Whether trying to build friendships, find a date, or make a difference, we all need to put ourselves out there. Here are 6 ways to be more outgoing, written by an introvert.
Well it’s been a hot minute since my last post indeed. In that time the world has more steadily begun to move towards being a more open place, or at least in my own country of Australia. Two states within the next few weeks are about to open borders and plans like COVID doesn’t exist anymore, with a number of the others well on their way.
One of the areas that seems to have taken the greatest hit during lockdowns and stop/start meetups is dating. I’ve spoken to a *lot* of singles over the past 18+ months who have expressed extreme frustration in this regard, even more than usual. But to be honest, it was well before a global pandemic where people still struggled to put themselves out there to try to make a love connection.
Friendships are in the same boat. Many of the same disciplines and attitudes that make for a successful marriage are the same ones used when making friends. I wrote more about that recently in Do You Really Want To Marry Your Best Friend?.
And then there are those who feel a great sense of purpose and calling about their lives who recognise that their gifts and talents are there for a reason, and that it takes repeatedly going after people and turning up in your community to make the world change.
But to be more outgoing can be a real challenge in itself, can’t it? Especially if you’re more of a homebody or an introvert.
I’ve been asked about how I’ve learned to put myself out there so much again recently and I thought I would share some of my own experiences. I definitely get the struggle in being an introverted nerd (INFJ with 15 game consoles and a love for anime and movies here people) and have really had to work at actively training myself to put myself out there and be actively present in as many lives as I can.
So here are 6 ways to be more outgoing, by an introvert, for introverts… and anyone really who wants to win with people.
#1: Put it in the calendar
When it’s in the calendar – at work, at home, wherever – it happens. Otherwise you have to awkwardly stare at your phone or Outlook calendar saying you’re doing something that you’re actually not.
For me I’ve had a standing rule in place for over 10 years – I’m going to (or try to) invest in one person or one couple at least once a week. The day isn’t necessarily set and the person isn’t always set but I know that if the week has almost ended and I haven’t seen anyone outside my immediate circle recently I should try to make it happen. That said, I try to have something booked in by Sunday.
This doesn’t have to be a thing where it’s trial by fire if you’re too tired one week or you’ve had other things on, but when it becomes part of your lifestyle to invest in others, it becomes easier.
Some people say that I have always looked so busy when really it’s more or less this in action.
#2: Rest well
This was a lesson I learned from the brilliant book, The Passionate Church (also known as Lifeshapes) by Breen and Kallestad. I gotta say this really set me free to do as much as I have in life.
The authors put forward the analogy of a pendulum. Pendulums, if they’re set up correctly, are capable of moving indefinitely. Isn’t that the dream for all of us? That we are able to continually invest in others, go to the parties, make the date, be present for our spouses and potential spouses.
A simple observation but a powerful one, a pendulum starts from a state of rest, swings out into action, and returns to rest, enabling it to continue indefinitely. Breen and Kallestad highlight that we do this physically every day – rise from bed, swing out into action, return to bed.
How much more then do we need to do this emotionally and spiritually?
The thing is, we don’t always rest or relax very well. In fact many of us just fill our lives with fruitless activity that passes time but doesn’t genuinely relax us.
What is it that genuinely relaxes you? What is it that legitimately restores your soul? It’s inevitable that we crash when we aren’t adequately replenishing our resources. In the words of a great song by Thousand Foot Krutch, “It’s time to rest, not to sleep away”. There is indeed a difference.
To be candid this is the one I’m working on a lot recently after becoming a parent in the first half of the year. It’s altered the opportunities and forms of relaxation I’ve had and I’m working on finding this balance again in my new-ish life to ensure I can swing out with great strength in all areas of my life.
When we’re well rested and genuinely restored, like the Biblical figures the authors go through in their book, we can continually invest in people with our greatest efforts without burning out every few weeks.
#3: Prioritise quality over duration
This is one I’ve picked up from quite a few people over the years that quality time doesn’t necessarily always have to be quantity time.
I remember being younger and having the freedom to easily spend 4-5 hours in a row with multiple groups of people. The thing is this isn’t a sustainable notion as people grow older – it’s not sustainable to expect of ourselves, and certainly unsustainable to expect of others.
I think it’s worth calling out there that our attitudes towards the busyness of others can have detrimental effects on our relationships. Realistically everyone has a different path to walk in life and most people who are relatively established (eg. stable career, growing finances, love life in order, solid friendships etc.) already give a lot of time to a lot of good and worthwhile causes and people. I wrote more on this in The Seasons of Friends.
But in terms of our own exertion, if we need to spend hours and hours of full on time every single time we hang out with people, it’s no wonder that we’re burning out. Doesn’t matter how many ways to be more outgoing we’re implementing if we’re dead.
