Interview Transcript Available Below
Adam McHugh is a spiritual director, chaplain, speaker, and retreat leader. The author of Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture, he is an ordained Presbyterian minister, having earned a Masters of Divinity and Masters of Theology in Greek New Testament from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is also the author of The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction, and lives in Santa Barbara, California.
4:30 Becoming an ordained minister
7:30 What led to writing Introverts in the Church
10:50 Explanation of introversion and extroversion
16:00 Problems that introverts experience at church
19:00 Understanding the discomfort of personal vulnerability and sharing beliefs as an expression of faith
22:00 Introverts generally prefer depth over breadth
24:00 The power of listening: experience at a hospital
30:00 Introverts and small talk
34:00 How introverts approach dealing with conflict and decisions
40:00 Silence, reverence, and the internal experience compared to active social environments
45:20 Cultural clash of introvert and extrovert leaders: overcoming stereotypes and encouraging introverts to be leaders
48:50 Reaching out to invite introverts to participate
- Adam’s Website
- Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture
- The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction
LS: Today we are communicating with Adam McHugh in California. How are you, Adam?
ADAM: Doing very well. How about yourself?
LS: Very good. Did I say your last name correctly?
ADAM: You got it.
LS: All right. Very nice, very nice. Now, you are, tell us (00:04:00) a little bit about what we need about know about you. The big thing I guess on this podcast we generally have LDS or Mormons on as guests, but you are not a Mormon. So what are you?
ADAM: It is true. I am an ordained Presbyterian minister. Though in truth I go to an Episcopal church.
ADAM: But I was ordained in the Presbyterian church about 12 years ago.
LS: Nice. And so what is the, when you say you’re ordained, (00:04:30) what does that mean? Does that mean you went to seminary for awhile or what does that even mean?
ADAM: It means they made me jump through about a thousand hoops, is basically what that means. I went to Princeton theological seminary and that is required for ordination, not Princeton. But going to seminary, getting a master’s of divinity. I also stuck around for another year and got a masters of theology and Greek New Testament as well and had to do 2 church internships and one internship at a hospital as a chaplain, was actually (00:05:00) very instrumental in my future calling. And yeah. And then I had to go to about a thousand meetings in order to get approved.
LS: Wow. Wow. Intense.
ADAM: It was a, I would never do it again. I’m glad I was young when I went through all that because now it sounds exhausting.
LS: So does that mean, I mean, your day to day or are you some type of pastor to a church or what’s your day to day job now?
ADAM: I have the title now, you know, writer and speaker and retreat leader (00:05:30) is really how I identify myself and certainly connected to churches and all that. So certified spiritual director as well, but I don’t have a formal preaching ministry or not working full time.
LS: And is that the typical path for someone who’s gone through the different education you’ve gone to, that they end up with, some, running some type of a church or
ADAM: Usually or else, you know, working as a chaplain of some kind, which I did for a few years. But generally, you know, a Presbyterian minister is going (00:06:00) to be a minister at a particular church and you’re, it’s not like other denominations where you move around from church to church, you sort of stay in one place and you’re hired more like a regular person and you move on more like a sort of a regular job. It’s, some churches, you know, you say three years and then they moved somewhere else. It’s not like that.
LS: Nice, nice. So what is your experience with Mormons? (00:06:30) I hope nothing negative.
ADAM: Nothing negative. My, I have an aunt and cousins that, I grew up in Seattle, and we all grew up in,we’re all in Seattle. And then when I was about 14, my aunt and uncle and my cousins who are really my best friends at the time, moved to Boise, Idaho, and got pretty well, and got connected pretty quickly with the Mormon church. And so that’s really the extent of my experience with the Mormon church. And when they (00:07:00) moved to a new place and that community was really the first to reach out to them and I know that they felt very embraced by that.
LS: Oh, nice. So they’re pretty devout at this point in the church?
ADAM: They are, they are, you know, they’ve had, their ups and downs as we all do in our faith. So yeah, absolutely. They’re very well connected.
LS: Nice. Now the reason I initially reached out to you for this interview is you are the author of a book called Introverts in the Church: Finding our Place in an Extroverted Culture. And (00:07:30) now what led you to writing this book? I think it’s fantastic, inspired book that needs, needed to be written. So what led you to the point of writing it?
ADAM: You know, honestly it was, it started out as very personal. It was almost kind of a self apologetic to begin with, so I, it was especially as I, so I worked in a church shortly after seminary and then after that, I really love college students. And so I worked as a college campus minister at the Claremont colleges in Southern California for 3 or 4 years. That (00:08:00) was where I really, I knew that I was on the introverted side of things. I always knew that I needed solitude to recharge and then I was a little bit quieter than some people, especially in new situations, but it was leading these incredibly energetic college students, with all of the social demands of being on a college campus, that made me really realize how much that shaped how I live and act and communicate. And it was a, it was a bit of a struggle to be honest with you. Just the social (00:08:30)demands of campus minister that don’t have quite the same boundaries that working in churches does. And so that was a big part of it. when I realized I’m super exhausted all the time. What is happening here? I couldn’t figure it out and then, but then at the same time, I was leading a group of student leaders and it turned out that a lot of them were introverts as well, which was surprising to me. I hadn’t been the one that had, hadn’t been the one that had chosen them for that team I inherited that, they turned out to (00:09:00) be actually mostly introverted and so they were having a lot of the same issues and a lot of the same questions that I was. And so it kind of became this, you know, this kind of experimental breeding ground for how to lead and communicate and minister and, you know, share your faith as an introvert. And that’s really where the book introverts in the Church was born.
