I meet talented, smart, interesting people all the time who admit they’re nervous to connect with others. These people avoid networking events and chances to “mingle” before and after church because the idea of standing around making small talk sounds petrifying to them.
These are people of all ages, backgrounds and with all different experiences, but the complaints are still the same.
“I’m not good with people.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“I’m an introvert.”
I don’t want to ignore the fact that differences in temperament and personality do exist (a very intriguing and well-researched book about the introvert/extrovert dilemma is called Quiet by Susan Cain).
It’s just that I don’t think being an introvert, or even being shy, means you don’t have what it takes to connect in a meaningful way with others.
I’m an introvert, and connecting with others is one of the skills that, by the grace of God, I’ve been able to develop over the years. And, although I sound like a broken record, connecting with others is a skill you must master if you want to live up to your full potential in life and ministry.
Why do so many competent, capable people have a hard time connecting?
What makes them think they’re “not good with people”?
I think there are many reasons, but they all stem from the same place — insecurity.
If you are not secure in your identity in Christ — if you’re waiting for others to tell you are loved and valuable — connecting will always be scary (and you won’t ever be likable). Because no matter how many skills you learn to connect with others, no matter how much you practice, nothing can make up for the peace and security that comes when you know you don’t have to perform for others.
You already matter.
The worst part about insecurity is it tends to be a self-fufilling prophecy. You feel insecure, so you try to perform. When you perform, you’re not authentic. When you’re not authentic, people tend to notice. When they notice, they either criticize or disconnect.
And when they criticize or disconnect, it seems to reaffirm what you were worried about all along… that you “aren’t good with people.”
So what do you do to overcome your insecurity?
I don’t know that we ever overcome our insecurity 100% during our lifetime, but I think we can make really good progress if we’re willing to submit our lives to God and believe the truth of what He says about us.
The first place to start is recognizing the source.
To discover the source of your insecurity, ask yourself this: What would be the worst thing another person could think or say about you? If I were going to start a rumor about you, or talk about you behind your back, what would be the worst thing I could say?
That you aren’t smart?
You aren’t nice?
You aren’t funny?
Chances are, the way you answer that question is getting to the root of your insecurity. At that root is (usually) a lie you believe about yourself. Some people are insecure about the way they look (they’ve believed the lie they are ugly), others are insecure about their intelligence (they’ve believed the lie they aren’t smart), and others are insecure that they aren’t interesting or important (they’ve believed the lie they don’t matter).
What is your biggest insecurity? How is it holding you back?
Once you’ve identified the source of your insecurity, you can fight it with truth. John 8:32 says the TRUTH shall set you free.
Do you know the TRUTH of what God says about you?
If not, now would be a good time to get to work reading scripture. Look for verses that remind you the value you have in Christ. Commit these verses to memory, and use them to replace the lies you’ve believed about yourself.
Then, get to work connecting to others. Nothing will be more satisfying.