nobody likes small talk (it’s not just the introverts)


“Introverts don’t like small talk.”

Introverts (those who gain or recharge energy by being alone – as opposed to extroverts who draw energy from others) are often assumed to be shy, socially awkward or even rude because of the way they engage or don’t in social environments. However, those attributes are more to do with personality or emotional intelligence than the number one marker of introverts – they find people-heavy environments physically and emotionally exhausting. 

Introverts often express a deep dissatisfaction and even frustration with “small talk”. But I have an increasingly strong belief that NO ONE likes small talk. Not even extroverts. 

Extrovert readers, please feel free to correct me if you disagree, but no one likes small talk. It’s repetitive, it’s shallow and it’s only really a means to the end – a more rich and stimulating conversation or connection. 

The difference is that extroverts have the social stamina to endure more of it. Because they gain energy from being with people, they are not as drained by the small talk and don’t fear an exhaustion of their social energy before getting to a deeper conversation. They are also happy just to be talking – to people! – and so will more readily settle for surface level chit chat. 

For introverts, there is a very real chance that all of their social energy will be spent before they get to a point in conversations where they find meaningful connection or intellectual enrichment. 

Nobody likes small talk. Some are better at it. Some can participate in more of it before fatiguing their social energy. But no one actually likes it. No one comes away from a party and says “that was so good I spoke to a whole lot of people about absolutely nothing”. People of all temperaments are stimulated and satisfied by intellectually or emotionally meaningful connections with others.  People want to laugh heartily, be challenged mentally or connect personally – regardless of temperament. 

My hot tip for an introvert to thrive in social gatherings is this – find yourself an extrovert! Stand near them and ride the wave of their small talk into an actual conversation. Save your energy for the good stuff! 

Further reading 

six truths about extroverts
extroverts and quiet times

becoming more patient | #3 being others focussed

Have you ever had those moments when you’re pretty sure everybody around you is just trying to annoy you?

Everyone is driving slowly when you’re in a hurry. People are walking the aisles of shopping centres like they’re balls in a pin-ball machine, making it impossible to get around them. The person at the petrol pump in front of you decides now is the time to clean their windscreen back to showroom condition. The clerk processing your payment at the post office reminds you of the sloths from the movie Zootopia (check it out, great movie). Your child is attempting a world record for longest time taken to eat a bowl of cereal. Your teenager is on their third trip back into the house to get something they forgot and can’t leave without. Your work mates are reaching new heights of meeting-hijacking abilities.

Of course you have those moments, sometimes many of them in succession. We all do. If you were getting anywhere with this whole ‘becoming more patient’ idea then these are the moments that are set to derail you … big time!

Patience is the act of waiting well. It’s the ability to endure set backs and challenges without becoming anxious or irritated. Patience is indeed a virtue and one that is tested on a regular basis.

In our efforts to become more patient we’ve noted the need to take  a big picture perspective – to step back and see things in their broader context. We’ve looked at the idea of planning in order to be more patience – choosing  wisdom over reaction. And we also need to keep an important truth in mind … it’s not actually all about you!

It turns out not everyone is intentionally plotting ways to make your life miserable – even though it might seem like it. The slow driver in front of you probably has no idea you’re there. The dude at the petrol station is more worried about his windscreen than you. Your teenager is probably just forgetful or distracted. There is not, despite the seeming appearance to the contrary, a concerted focus on the part of all the people in your world to make life miserable for you.

And this makes perfect sense as you read it. But in those moments, so much of our irritation is borne out of a sense of focus on ourselves that causes us to see everything as a deliberate mission to make us frustrated.

It’s not all about you!

Next time you find yourself impatient with the actions or in-actions of another person, pause and take a moment to consider the situation from their perspective. “I wonder if that slow driver is lost, or a learner, or experiencing anxiety or dealing with a crying baby in the back seat.” “I wonder if this sales assistant is new to the job or tired from a full day of work.” “I wonder if my teenager is trying to keep too many things in their mind, or is worried about something; or is hormonal.”

Such a thought process changes nothing of the circumstances. You’re still going to be impeded or impacted by the other person’s behaviour in some way. But patience isn’t about not waiting it’s about waiting well. And when we shift the focus from ourselves we release something of the anxiety and irritation and replace it with empathy or compassion.

What might that look like for you? How might taking the focus of yourself cause you to be more patient with others?

 

when porn is the ‘other woman’


Pornography is insidiously addictive and destructive. Whilst it holds almost no resemblance to true intimacy (read more –5 lies porn tells) it engages the hearts and minds of men and women and distorts a person’s own sexuality. It leads to sexual dysfunction and relational breakdown. 

Given that almost 100% of boys have seen porn before they reach adulthood the reality for all couples is that porn will be an issue to address. It is a wrestle most men (and many women) will be entrapped in – addiction is rife. 

For the wife of a porn using man it is a hurtful and difficult path to walk. 

Porn feels like rejection. 