LS: Yeah. So is this something that you wrote on the side with no intention of it being a book or did it naturally developed that way? (00:09:30)
ADAM: Oh it was a dream and ambition of mine for a long time to get published. So I had every intention on getting it published and I was, had a connection with an editor at Intervarsity Press in Chicago. And so it was always my intention. When I first sent in a book proposal, it was exclusively about introverts and leadership, ministry specifically. They said no to that which was crushing. But then I came back as more of a broader, more of a broader look at introversion (00:10:00) in church culture. So not just, I have a lot on leadership, but also sharing your faith and introverts in community, introverted spirituality and just introverts in church in general. And so it became a much broader book which I’m grateful for because I think it’s a better focus as a result of that.
LS: Nice, nice. And I read the book and really enjoyed it and had several highlights and we’ll hit on a few of those as we go through this. But I guess I’ve thought about this concept of introverts a lot, just in the LDS culture, different (00:10:30) traditions we have. Sometimes they don’t play well to introverts and then there’s others that I think really do play well to introverts. But for you personally, you know, well I guess I consider myself an introvert. Not that I’ve taken a personality test or anything, and I’m not assuming you have either, but what can you tell us about what an introvert is and how you started to begin to classify yourself as an introvert?
ADAM: Yeah. There are a bunch of different ways to look at this. The most general way to say it is introversion is an inward orientation, whereas (00:11:00) extroversion is an outward orientation. And it’s really important to just realize that it’s, introversion and extroversion is not an either or within, it’s not a dichotomy. You’re not either an introvert or an extrovert, though that’s the language we often use just for simplicity’s sake, but we all have the inward direction in our lives. and we all have the outward direction orientation in our lives and it’s a continuum. It’s a line and you sort of, your tendency (00:11:30) is to fall on one side or the other, you feel most at home in a particular place. And so for me, sort of my inner world, my inner thoughts, impulses, feelings, impressions, that’s where I feel most at home where I feel most comfortable. Whereas moving in that outward direction feels a little bit like leaving home for me. I’m capable of it and you know, when you’re in the industry long enough, you have to learn how to do it well, but that still feels like walking foreign land for me, whereas I’m most at home with (00:12:00) my inner world. And then there’s a few more specific characteristics of introversion and the one that usually gets the most attention is the question that drives it is, how do you refuel, given that we all have a finite amount of energy, where do you find your energy? How do you recharge it? And for introverts, it has to do with being in solitude. I can be out in the world interacting with people, talking to other people, having, (00:12:30) you know, different experiences, but that drains my energy. And so I have to come back into myself, into privacy and solitude or into conversation, you know, with a really close friend or family member in order to refuel. And that’s a big part, of introverts are, if you will, by solitude. Whereas extroverts, you know they can be, they can enjoy being by themselves, they can enjoy privacy, but too much of that is going to leave them feeling haggar and tired, and so they (00:12:00) actually get more energy as they’re out among people in the external world and you know, you go to an party and you can sort of identify the introverts, maybe not right away, but you can identify them about an hour later because they’re starting to look tired, they’re starting to retreat to the fringes, whereas the extrovert are getting louder and more excitable and more energetic and so that’s the big part. The big distinction. The other one would be how we process information. (00:13:30) Introverts tend to go quiet when they’re given new information and they process silently and they think before they speak. Whereas extroverts tend to process out loud. They talk through things and you kind of, you hear and see their process a lot more than you do with introverts. And so it’s often been said that introverts think in order to speak. Whereas extroverts speaking in order to think.
LS: Love that. And it’s the stereotype is that introverts are the shy ones, right? But as you said, you quote Susan Cain who’s the author of Quiet, another (00:14:00) fantastic book on introverts. but you quote her as that introverts are not anti social, but they’re differently social.
ADAM: Yeah, I really liked that part of her book. There’s a lot of stereotypes that go along with, with introverts that were shy or reclusive or were misanthropic that we don’t like people. And that we just, weren’t turtles that just seemed to come out of our, out of our shells or that we have social anxiety (00:14:30) and of course introverts can have all of that, but that’s not the proper density of an introvert. I’m an introvert. I’m not shy. I don’t have social anxiety of not inclusive, but you know, obviously when you’re introverted and you’re misunderstood, that can lead to other issues as well. But that’s not the proper definition of introversion. So Susan Cain says, we’re differently social, which means we may prefer a fewer number of friends. We may prefer less active, (00:15:00) less stimulation in our environments, but we’re not anti social. We like people, we love people. And we love people very deeply, especially when we get to know them really well.
LS: Yeah. And I would relate to that as well. I think if individuals saw me in a public setting and especially when I served as a bishop, it was like, you know, I didn’t mind working the room. I didn’t mind speaking. I didn’t mind those things. But by the end of the day I was exhausted and going home, it just, I just loved being at home in my own bubble, doing my own thing and refueling (00:15:30) that way. Right?
ADAM: Absolutely. And then for me, you know, when I was working at a church and I was preaching every Sunday, you have that three or four hours on Sunday morning where you have, you know you’re on. And there’s something about being in the role that sort of gives you permission to do it. And people know like, OK, he’s going to now, you know, introduce himself to people because he’s the pastor, and there’s something about that that’s kind of empowering. But then I would go home and take like a two hour nap afterwards. I would just be exhausted afterwards.