A really harsh consideration that is sometimes necessary to make is to review who and/or what are taking those key spots in our schedule. Maybe having that person or those people in your life who are continually draining (hey come on, we all know certain people can be) or ungrateful for your time or contribution shouldn’t keep getting such prime real estate in your timetable.
Great resource on this one is Necessary Endings by Dr Henry Cloud.
#4: Genuinely love people
Dr John Maxwell regularly says that you don’t genuinely love people, you have no business leading them.
I’m not sure what you believe in life, but my faith teaches me that this life is a temporary place. There are so many things that one day simply won’t matter anymore, and we won’t be able to take anything else with us when we die besides one thing – people.
Even if you don’t have a faith or believe in life after death, hasn’t this year reminded us of how fragile and temporary our life in this plain really is?
For this reason, people are the greatest investment we can make with our time, our money, our emotions, our spiritual and natural gifts. That means people need to be our greatest love in life – over finances, over how many games or movies we’ve experienced, over what the backyard looks like today.
I find that the more I allow myself to love people and see the need in the world and my community, the more I am motivated to get out there and be a part of it.
And hey, a practical one on making friends and finding a life partner, there has to be room in your heart and your schedule for them.
Oh yeah, and you have to go outside. Regularly. And be present. Usually these ways to be more outgoing become easier with sufficient motivation, and hopefully at least the desire for romantic connection will get you over the hump. Prince Charming isn’t going to kick down your door and sweep you off your feet while you’re going home early eating ice cream watching Netflix by yourself every night.
#5: Genuinely love yourself (and your calling)
More than just others is we need to have a love for ourselves.
Jesus said the way that you see yourself is the way you actually are. As a man thinks, so he is. If you think you’re a small, dimunitive, socially awkward, nothing to contribue, not worth loving, not worth listening to, not worth being a part of this world, loser – guess how you’re going to spend your time?
Marianne Williamson in A Return To Love probably makes one of the most well known statements on the importance of loving ourselves – “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world”.
There are so many others who have inspired me to fully embrace who I’ve been made to be. The late Zig Ziglar said “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you discover why”. The apostle Peter encouraged us that we are anointed, appointed, called, chosen. Paul reminds us that we are masterpieces designed for good works.
People often blame God for all the problems in the world and why he doesn’t seem to do anything about it. But he did – he sent you. The question for us is whether or not we’re going to do something about it.
You have something remarkable to contribute. Selling yourself short is the greatest way to rob the world around you.
#6: Become interested and interesting, and practice!
The last of the ways to be more outgoing that have helped me is a pretty practical one. One of my mentors used to say to people that “If you feel like you’re not good at talking to people, get good!”. To be more outgoing is an artform that can be learned.
Another John Maxwell comment that’s really helped me is that great leaders ask great questions, and that leaders see more and they see it before others. If you’ve ever talked to me, or the next time you talk to me, listen to how many questions I’ll ask. Conversations and relationships only become boring, awkward, stagnant, or disruptive when the questions stop.
“Well, what if I’m not that interested?”.
I would say that what you sow is what you reap. If you’re not interested, and you feel like you no friends or shallow relationships, I think you’ve got your answer. This comes back to loving people.
“Well, what if I’m not interesting?”.
You can become interesting! You already have a lot of interesting things about you – where you’ve worked, places you’ve been, people you’ve met, things you’ve studied, hobbies and interests and passions and experiences. Maybe you just haven’t worked out how to explain those things well.
Something I always try to do is if I meet someone with a completely different set of interests and life experiences to me, I use it as an opportunity to learn about those things – interior design, different sports, hobbies, film genres, whatever. Through doing that with enough people and reading up on different topics of interest I find I am able to have a decent conversation with anyone about anything.
The apostle Paul charged us to become all things to all people. It’s one of the most influential things you can do.
And practice. After even a few months of living that way, you’d be amazed at how far you’ve come. A few people I’ve seen really grow this year come to mind and it really didn’t take that much focused effort in this space to become influential and interesting and a great conversation in their own right.
There are many more strategies and tips on ways to be more outgoing and make a difference in people’s lives. For example, here’s a recent post I dedicated entirely to Why You Can’t Keep Saying No To Everyone (that’s a very important one), or here’s an older one on a similar topic – 7 Ways to Encourage and Inspire Others.
There are a ton of great books out there as well – here’s a few more that have really influenced me.
I’ve gotta say though we make things a lot more complicated than they need to be, and these are some that I find myself coming back to time and time again in my endeavour to be a better husband, father, friend, family member and part of my community.
How about you? What are some ways to be more outgoing that have really worked for you?