Hey, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another.
Imagine this scenario with me. There’s a lady from church who recently lost her husband. She used to teach your Sunday school class, so you have developed a relationship with her through that, even though it has been a while since you’ve had much of a conversation with her. God has laid it on your heart to encourage her, but you’re just not sure how.
You don’t know what to say or how to approach her.
You don’t know what she needs, and you’re nervous to ask.
You don’t even know if she remembers you.
You tell yourself that the ministry leaders or her friends are much better equipped to care for her in this season.
While some of those obstacles might be things we all struggle with, I bet they are especially true of introverts.
Last week, we spoke about 5 creative ways to encourage an introvert, but today, we are turning the tables a little bit and talking about how to encourage and care for others as an introvert. In other words, if you resonate with being quiet or needing time alone or not liking larger crowds of people, then what are some good ways for you to reach out to them when they are hurting?
Before we get started, I know there are a lot of stereotypes of introverts. In fact, I just named a few: that introverts are quiet or maybe shy, that they need time to think before they speak, and they don’t like being around other people. And while those things might be true for some introverts, they are not true for all introverts. The one main identifying characteristic of an introvert, based on the model from Myers-Briggs, is that they get their energy by being alone.
So I’ll keep that as my focus as I go through these ideas, but I also know that many introverts are actually on the quieter side and like to be behind-the-scenes, or they prefer smaller groups of people or one-on-one interactions. So you’ll hear some tips and reminders on those things, as well.
I share all of this as a fellow introvert—a fairly high one, at that. But if you, too, are an introvert, then I invite you to discern which ones of these would be most helpful to you based on your own personality and preferences, okay?
#1: Sometimes your quietness is exactly what the other person needs.
First, above everything else I share today, know that sometimes, your quietness is exactly what the other person needs.
Introverts are typically okay with quiet spaces. They are okay with silence. And sometimes, the other person doesn’t need the conversation or the questions. They just need someone to sit and be with them. To be present. To love.
I remember when something happened that really shook me up, and I had a friend who kind of pulled me away from the crowd to a quiet place and just sat there with me in the silence. I couldn’t talk. I didn’t have any words at that moment. But it meant a lot to know they were there with me.
Don’t be afraid to show up like that. I bet it would mean a lot to someone if you were to show up and just be present with them in the hurt.
#2: Pay attention to your energy level.
Second, when it comes to encouraging and caring for others as an introvert, I want you to pay attention to your energy level. As I said, introverts often get their energy by spending time alone, so if they are around others too much, they will feel drained and overwhelmed.
You can ask yourself these questions: How do you feel before you go to help someone? How do you feel afterward? What is your energy level like throughout a regular day, with your daily commitments and lifestyle?
Once you have an awareness of where your energy is, you’ll be better able to identify ways you can support others based on how much energy you have to give. You’ll also know when you might need to schedule in more time alone, perhaps in between some other commitments.
For example, I really enjoyed teaching college public speaking classes back in the day. It was so much fun for me to support students in learning that skill and encouraging them to make a difference with their words and interactions with others.
But after teaching a couple of classes—especially two classes back-to-back—I was done for and ready to have some time on my own. Sometimes I got to go home and truly have that quiet time. Other times, I had to sit in the Communications Office and wait for another class. And that meant others could walk in and try to talk to me, or a student could pop in to ask a question.
If I was trying to care for someone after a day of teaching, it would have been challenging. So for me, it would make sense to schedule something on a day when I wasn’t responsible for teaching a class, or at least when I had fewer classes to teach.
These days, I do my work from home, but I still have commitments that I am responsible for: things for home like homeschooling and cleaning house; things for work, like recording podcasts and corresponding with my clients in spiritual direction and in the Journal Gently program; and also things for the community, like teaching a Sunday school class. And so I’m regularly evaluating my energy level, stopping to take a break when I need to, or trying to schedule my days so that I don’t get too drained.
When it comes to encouraging and caring for others during this season, I know how much or how little time and energy I have. And if something comes up that requires more care and energy for me, then I know that I need to adjust my other commitments.
So what does your energy level look like these days? Are you tired at the end of each day? What part of the day do you have the most energy? Or, what day each week are you maybe able to give a little bit more than the others?
#3: It’s okay to choose behind-the-scenes work.
Third, it’s okay to choose behind-the-scenes work as a way to encourage and care for others.
As introverts, I think we are sometimes pressured to do something more personal or direct that maybe we aren’t comfortable with. We feel like we have to be the ones to visit or watch the kids or whatever it is they need. But I want to remind you that there might be all kinds of other ways we can care for someone that don’t necessarily require us to have direct interaction with them.