LS: Yeah, (00:16:00) yeah. That’s a great way to put it. So from your faith experience, what’s the problem that introverts, what’s the friction, that introverts experience at Church?
ADAM: I think the main problem, and it’s a much bigger problem than people realize. And everyone immediately, I’m not sure what happens in the LDS church, but in a lot of Protestant churches, there’s the, this sort of informal greeting time somewhere in the middle of the worship service. Do you have that in Mormon churches, where you’d (00:16:30) like to turn to your neighbor and greet each other?
LS: Nothing like formal that’s maybe you know, that the bishop or someone would say to do, but there’s definitely like the five or 10 minutes before sacrament meeting starts where people are either, you know, in their pew by themselves and maybe members of the Bishopric are going around shaking hands. So, but it’s not necessarily a formal, you know, activity.
ADAM: Got it. Well, in a lot of Protestant churches, there’s this, turn to your neighbor part, right in the middle (00:17:00) of the worship Service. It might come like after announcements or something like that. And that’s what all, whenever I talk about this topic, that’s what always gets the attention. People you know, introverts are like, that’s my least favorite part. Like I’ll go to the bathroom in the middle of that. Like it’s so dreadful. And that’s sort of becomes this lightning rod that gets the attention of the issue. But I think it’s so, if we move away from that, it’s a much larger issue and the main problem is in my experience and the experience of a lot of introverts, (00:17:30) we conceive of the faith as, in a very extroverted way. And if you think about, you know, what are some of the ideal attributes of a believer in the communities that I’ve been a part of it? It’s someone who’s gregarious, someone who is very eager to meet new people, to join new activities, to host people in their homes. Maybe someone who leaps into leadership very quickly and very easily and is just active and moving and all of (00:18:00) that. And that becomes this ideal that we hold up as here’s the ideal Christian. And what about those of us though, who don’t actually fit that? And so we end up, it’s not just a feeling of feeling kind of excluded, it’s a feeling that somehow I am inadequate spiritually, that my faith isn’t strong and if my faith were stronger than I would be more like that person. And that to me is the main issue that we face as (00:18:30) introverts in churches. And so that’s why I’ve spent the last few years talking about this, trying to say there are different ways to interact. There are different ways to express our faith and to participate in church communities that are equally faithful but different.
LS: Yeah. And in the book you talk about this concept in the context of personal vulnerability. And you said that some churches also gauge commandment by the amount of personal vulnerability a person shows. Evangelicals really like to share. And that really (00:19:00) jumped out to me because in the LDS faith, so every first Sunday is, during our traditional sacrament meeting, we have what’s called fast and testimony meetings. So we have, you know, the announcements, we’ll do some ward business if we need to. And then we have the sacrament and then after the sacrament it’s just opened mic, we talk and jest about as open mic Sunday, where the Bishop may share his testimony and proclaim his beliefs and then he sits down and anybody’s welcome to come up and share. And it sort (00:19:30) of created this cultural dynamic in the LDS faith that that’s sort of, it’s, you’re a good Mormon if you go up there and say, I know and I believe, and to stand in front of the congregation and proclaim your belief, right? And so as, and this relates well with, you know, the evangelicals just really like to share. And Mormons are the same way. We just, we have this setting where we want people to stand up and share and we hate the silence in between testimony. It’s like, oh no, like why aren’t people getting up? Right?
ADAM: Right, right. And this, that’s the idea, that somehow (00:20:00) I’m more faithful, that my faith is stronger if I am eager to vulnerably share and proclaim that in front of a bunch of strangers, you know. Or people. But the, and of course, you know, like, you know, we don’t reject that, but at the same time I just don’t think that people who are extroverted realized just how uncomfortable and awkward and painful that sort of experience can be for people who (00:20:30) prefer to sort of sit on the sidelines, who might listen a lot more than they speak, whose experience of faith may be very deep, but also very quiet and very personal. And so I just don’t think that, a lot of this issue becomes a matter of understanding and trying to explain, here’s what my tendencies are. And when you say go up and share vulnerably in front of a bunch of people, that is extremely uncomfortable for me and I would much prefer (00:21:00) to talk one on one with someone and to realize that that is an equally viable expression of faith.
LS: Yeah. And it’s not that introverts don’t express their faith. It’s just there’s different, and there’s multiple layers to those introverts and it may take additional time or different settings or like you said, the one on one setting to really be able to share that faith.
ADAM: And there’s also just the issue of preparation when it comes to public speaking as well. You know, I’m a pretty good public speaker, but I’m a terrible public speaker (00:21:30) if I haven’t had time to really prepare what it is that I’m going to say and have notes in front of me. But that introverts tend not to be as good on their feet as extroverts are because sort of the way that our brains work is actually different, and so we can’t come up with words as quickly as extroverts can. And so, if I haven’t had time to prepare, if I’m teaching a class or if I’m preaching a sermon and I’ve had plenty of time to prepare, I’m very good. If someone asked me to speak on my feet, I’m not (00:22:00) nearly as good and I get much more uncomfortable.
LS: Nice. So, anything else as far as general introverts go as far as setting this up is, I mean, is that a good foundation to dive into some of these kinds of these concepts?
