“How do I love my neighbors when I’m an introvert?”
This is one of the most frequent questions I’m asked. There’s a general assumption that hospitality is easier for extroverts than it is for introverts. I’m not so sure about that. Even as a card-carrying extrovert there are plenty of challenges to offering hospitality and loving my neighbors.
One of the reasons I put the Turquoise Table in our front yard is because Tony is an introvert. While having people in our home for parties or get-togethers is natural for me, it’s not so much a blessing for my husband. Taking our gatherings outside to the front yard has minimized the stress that comes with being an introverted host.
Since I can’t speak from an introvert’s perspective, I invited my friend Kendra Broekhuis to share her advice and tips with us. Kendra is the author of Here Goes Nothing: An Introvert’s Reckless Attempt to Love Her Neighbor.
I’m thrilled to have Kendra join us at the table today sharing her top three tips for introverts who want to love their neighbors.
“Deeply relational, but easily peopled-out.”
That’s what it’s like to be an introvert. And that’s why it can be hard to think about getting to know and love my actual neighbors. I crave deep relationships with other people, but I also crave time to recharge on my own after long days of mothering two tiny people.
I’d like to share a few tips for others who are also easily peopled-out. These are three things that have helped me practice hospitality and get to know my neighbors while respecting my quirky, introverted personality type.
Include a start and a general end time in your invitation
When we lived in Chicago, my goal was to invite all our neighbors in our apartment building over for dessert once per month. I taped little fliers on each door that answered the three questions introverts want to know before they commit to socializing:
- Who will be there?
- What food will be there?
- And how long do they have to be there?
Declaring a general end time keeps expectations clear for all involved, and especially helps other introverts commit to coming over. Of course, I have enjoyed many great conversations that went way past said end time, but often the struggle is getting everyone to commit, not getting people to stay.
Keep the duration short and flexible
It can be hard for introverts, or anyone with a busy schedule, to commit to an entire evening together, but almost anyone will commit to something that lasts about an hour. Whenever I invited our neighbors over for dessert, I tried to make it clear they could come and go at their own pace within that hour, or just pick up a dessert and leave if they had something else to get to.
It’s tempting to think that just because you can’t spend an entire week at Disney World with your neighbors that you will never get to know or love them. However, consistent, short chunks of time add up. And short chunks of time may also leave a precious hour at the end of the day for all the introverts to recharge on their own.
As an introvert, I also try to incorporate food, my children, and my husband as social buffers to counter the awkwardness I feel around new people. Food – just a simple snack or dessert – gives us something to do besides talking, our kids give us something to look at besides each other, and my husband is an extroverted conversationalist who helps maintain the welcoming feel of the gathering. The tension we live in no matter our personality type is that God loves us as we are, but He also commands us to step outside ourselves in order to love our neighbors.
For introverts, this means recognizing the ways we find beloved quiet for our souls, and the ways we let God stretch us past what feels comfortable.
Grace & Peace,
Kendra’s first book, called Here Goes Nothing: An Introvert’s Reckless Attempt to Love Her Neighbor, releases on February 28, 2017. The book highlights her 30 Day journey to recognize the Lord’s “I love you’s” in her daily life, as well as her somewhat awkward attempts to be the Lord’s “I love you’s” to her neighbors. For her day job, Kendra stays home with two of their children, Jocelyn and Levi. She and her family now live and work in the city of Milwaukee, attempting to learn what Love Your Neighbor is supposed to look like. Kendra’s love language is Dove Cchocolate and you can pre-order her new book right here.
Kendra on Instagram and Twitter: @kendrabroekhuis