusual for introverts to process information before they decide how they "feel" about something.
If our participation or feedback is paramount, afford us a way to anonymously partake in the conversation. Give us a questionnaire. Allot us a time to fill it out (queue the music). Afterwards, begin an open dialogue with the group. As an introvert, if I'm allowed time to sort my thoughts first, I will be much more inclined to share my ideas vocally, especially if I feel they contribute to the group.
Food, festivities and music are universal. Unless the Introvert suspects there will be forced confessionals, pick-a-partner, holding hands/hug sesh, dancing, competitions, trust-falls or purification rituals, they will most likely be intrigued and enthusiastic at the prospect of helping or contributing to your event, learning something new about themselves or celebrating their peers or being celebrated. All of which cultivate unity and "teamwork" and, isn't that the goal?
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