Let me give a few examples.
When my daughter was younger and in public school, I often tried to find ways to be involved or help the teacher. It was my way of encouraging the teacher, letting her know that we supported her. The first year, I went in each week and worked with the kids in groups or one-on-one on some of the skills they needed more work on. The second year, now that I had an infant at home, I knew I needed to find a different way to support the teacher, so I would stop into the school, pick up some things that needed cut or sorted, took it home to do on my own time, and then brought it back when it was finished. Was it still a help to the teacher? Of course! It saved her time from doing all that mindless work of getting some of the classroom materials ready.
Other ideas might be fixing a meal and dropping it off, leaving it on the porch for someone to enjoy. Or mowing a yard, or cleaning a house, or grocery shopping. Maybe someone needs to buy a new something-or-other, and you like to research products and figure out what would be the best option. Maybe you’re really good at organizing, and so you decide to put together a spreadsheet or document that helps them sort through medical information they need to remember, or that helps others know when they need meals. Maybe you can decorate a room for someone coming home from the hospital, or order flowers to be delivered to their home on the anniversary of a hard day.
There are all kinds of behind-the-scenes work we can do for others. It’s okay to do some of those things when that feels like a better fit for you.
#4: Know whether you prefer one-on-one, small group, or large group interactions.
And fourth, know whether you prefer one-on-one, small group, or large group interactions. This way, you’ll know how to structure any visits or personal interaction with the person who is hurting.
For example, if you prefer one-on-one conversations, you can ask the person to join you for coffee or invite them over to your home or for a walk. This allows for more personal, and maybe more private, conversation than larger groups might allow. You can ask questions, you can really give the other person a chance to share what is on their heart, what is worrying them, and how you can support them.
If, however, you feel you don’t carry on personal conversations very well, then opting to go with a small group of friends can be helpful. They can do more of the talking while you listen and show you care by looking them in the eye or smiling at them. It also gives you time to think of questions to ask or things you can talk about. This can be especially helpful if you’re not close to the individual who is hurting, but others in the group are. Over time, you might grow this relationship enough to visit on your own, but until then, you can join together as a group.
Similarly, if you are visiting someone in the nursing home or at the hospital and you’ve never gone before, going with a friend or two who have been there can help relieve some of the uncertainty of not knowing where to go or how to enter the room and things like that.
Sometimes the encouragement and care come in the form of attending a celebration, memorial, or other get together. Some of you introverts will prefer more formal events like this because you can show up to support the individual, but you don’t necessarily have to hold a long conversation with them. Others of you may not like larger crowds. Maybe they cause anxiety for you. That’s okay.
Figure out what type of interactions work best for you and do your best to lean toward those. And it might even be based on who the hurting person is and your relationship with them.
Hard Truth Spoken in Love
So those are the four things I want you to remember when you are encouraging and caring for others as an introvert: know that sometimes, your quietness is exactly what the other person needs; know your energy level, when it is high and when it is low; know that it’s okay to serve them in behind-the-scenes ways; and know if you prefer one-on-one, small group, or large group interaction best.
Now, before I end, there is something I need to share with you that I have often been convicted about, and it’s this. Are you listening? Being an introvert doesn’t give you an excuse to not encourage someone. There’s a quote from Rory Noland that says something like, “It’s okay to be quiet, but it’s not okay to be rude.” You see the difference, don’t you?
And really, if I’m being completely honest and direct here, it’s more about the other person than it is about us. So while yes, we want to find ways to encourage and care for others that are authentic to us as introverts, ultimately, we want to serve others in a way that is meaningful for them—even when it stretches us a bit. Or a lot. 😊
This is actually something I talk about in my Courage Care Masterclass. This a 4-session audio class that walks you through the C.A.R.E. framework:
- C stands for Courageously compassionate
- A stands for Authentically taking action
- R stands for Relying on God, and
- E stands for Ever mindful of the other person.
We talk more about the way God has designed you to care for others—introvert and all—as well as five obstacles that often get in the way, and how to really look to the Lord to guide you through seasons of caring for others.
If you are interested in learning more about the Courageous Care Masterclass, just go to lovedoesthat.org/care.
Okay, that is all for today, my introverted friends. Until next time… let’s encourage one another.
- Courageous Care Masterclass: A 4-session audio class that walks you through the C.A.R.E. framework.
Learn more and register for Journal Gently, an 8-week program designed to help you use writing as a way to process hurt, grief, and trauma with God.