For a woman, it feels like a man’s choice to use porn is a competition that she has lost. Between the real life her and the on screen performer, the performer has won. This speaks inadequacy and inferiority into her heart from the person she is most vulnerable to.

Porn feels like unfaithfulness. 

Anyone who steals the affections, attentions and desire of one’s husband is the ‘other woman’. It is hard for a wife to not feel betrayed by the breach of the intimacy of the marriage bed to include other images, acts and preferences beyond that which has been explored and experienced together. 

Porn feels like the standard. 

Women whose husbands use porn know that what they watch is appealing to them. Rather than the wife being the standard of beauty, attractiveness and fulfilment a highly produced, orchestrated and edited image becomes the new standard. One to which no woman could possibly attain. 

Porn diminishes sexual appetite. 

Increasingly younger men are reporting decreased or dysfunctional sexual drive and capacity for arousal. This means some relationships are failing in terms of intimacy before they’ve even begun. The joy of sexual exploration and discovery together is usurped by a counterfeit experience. 

Porn is not harmless. Porn impacts those who view it and those seeking intimacy with them.

See Fight the New Drug’s “Fortify” program http://fightthenewdrug.org/get-help/ for help in getting freedom from porn addiction. Don’t do it alone. 

If you are an impacted partner of a porn user reach out to talk to someone to help you navigate what you’re experiencing. Don’t do it alone. 

how broken relationships are like credit card debt


A while back I received a credit card in the mail that I hadn’t applied for. My handbag had been stolen the month before and I suspect the thief had used my details to apply for it – not thinking to change the address to his/her own. I notified the bank immediately, forwarding the police report as evidence, and was assured the card would be cancelled and all was sorted.

In the months that followed I discarded mail from the bank without even opening it, assuming it was promotional material. Until I got a very official looking letter from a debt recovery agency informing me I had an outstanding debt of more than $8,000!

Eight. Thousand. Dollars.

In the nine months since the card was activated there had been no activity. However, the initial charge of $30 for the annual membership had remained unpaid and accrued fees for late payment and interest compounding to now be a debt of over $8,000!! (The matter was clarified and has thankfully been resolved.)

As someone who has never used credit (other than that little old thing we call a house mortgage!) I’ve not really understood how people can amass such large personal debt … until I saw the impact of a $30 charge left unchecked for a few months. It doesn’t take long to multiply!

The same goes for avoided conflict. The smallest of unchecked offences can compound to significant relational dysfunction when left unresolved. A debt of forgiveness unsought or unpaid, a misunderstanding left un-clarified, a miscommunication not corrected; an opportunity for reconciliation not embraced can see a seemingly insignificant amount of hurt or disappointment fester and grow to become an almost insurmountable rift. A truth withheld can cause more damage when revealed down the track.

The longer it is left unresolved the larger it can become in our hearts and in our memories. It becomes a foothold for bitterness, anger, rejection and wounding to grow. It impacts our capacity to give ourselves wholeheartedly to new relationships and interactions when we are carrying around an old wound or offence.

What about you? Is there a debt of offence you need to cancel? Is there a payment of forgiveness or apology that you need to make before it compounds further? Can you resolve to not let relatively small issues become massive ones by dealing with them sooner? 

why YOU should serve in Kids Ministry

I am an unashamed advocate for a generational focus in our churches.

Jesus was too. He’s my role model. With open arms and open heart He welcomed children and presented them as a model of response and heart posture before God. 

Significant portions of Christians make their response to Jesus before they’re 13. Healthy kids ministries are environments where children can explore and experience faith and a resource parents can draw upon in THEIR role of raising kids in faith.

It’s a given that Kids ministry is also a high-volunteer-engagement department. Duty of care requirements and the sheer practicality of how mobile, inquisitive and active children are means lots of adult supervision is required.

But here’s my case for why you (whoever you are!) should do a stint in Kids Min at some point. 

1 Kids min requires a broad range of skills, gifts and personalities.

IT & A/V; physical set up and pack down of rooms; craft and game planning; administrative tasks; leading in music or dance; preparing or delivering teaching; developing relationships; prayer and more – a successful Kids Ministry is sustained by a diverse team each contributing their part. I guarantee you have a skill that your Kids department could benefit from. 

Some children will respond more to a quiet, gentle personality and others will gravitate to the loud and playful. 

Commonly, kids ministry teams are filled with teens and young adults. It’s true in my context. They are the engine room of our kids min with their energy, passion, availability and relational “cool factor” with the kids. But the wisdom, experience, knowledge and security of more senior team members is required too. Both as a resource to the younger leaders AND to the kids themselves. 

2 Sharing faith with a child builds and inspires your own. 

They say if you can’t explain it to a 6 year old you don’t know it. As we more simply and clearly express the gospel and the work of God in our life to young people we crystallise our own understanding and faith. 