ADAM: I think we, yeah, we covered most of it. I, the only, the other thing I didn’t, the other attribute that is fairly common in the whole, the whole conversation is introverts tend to prefer depth over breadth and so we prefer fewer but deeper relationships and we may not consider acquaintances to be our friends and we may say we only (00:22:30) have a couple of friends even if we do interact with a lot of other people and so it has to do with relationships, but it also has to do with interests in some cases. I think more, of course speaking in generalizations here, but introverts tend to prefer greater depth in fewer interests as well. Maybe not, they may not be as interested in as many things, but the things they are interested in, they may spend a lot of time with.
LS: And so is there any general advice you’d give to a pastor or somebody who’s, you know, running a church to gain that depth rather than the breadth? (00:23:00)
ADAM: That’s a good question. You know, I think, you know, classes that are going to go into detail into different topics are going to be of greater interest. You know, there are different ways of reading the scriptures and more sort of contemplative ways that may appeal to some introverts as well. But the larger issue in terms of church involvement is to realize that there may be a more introverted person, it may be a great step of courage for them to like, be a part of one activity, one group. There, it’s (00:23:30) going to be less likely that they’re going to be involved in a dozen different things at one time. And I think that sometimes that’s viewed as sort of the epitome of faithfulness. If you’re doing 10 different things in a given week, then that involvement is probably more temperamental than it is spiritual
LS: Yeah. In the book you talk about the power of listening. I think this is a really key concept for leaders to understand that, you know, have, obviously (00:24:00) every leader probably has a handful or many more introverts in their congregation. And then you tell the story about when you were, was it you were a chaplain at a hospital? And it was, called to a bedside with a family as their loved one passed on. Would you mind telling that story?
ADAM: Yeah, absolutely. It was one of my first real interactions and, as part of being ordained in the Presbyterian church, I had to do what’s called CPE, clinical pastoral education. And what that meant, among other things is that for four (00:24:30) months I was a chaplain intern at St Joseph’s hospital in Orange, California. And so for, you know, usually I was on the oncology floor like, during the week, but I was also on call a few Saturdays during the internship and I got called one time to the bedside of someone who was dying. Basically when they called code blue, that meant that, you know, the chaplain had to go as well because someone was dying. And so I got (00:25:00) there and I walked in and there were about 20 family members surrounding this bed. It was a Hispanic family and I was so nervous. This is one of my very first real sort of chaplain interactions. I had no idea what to say, what to do. I would probably shaking a little bit. I was so nervous to ask, that was something really new to me as well. And so I got in there with about 20 people and I sort of stumbled around and I sort of introduced myself and tried to ask a couple of questions like, (00:25:30) you know, just about the family or about the person that was dying. And everyone just sort of looked at me like, and then turn back to the patient. And it was so uncomfortable and awkward and so eventually, just I stopped talking. I just went silent and I just stood there. It felt like an hour and a half. It was probably 20 minutes. We just sat there and we watched the patient’s heart on the Monitor, you know, beats and watch the chest go up and down for what felt like forever to me. And I just felt ridiculous. (00:26:00) I felt like, why am I here? What am I doing? But I just stood there silently, some sort of chaplain prayer pose for however long that was. Then the person, the patient flatlined. Breathing stopped. They died. You know, I sat there with them for a few more minutes, offered my condolences and then left. And for me, it was this huge act of failure. I had completely failed as a pastor. I didn’t (00:26:30) know what to say, didn’t know what to do, didn’t bring any comfort or encouragement or hope, and so I just felt like, what am I doing with my life? Why in the world would I think that I could be a pastor. And so the next week I check my mailbox at the hospital and I got this card from the family and it said, thank you so much for being there in our time of grief. Now you are part of our family. And I was like, yeah, I was stunned, cause I thought it had been this great act of failure. But that was (00:27:00) the moment I realized that presence, that silence, that listening, that simply being there is so much more significant and powerful than any words that can be uttered in the situation like that. And so that’s what opened me up to this world of ministry or presidents administrative listening that has really shaped me to this day. I mean I wrote a whole second book about the topic of listening called The Listening. Like that came out a couple of months ago, that was so significant. (00:27:30)
LS: Nice. That experience reminded me of this hilarious movie I saw years ago called Lars and the Real Girl. I don’t know if you’re familiar with this, but it’s sort of this weird dark comedy, but there’s this moment where, you know, Lars the main character has sort of lost this loved one. And these women come over and they’re just sitting there and, in his home, and they say, and I forget the verbatim, the line, but they basically said when people are going through a hard time, this is what (00:28:00) people do. They come to their house and just sit. And it’s such a, there’s such a lesson there, because I know as a leader you sort of, you know, you’re called to these different scenarios where maybe someone has cancer or that’s lost a loved one and you show up and you feel like, I’m supposed to restore hope through my words and maybe share a scripture that just changes the mood or whatever. But there’s some unique power just showing up and sitting and being there and being present with them and just in taking on that burden with them. Right?
