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Are You Antisocial at Heart? 

At the risk of oversimplification and stereotyping, I want to profile the social tendencies of the typical preacher and the average church member. 

  • You are basically shy and self-sufficient.
  • Given the choice, you would rather be alone than with a group of people you don’t know.
  • You can be sociable with everyone if necessary, but you gravitate to certain people.
  • You can be polite, but inwardly you tend to be judgmental.
  • You like to be recognized and appreciated.
  • You do the obligatory handshaking and waving, and then you are out of there.
  • At a function, your greatest fear is to be stuck in a boring conversation.
  • You like crowds—from a distance, from the platform or from the balcony.

Okay, so I’ve oversimplified and stereotyped.  Sorry.  Some of you are much more successful at masking the characteristics described above.  I should have given you more credit.  But seriously, there is an overwhelming need for us to learn more of the mechanics of mingling, networking and interacting with people.  Some may say that a goal like this is too superficial, and even carnal.  The fact is, however, our culture has tied baggage on us that work against our life’s mission.  We may not even recognize the traits that keep us from being who we are called to be.  Even worse, we may be unwittingly replicating these tendencies in the congregations we serve. 

Here are a few steps we need to take to combat our antisocial ways:

Teach yourself to love people.  This should be a no-brainer, but we usually only love certain people, the people who are close to us or have real meaning in our lives.  That’s not good enough.  Your first emotion, your leading approach to all people must be one of love.  That has nothing to do with them; it has everything to do with us and our inner selves.  The overworked verse, “For God so loved the world…” still has to inform our initial reaction to the people we meet. 

Train yourself to show your love.  You may love people, but if you don’t show it, it doesn’t count.  How do you show love?  Go to people.  Smile when you see them.  Be interested in them.  Spend time with them.  Quit making excuses about why you don’t have time when the real reason is you don’t value their relationship as much as you do others.  Remember, “… that He gave His only begotten Son …”  God did not have academic love or love in theory.  He expressed his love in real time, in real and measurable actions. 

Go to functions.  You’re important.  You’re busy.  I get that.  But start looking at invitations to parties, reunions, graduations, weddings and other ceremonies as opportunities to fulfill your mission, not as time-wasters.  Anytime you have a chance to meet and interact with people, take it.  You cannot reach people by always retreating to your office, alone.  Get out there and show yourself friendly! 

Put yourself at risk.  Too embarrassed to talk to strangers?  Afraid they will think you are too forward?  I know.  It is not a comfortable feeling to be rejected.  But guess what?  They are probably more willing to meet you than you are to meet them!  Go ahead and take the risk.  Walk up to someone or to a group of people and say, “Pardon me for interrupting, but I just wanted to meet you!”  Chances are that you will not be seen as forward or intrusive.  You will come across as sincerely interested in them.  I have personally always been happy—or even honored—to meet someone who wanted to meet me at a function. 

Learn the art of small talk.  You may feel tongue-tied when you talk to people you don’t know.  You may also rather talk about major issues or important topics than the weather or someone else’s kids or grandkids.  There are antidotes to these feelings.  Many books and DVD’s are on the market to show you how to overcome barriers like aversion to crowds or strangers.  If you are serious about reaching people, you will soak up all you can learn about how to do it. 

Read, read, read and read some more.   The more you know about what is going on in the world, the more you will have to talk about.  When you are perceived as an informed person, your stock immediately goes up in the eyes of others.  A key word, a knowing phrase, a demonstration that you know about a situation is a surefire way to keep a conversation going.  Sometimes all you need to know is just enough to ask an intelligent question.  Reading will put you in the game.

It’s not time for negatives.  Bite your tongue when you are tempted to argue with someone.  There is a time for everything, and a party or function is not the time for debate.  If you must say something, say “Well, that’s interesting,” or “I’d like to talk with you a little more about that sometime.”  Everyone will get the hint that you’re not on board with the statements, but you maintain the decorum of the moment. 

Listen, listen and listen some more.  We live in an out-of-control talking generation.  Listening is becoming a lost art.  Learn to actively listen.  Listen to what people are actually saying, not what you surmise they’re saying.  Repeat back to people what you just heard them say.  This clarifies their words and gives you a better chance to process them.  Remember, sometimes the best thing you can say is nothing.

Always tie your social opportunities to your mission.  When it comes to your daily, weekly or monthly choices as to how you will spend your time, make sure much of it is reaching people.  Your rationale for attending different get-togethers must be seen as the pursuit of your mission.  You will meet new people, you will form relationships, you will learn new things and it will be recognized that you are a caring, loving person. 

Charlie Brown once said, “I love humanity; it’s people I can’t stand!”  Unfortunately, the irony is way too true in many cases.  Guard against standoffishness, aloofness and aversion to crowds.  If you are an antisocial person, your ways are sabotaging your mission.  Don’t be indifferent to the habits that have matured to full-grown status in your life.  Redefine yourself if necessary.  Do it for the sake of the kingdom.  Jesus was all about seeking and saving.  Let us not be about avoiding and condemning.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Recommended reading: 

  • How to Work a Room, Susan RoAne. 
  • The Social Skills Guidebook, Chris McCleod
  • Emergentics, Geil Browning

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