Our big blue bus pulls up outside the church. Already my stomach is clenching with nerves. I dread what is about to come. Our team leader gets up and makes sure that we know that our mission is to mingle with as many people as possible. My heart sinks. I feel like I am set up for failure before we even get off the bus. I don’t do well being thrust into crowds of strangers. Small talk is excruciating to me. Initiating contact feels like a special kind of torture. The whole night I feel weird, out of place, and like I am failing. At the end of the night I slip into my sleeping bag grateful, finally, for a moment of silence. But I know that I have to face the crowds again tomorrow. I long for a way to feel like I am making a difference that matches with how I best interact with the world.
It took me years to stop feeling like my introversion was a special form of failure. I grew up feeling like it made me a bad Christian, a bad activist, and maybe even a bad person. All of the activists I admired were people who could boldly protest, who could make friends out of a room of strangers, who loved to socialize and connect and inspire, who were visible and loud. And I always felt like I didn’t measure up. That I couldn’t measure up.
So what’s an introvert to do? How can we be useful in the work of justice while still being ourselves? Is there a way to use our introversion to work for us? How do we do activism as introverts?
Most of the introverts I know really love to read and learn. If you’ve got this skill, use it to get super well versed on the issues you care about. Read books and articles, learn all of the details, and then figure out how to distill the information so that you can tell other people about it in the most succinct way possible. Use your love of learning to benefit the whole movement. Offer to be the person on the planning committee who figures out all of the facets of the issue you are working on. Offer to write a report that sums up everything you have learned.
Talk with people one on one
Listen, small talk kills me. I hate it. BUT you get me connected to one other person with whom I can have an in-depth conversation and I am In. My. Element. Seriously. So I try to partner with an extrovert so we can each shine. The extrovert introduces me to someone and then we talk. Use your power for one on one conversations in the work for justice. Get connected to the right people (use your extroverted friends to make the intro) and then tell them about why your cause matters to you and how they can get involved.
Write a letter
Not just to politicians (though you can definitely do that, too) but to people you care about. Use the letter to formulate your thoughts and your arguments. Take your time with it to process how you’re feeling. Let your word (on paper) do the work. And then drop that baby in the mail.
Make the signs
Use your wittiness, the knowledge you have of the issues, your skill with words to make the best protest signs on the block.
Make a film, write a story, get creative
Maybe you are a kickass video maker. Or a storyteller. Or a fiction writer. Use those gifts to work for justice. Film the people who are great at talking about the struggle. Write a story that helps people to envision a new future. Find a creative way to get more people interested in the cause of your heart.
Yup. Sometimes you have to work outside of your comfort zone. Sometimes you have to be willing to grab the microphone, take a risk, join the march, risk yourself. It’s sometimes uncomfortable. Sometimes messy. And sometimes it’s very, very necessary.
But above all, find a way to get involved. Find a way to be a part of the struggle. Don’t just sit on the sidelines. Create meaningful work that you can do in a way that best uses your gifts.
We’re all needed in the fight for justice, not just extroverts.