ADAM: Absolutely. And I feel that exact same pressure (00:28:30) as a ministry, You feel like you have to come in and somehow rescue people or find just the right words that are going to create hope or a feeling of joy or that’s somehow going to take away the pain and the grief, which by the way is utterly impossible and we should all stop trying to do that. Not just ministers, but everyone. And a lot of that, let’s be honest, a lot of that comes out of our own anxiety. We feel like we get so anxious (00:29:00) in situations of pain and grief because it’s so uncomfortable for us personally as well because it taps into our own experiences of pain and grief. And so we wanna make everybody feel better so that we can feel better, you know? Or when it, we sort of get this rescue complex in those situations. And it just, it’s not, it’s actually not a healthy activity. And it’s, it makes things worse in a lot of cases. When someone gets a sermon preached to them when they’re in pain, you know, it has a way of distancing people, and it also (00:29:30) has a way of making people feel as though somehow if I had more faith, that I wouldn’t be going through this ordeal.
LS: Yeah. Yeah. And I think this is a, that scenario shared, I think it an interesting segue to this concept of small talk because I know many times as a leader I would show up and, you know, going back to your experience of it, easy to walk in there and ask the family, so where are you from? Like, oh wow. And, tell us about your dad or whomever is dying and, Right? So we sort of default to this (00:30:00) small talk and that happens anywhere like, you may be greeting somebody at church and you don’t know what to say, so you go with the small talk. How’s your job going? You know? And, but tell us about how the small talk is just painful for introverts.
ADAM: It’s a hard topic because there’s sometimes when you just, you have to make small talk if you’re meeting someone because I mean to sort of launch and just try to launch into some deep topic is really awkward and lacks boundaries, you know, like you can’t do that (00:30:30) to somebody. And so and so I, you know, I, it’s sort of a necessary evil in a lot of cases. But there is a way. And I, like I said earlier, I know especially if there’s like time before a worship service starts and people are sort of socializing, I know a lot of introverts that actually show up late to church to avoid them, that will actually show up five minutes late to church because they’re, the find that so dreadful. And it gets back to the like, kind of thinking on your feet thing and the sort of moving gracefully through (00:31:00) a conversation which a lot us more introverted types don’t really excel at. And there’s something to be said about, you know, the fact that we prefer depth is going to obviously make us kind of steer away from small talk and it’s a tricky situation for me though, because I also realize you’re going to be uncomfortably intense if you try to press too deeply with someone that you don’t know very well. If it’s someone you do know well, and you can sort of move past the conversations (00:31:30) about the weather, you know, then that’s more comfortable. But as Susan Cain kind of compares it to a dance where you’re like stepping lively through the topics of the day. And a lot of us are not very skilled at that, who much prefer to sort of listen than we prefer to engage. And then if we finally do come up with something to say people have already moved on to other topics by the time we actually come up with a response to what they’ve been talking about before.
LS: Yeah. And so, you know, there should be a rule of like yeah, don’t even try small talk. It is sort of (00:32:00) a necessary evil, right? And it is what it is. But just being aware of that, if you, every time you interact with somebody, and you know maybe they do have some introvert tendencies and your conversation’s always superficial, like maybe there’s an opportunity to build a deeper relationship there. Right?
ADAM: Absolutely. Speaking of small talk, I mean I know actually when they’re going to like a work event, like some sort of networking event or some social work event, they actually will sort of prepare. They’ll go and then they’ll, you (00:32:30) know, they’ll read the news carefully and they’ll come up with something to say that’s relevant to the topic of the day. Or they’ll actually, they know who they’re going to be talking to. They’ll actually do a little bit of homework into that to try and make it a little bit less awkward. But you know, at some point you’re going to have to talk about the weather at some point if you want to talk about anything of greater depth.
ADAM: It’s just a reality of it.
LS: And as far as like conversations go, in another aspect of communication that (00:33:00) you talked about is you said, when introverts conflict with each other, though it may require a map to follow all the silences, nonverbal cues and passive aggressive behaviors. And so this is another thing as a leader sometimes, I get questions all the time that, for people in different auxiliaries in our church that are facing difficult relations, or difficult leadership scenarios where one individual in their group or who they lead is just not up to par or they’re doing something that’s not up to expectations and they’d say, (00:33:30) you know, what should I do? And they’re looking for a tactic or something that they can do. And in reality I tell them, well, it sounds like you just need to go have a conversation, but it sounds like, you know, I’m the type person I don’t, I’ve really tried to develop a skill of having critical, or crucial conversations and having these tough, difficult conversations from time to time has a leader. But introverts, they may, there may be a lot of passive aggressiveness, right? And like you said, the silences or it just may, they may resolve these conflicts in a different way. Is that accurate? (00:34:00)
ADAM: I mean, we all have different tendencies in conflict in, you know, generally speaking, a lot of introverts tend to go quiet in situations of conflict. They’re afraid of saying the wrong thing or they just have to process internally what’s happening. They just free, I know I have experiences of just freezing up sometimes in situations of conflict, just not being able to say anything. Whereas, you know, extroverts may be sort of more aggressive in situations of conflict, may be more outspoken in situations of conflict. And so it is important (00:34:30) to realize we have different ways of doing it and you know, that’s, if you’re talking about like a spouse situation, you know, the whole time, you know that thing that we all do with our kids is still pretty useful. I think for us as adults, especially for introverts, just kind of need time to gather their thoughts so then they can come and express them after they’ve had time to process them. You know, and I think the direction of healthy conflict is being able to share your thoughts, to share your feelings in (00:35:00) a constructive way. It just may take longer for introverts to be able to get to that. And if something comes up in a spontaneous moment, we may just freeze up. And so I think it’s important in resolving conflict to allow introverts the time to really think through their thoughts and feelings and be able to process it internally and then to be able to share, and to realize that if you put us on the spot, we’re probably going to freeze up, and things aren’t going to go anywhere.
