My husband and I have two dear godly friends that we see on a fairly consistent schedule for dinner and dessert.
I should mention here that my husband and I are also both introverts. Although we enjoy being out and about with each other, social events and interactions with friends and acquaintances often drain us entirely. If we had our druthers, we’d stay at home with only each other and our close family for company. And yet we always, always look forward to seeing these friends and we always come away from our gatherings looking forward to the next one. Why?
The explanation’s pretty simple: our friends are the sort of people that everyone loves to be around. Put them at a party or an event and people are drawn to them automatically. Their schedule is full of dinner dates with all the friends and companions they’ve gathered over the years. They have the rare gift of making people around them feel wanted, appreciated, and cherished; you have the sense, when you’re with them, that there is literally nowhere else on earth they’d rather be than right there in your company.
It’s a marvelous skill they have. And while I’m never going to have the jam-packed social calendar or extroversion that they possess, my time with them has taught me a few things about how to be like them – how to be the sort of person who makes other people feel special, and the sort of Christian whose company everyone welcomes. So without further ado:
- Give your undivided attention. Put your phone away. Not down, away. Don’t look at your watch. Keep your eyes from drifting to the television screen at the restaurant’s bar. Forget about people-watching. Focus on the people with you. Listen, really listen, to their stories. Give them the entirety of your attention and they will feel like you care, because you do – enough to shake off the distractions all around you.
- Mind the little things. Our friends recently noticed a new set of saltshakers we’d gotten and complimented them. They make a point to ask us about Ireland-related news. This makes us smile; it means they know us. You don’t have to memorize every single detail about someone, but try to remember the important ones. I know that my friends have several children and one (much beloved, much spoiled) grandson; I know where they work; I know that they take care of their aging parents. They know about us, too. (If you’re a person with a bad memory, this might prove difficult. But you can jot notes down after you have dinner or a meeting with someone to help you remember these things! Or you can be honest: “I have a terrible memory. I know you mentioned your grandson the last we spoke, and I’m so sorry, but I forgot his name. Can you tell me again?”)
- Be generous. Be generous with everything. Give up as much of your time as you can when you meet with someone: don’t be stingy with your hours. And be materially generous where it’s possible, too. When we moved into our new home, our friends gifted us a set of soup bowls – and then, later, a batch of stew to eat in them! We’ve come to their house bearing cupcakes and desserts and Christmas cards and cookies. If you can afford it, a small thank-you gift to someone hosting you is nice. If not, a home-cooked meal, cookies, or even a card can make a fundamental difference.
- Learn to listen well. Get more comfortable asking questions than answering them. I don’t mean just a vague “How are you…?” I mean, “How’s the job?” or “Have you traveled recently?” or “How’s the grandbaby?” And then listen to the response. When you’re oriented toward listening, you’re showing someone that they’re important, that their lives and their stories matter to you. It’s a generous posture in conversation, and it’s one that makes it easy for people to engage and feel included.
- Be grateful and joyful. If it was good to see someone, tell them. If you look forward to seeing them again, tell them. If you enjoy your monthly or bimonthly dinners with your friends, tell them. Voice your gratitude and your joy and your appreciation. It warms people. It helps them know that they matter.
These guidelines won’t turn you into an extrovert who enjoys socializing. But they will help you to become an enjoyable person to be around: someone who cares, someone who is engaged, someone who is authentically open to listening and serving. Give it a shot.