LS: And so what do you, so how do introverts (00:35:30) typically address problems or if they are the leader and there’s a problem or a conflict, are they less likely to just approach it and talk about it or how do they go about that?
ADAM: Probably I would say, you know that it may take us longer to actually get to having that conversation because it is uncomfortable matter for us. We tend to internalize our emotions. And we may hold on to things you know, longer than extroverts do. Sort of think through things, dwell through things. We even started, you know, (00:36:00) I know I have a lot of verbal jousts in my head is I’m sort of imagining the conflict that I’m going to use on somebody else, which isn’t always a healthy activity, but you know, I think ultimately, you know, we are called to be reconciled with one another and to address conflict, but just to realize it may take longer for introverts to get there. And if you (00:36:30) put us into sort of a high tension atmosphere, we may run from it as fast as possible. So I think, just again that time to internally process things and maybe talking through with someone that we trust. Like, hey what do you think about this? What do you think I should do? It can be, you know, a really helpful exercise.
LS: That’s great advice. And I’m thinking of, you know, we have, in a typical ward, we have what’s called a ward council, and so, the Bishop leads this council (00:37:00) and then it’s made up of, you know, the different leaders within the ward, the leader of the young men and the young women and the relief society, which is the women’s group, you know, and they all meet in this council. And sometimes those extroverts in the room can sort of be overbearing to the introverts, right? And so when there’s conflict between the extrovert and an introvert, how do we go about just not letting the introvert just run all over everybody?
ADAM: The extrovert run all over everybody you mean?
LS: Yeah, yeah.
ADAM: Again, it comes down to (00:37:30) self awareness. It comes down to helping people understand their own tendencies and situations of conflict and situations of leadership, tense situations. And you know, if the extrovert isn’t aware of that, it would be helpful to make them aware of that in a gentle, a gentle way.
LS: Yeah. And one thing I’m learning from what you’re saying is that it sounds like, you know, a lot of times in those council meetings you sort of, as the leader, the Bishop may want to push (00:38:00) the discussion to a decision or resolving the conflict, but it sounds like for the introverts sometimes you may need a table it until the next meeting and allow those introverts in the room to process it. Then come back with with a well rounded thought.
ADAM: Yeah. I mean I’m even a fan of like a lengthy break in the middle of meetings in some cases to allow the more introverted types, number one to get a little bit of time to breathe, but all sorts of process and then come back here and talk it through. And you know, I mean, just in terms of (00:38:30) thinking about meetings when I’ve led meetings, I always try to, you know, with more formal meetings I always try to give an agenda of what we’re going to talk about in advance. A couple, a day or two in advance. And then I am a fan of have a long break in the middle of a meeting. And then also, yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. Like you can say, well, you know, here’s the issue at hand, here’s what we’re dealing with. So next time we meet, you know, I want you think that through next time we meet, let’s talk that through.
LS: Yeah. Anything else as far as around the concept (00:39:00) of the power of listening that would be helpful to address or have we covered it?
ADAM: I think we’ve probably covered it. I just, I cannot sort of overestimate the power of listening in our society and in our churches, especially in a world in which I think people are not really listening in power, are not really listening. And then you can just, it’s hard to say too much about how powerful it is for someone to actually (00:39:30) genuinely be heard and feel respected in what they’re saying and feeling rather than having someone try to compete with them or to run over them or to speak over them
LS: Yeah. And then the other concept you’re talking about is the power of silence. And I don’t know if you’ve ever had an opportunity, obviously our, you know, in the Mormon faith we have our temples and our chapels and our chapels are where we tend on the, you know the week to week on Sundays, and temples have other, you know, ordinances and purposes there and when we (00:40:00) have, when we build a temple, we have an open house that’s open to the public. Have you ever had a chance to go to a temple open House?
ADAM: I never have.
LS: Well, as, from one extrovert to the next, I hope you take the opportunity the next time you have that, because as I read your book, I was just so, one LDS tradition I was so grateful for is the dichotomy between our chapels and our temples where a chapel is very much a place where extroverts can thrive. You know, there’s lots of speaking going on. There’s general, that’s where we have our social events and the, you know, week to week. There’s lots of small take going on, (00:40:30) lots of lessons and participation and where our temples is, it’s a very internal experience. You know, we’ll go in and really, we’re not typically when we go to the temple on a traditional endowment experience, we say very few, if I can’t think of more than 50 words that we would say during that time. And then we go into what’s called the celestial room. And man, this is an introverts paradises. So if you have an opportunity to walk through a celestial room, it’s remarkable because this (00:41:00) is, it’s a room where really people are meant to just sit and ponder and meditate and pray and seek for spiritual guidance and things. But anyway, so I appreciated this part about silence you talk about, and the power it is. And I sort of thought, oh good. I think maybe we figure something out with these, you know, chapels and temples, dichotomy there. But tell us about silence as far as how you’ve seen it work in churches or how some churches just totally missed the opportunity of silence. (00:41:30)
ADAM: Yeah, it’s one of the first things that really attracted me to that experience was, instead of churches in the past where I’ve walked in and it’s this chatty mingling, it feels like a cocktail party when you walk in, and everyone just chatting and laughing and that’s very intimidating for me. Whereas when I walk into an Episcopal or an Anglican church, it’s this kind of spirit of quiet reverence. People are not talking and if they are there, they’re talking in hushed tones, which is different for me from other (00:42:00) church experiences. The hat, and it lets me feel like, you know, it feels like you’re kind of walking into a holy place. And that has a way of sort of settling down and focusing your heart and making you think about different things. And I love that kind of atmosphere. I feel really at home with that. And so I’ve consulted with churches about this that really like that, they really want that friendly, social, chatty, outgoing kind of atmosphere when you walk (00:42:30) into a church service and I just say, look, that’s fine. That’s your culture. It just, be aware that that’s going to be very intimidating for a lot of people. And so if there are ways that you could find these moments of silence or if you can offer different sorts of services, like it sounds like you’re talking about what the temple experience is, you know, that are more silent, that are quieter, that are more contemplative, that’s going to be much more comfortable and spiritual for, you know, the more introverted people in your (00:43:00) community. And so, yeah. And, so, you know, some churches will try to experiment with a little bit of silence in the middle of the service. The problem with that is always that people think there’s some mistake that’s been made, that someone forgot something, so you have to be very clear about what’s happening. Or some people will do a silence that lasts for about eight seconds and you know, that obviously isn’t really addressing anything. And so I’m a fan of offering different (00:43:30) sorts of services or studies or you know, even song type experiences and they’re different from your Sunday morning services that may, just that silence may feel more like being at home for the introverts in the group.
LS: Yeah. And I think the important point here is that you’re not suggesting that, you know, church leaders need to completely overhaul the structure of their meetings and how they do things, but it’s just in the little things, right? And you mentioned the, in the book that, you know, of a, of a church that (00:44:00) allows a full two minutes of silence after every sermon simply, you know, inserting that regular pause in the content of the worship service instead of rushing from one component to the next. And so just these little things. And it made me think of, you know, on these testimony meetings, the open mic Sundays that in between testimonies, yeah, there is some silence, there are, people maybe aren’t as readily standing up and filling that dead air, but just embracing it and looking at it as a time for the congregation to ponder over what’s been said and the spirit that’s there. And even in, I think of Sunday school meetings where, just last Sunday (00:44:30) I was in a class and the instructor asked us to take five minutes and write some thoughts and ponder over that. And we sometimes just, that’s not in our typical tradition, so we don’t think of that right away, but it’s just in those little things, right?
ADAM: Absolutely. And I think that’s a good start with the little things, the small steps, are obviously a great start. You know, there’s other things that you can do, like dimming lights at a certain point (00:45:00) that has that same effect. You know, it’s hard when the lights are dimmed to really talk loud for some reason. And so there are difference in volume.
LS: Yeah. Yeah. And as we wrap up here, you know, in the later part of the book you talk about to introvert leaders and you know, sometimes, we see the ideal leader that someone who’s outgoing and loves to be in front of people always working the room or whatever it is and you know, refueled by that experience. But I guess you mentioned in the book that both introverts and extroverts (00:45:30) sort of prefer extrovert leaders. Is that accurate?
ADAM: You know, that’s been the consistent sort of results of studies that have been done about this, is that even introverts say they prefer extroverted leaders. And I just think that continues to be sort of a cultural clash that we experience and there’s even studies that have been done that portray Jesus as an extrovert, which I think is a very interesting thing when you look at the gospels, there’s a lot of solitude and privacy that he (00:46:00) seeks out. But you know, I do think it seems like our ideal leader still culturally is an extrovert, and you know, working the room. That’s exactly, aggressive, assertive, like able to turn strangers into friends very quickly. And so many introverted potential leaders that I know sort of disqualify themselves from leadership preemptively because they see that and they’re like, I could never do that. And so, you know, a good third of the book, Introverts in the Church, is devoted to leadership (00:46:30) because that’s a big passion of mine. And a lot of it is just kind of breaking down the sort of stereotypes of leadership and realizing, you know what? They’re actually different ways to lead. And maybe someone who’s really aggressive and gregarious is not actually the best leader for a community that tends to be more introverted that, that can feel very invasive. You know? And so I do think though that there are a lot of stereotypes that we hold on to, that are probably keeping our communities from really realizing their full potential in a lot of ways (00:47:00) because not every church has, you know, that sort of leader. And I think it’s actually much healthier to have a diverse community of leaders than it is to have one person who is pushing everything forward.
LS: Yeah. And so as far as getting more introverts to lead, especially in the LDS faith, you know, we have callings, so you know, as the bishop, I would select the relief society president, obviously through prayer and contemplation and you know, she would lead the women’s organization in the ward and sometimes (00:47:30) it’s easy to just default to those extroverts. Right? So is there any way to encourage those introverts to step up and lead and have more confidence in leading?
ADAM: Absolutely. And you know, I’ve attended churches that have leadership or discernment classes that talk about personalities type. They talked about different gifts. And consistently we see that gifting is not related to temperament. You know, some of the best preachers I know are very introverted people. Some (00:48:00) of the worst preachers I know are very extroverted people and you know, that’s generalizing.
LS: Yeah sure.
ADAM: Just because you talk a lot doesn’t mean you’re speaking well, you know? And so I think we have to continue to dissemble the stereotypes and it’s helpful for someone who’s an introvert, who could potentially be a leader, to have someone take an interest in them. To have one person invest in them, sort of say, hey, you know, I just want you to know like, I see the gifts that you have and maybe we can help develop those together. (00:48:30) You know, maybe an extrovert or an introvert can partner together to start with. And yeah, I think that one on one investment or that small group investment can be a way to help introverts kind of deal, in power, to step up and lead.
LS: Yeah, I love that advice. What about a non-believing introverts, you know? Inviting them to participate in Church and come to Christ and I know, you know, typically at least in the LDS faith tradition, it’s like, OK, we have, we have sister so and so and her husband who doesn’t come to church. And man, what can we do to reach out to them? It’s usually (00:49:00) ends up of, well, let’s go visit them and, oh we’re having a barbecue this weekend, let’s invite them to that, you know? And we sort of default to the extrovert mode when he may be an introvert and he doesn’t want to come to the barbecue and socialize. He doesn’t want people coming over to his house. And this has also given me pause to think about, in the LDS faith we have what’s called home teaching. So every priesthood member is assigned, three or four families, maybe in the typical scenario, and they’re asked to go visit these families once a month. (00:49:30) And I think, well, what if he doesn’t want me to come into their world, you know? You know, visiting and intruding and asking these questions and so how can I better serve those that maybe need some nurturing, and whether it’s because their non-believing or that they’re just not jiving with the culture of the ward. Any, any thoughts on, you know, reaching out to those that are less involved?
ADAM: Yeah. Well I mean, we can turn to say that people are not going to come to Christ unless they have someone who shares the faith, you know? We can sort of acknowledge that.
ADAM: But inviting them into this big social group, social activity, may not be the most comfortable for a lot of people. And so, you know, the sort of more personal one on one interactions. But I also, I know people, I had a friend of mine who became a Christian by participating in a church group that just painted people’s houses. They went around to houses of the elderly (00:50:30) who were unable to sort of do a lot for themselves and they just painted their houses. And they invited some non believers from around the community to do that. And talking was really not a part of it. But that service component, that offering of yourself was really appealing to him, and he ended up becoming a Christian out of that. And so I like this sort of activity or the, sort of action oriented groups rather than (00:51:00) always the talking groups. I think there’s a certain amount of power for people who are quieter, but who could still kind of offer service and help to others in a silent way. I think that can be a great witness.
LS: Yeah I love that. Wow. And it takes my mind to an individual who, this is in a ward I was in a few years ago and this individual would have never stood up during fasting and testimony meeting and shared of his testimony and been so public about it. But you could ask him to, he was very (00:51:30) handy. Right? And I remember asking him to come help me with my water heater at one point. And he was there and he spent half the day and I thought, you know, this is how this individual shares his testimony, is through service and participating, but, and that testimony just as bold and as strong as the individual who stands up and says the bold and strong words. Right?
ADAM: Yeah, absolutely.
LS: And, I love that service component. I love that.
LS: Well, I have one, maybe one more question for you, but I want to give you an opportunity to, if people want to (00:52:00) check out the book, where should they go? If they want to learn more about you? And I know you’re fairly active on twitter and, that’s a good place to start. But where if people want to connect with you and read the book, where should they go?
ADAM: The best place to get the book is on amazon.com. We released a second version, the new revised and expanded version of it in August of 2017. It’s called Introverts in the Church: Finding our Place in an Extroverted Culture. The new, the new edition has a blue cover with a yellow bird on, yellow birds on the front of the new addition, it’s quite a bit brighter than the second edition. I also have (00:52:30) a book called The Listening Life, which is one to look at as well. I have a blog, adamsmchugh.com. I don’t really use it much anymore. I am on Twitter, adamsmchugh as well. You can find my contact information on that blog as well. So, those are the best ways to, Intervarsity press, ivpress also has the books that I’ve published as well.
LS: Yeah. Awesome. Well as we wrap up here, and I think one point that needs to be emphasized is, in the book, you’re not, in no way are you trying (00:53:00) to argue that introverts need to be coddled, right? Or treated special or anything but, because everybody needs a level of discomfort in our faith journey. But I think just being aware of these different, you know, as on the scale of introverts and extroverts where people fall, and that their faith experience may be different than yours or how they interact with the divine may be different than that of an extrovert. And I love this quote that, I’m not sure, I think it was near the end of the book. You said, the critical (00:53:30) question to ask is not do the leaders act like me, rather is do they affirm the variety of personalities, gifts and experiences in the Christian life? Or do they try to conform people to a mold of faithfulness? And just as we wrap up, what are your thoughts on, what’s the final encouragement for leaders that have introverts in their congregations?
ADAM: Yeah. It’s simply that there are ways of expressing the christian faith, living out the Christian faith in ways that (00:54:00) do not conform to extroverted mold. That are really more culturally based than they are spiritually or historically based. That gifting is not centered around temperaments, and often the people that we sort of might disqualify culturally, may have some of the most profound gifts, whether it’s service or hospitality or teaching or anything along those lines. And so if (00:54:30) we can become aware of our own sort of cultural biases and realize that it’s not necessarily intrinsic to our Christian faith, then we can start to have, you know, I think more united churches we can start to encourage people to express their gifts in ways that are true and unique to who they are. And I just think it’s a more powerful witness when you have both extroverts (00:55:00) and introverts that are partnering together, you know, to build up the church.
LS: That concludes my interview with Adam McHugh.