Watching someone grasp God’s truth for themselves is incredibly exciting. Encouraging young people to establish themselves in the love of God, anchoring themselves in His truth and His faithfulness as a starting point for their life is an incredible gift we give to others. 

Children lead us in joy and awe. They remind us to be uninhibited in our response to the activity and knowledge of God. 

3 You demonstrate church in action 

You show parents that you really are committed to supporting them in their role. You show the children that everyone serves everyone. You give opportunity for intergenerational relationships (which are a crucial contributor to the feeling of “belonging” in a faith community – for all involved). You model body life – showing the feet, hands, arms and ears all acting as they ought. You share testimony of God’s activity in your life and how He works across various ages and stages of life. 

And before you’re even thinking it – here’s three excuses that just won’t fly!

I’m too something (old, young, new, uncool etc) God uses all types of people to reach all types of people. Your unique “something” could be just the tool He needs to connect with specific people. If you don’t serve, that “something” is missing. 

I’m busy. No one currently serving in your kids min team is doing so because they have nothing else to do. You prioritise what you value. And there is always flexibility in regards to time commitments, frequency and scheduling required by each ministry. 

I don’t want to miss the sermon/service. Podcast the message, attend a second service at a different time  (and consider why it’s ok for others on the teams who make kids min possible in your church to miss out on what you think is unmissable – just sayin.). 

So how about it? Why don’t you give it a go? At least for a season. Consider the impact you could make in the life of the team, the church …or even just one child. Be prepared for God to do something big with your availability and willingness. 

skin hunger – our need for physical intimacy


I love massages!! Any kind. Feet. Head. Crazy Thai ones where they stretch and contort your body like a pretzel. Soothing oil ones with dolphin music playing. I like getting my nails done. I love getting my hair washed or done. 

I love physical touch. 

It’s a weird statement to make but an acknowledgement of truth that is perhaps more pertinent in context to my status as a living-alone Single. Ultimately, all of those things above are more than just self-pampering, they’re a means to have my skin hunger somehow satiated. 

Skin hunger is a need for physical touch – not necessarily sexual in nature. It is a studied phenomena in psychology. Unmet skin hunger has been associated with failure to thrive in babies and infants, and increased anxiety, depression, stress and sleep dysfunction in children and adults. Each individual will have a different level of skin hunger and consequently, the absence of physical touch will be felt more acutely by those whose need is greater. 

Some stages and styles of life are innately more rich in physical contact. Living arrangements that involve others will almost always include physical touch – perhaps of an intimate or sexual nature, maybe because of the presence of small children being nursed, held and wrestled with, or even in the more incidental contact that happens as people work together in the kitchen or move around each other in the bathroom. Certain work environments are more physical – various fields of medicine and therapy, working with children, or coaching certain sports. 

I crave physical touch. 

Physical touch affirms my presence. It is one thing to grasp my own hand or rub my own neck – but it is different to experience those things externally. It’s a tangible recognition that I hold a place in the physical realm; that I relate kinaesthetically to other people and things around me. 

Physical touch releases hormones that increase wellbeing and decrease stress. 

Physical touch communicates non-verbally a sense of belonging and connection. 

What does physical touch look like for a Single person? 

How is skin hunger appropriately satisfied in non-sexual or romantic contexts?

As I mentioned, I am a physical touch kind of person. I’m likely to grab your arm while I’m talking to you. I will normally go in for a hug and a cheek kiss when greeting someone I know. I love love love (love love) holding babies – especially soothing them to sleep. I love little person hugs and high fives. I even like the absent minded touches kids do when they’re talking to you – playing with your hair or leaning against your leg. I love big hugs from big people – I make sure my Dad gives me a couple every time I see him. For some, pets are a large part of their skin-hunger-meeting regimen. 

Skin hunger is connected with our need for intimacy and equally needs to be met in healthy and helpful ways or we will find ourselves seeking to satisfy it inappropriately. Identifying the degree of skin hunger we feel is important to being able to manage it intentionally. 

What does that look like for you? Or for those in your world? 

why people at church don’t talk to you


A friend and I have been known to run an experiment. When attending a different church, she leaves me alone in the foyer (to go to the bathroom or something) and we see if anyone will talk to me. It’s damaging to my pride, self-esteem and sense of confidence in my personal hygiene to report that – more often than not – when she returns, I’m standing where she left me feeling forlorn and having had no interactions with others.

As someone who leads in a church and desires that our environments be welcoming and inclusive for all – I run this experiment not just as a test of the church I’m visiting but to remember for myself what it feels like. To experience that awkwardness of trying to posture myself to look open to conversations or interactions without making a fool of myself. And as bad as it feels, I remember that my experiment is only partly accurate because I’m a visitor. Others coming into churches come because they are looking to find Jesus! Some come because they are desperately seeking a place of connection and belonging – of home. While I’m only there for one night. So much more is at stake for them.

Whilst I have received feedback from people who have felt a little ignored or adrift in our church, it’s more likely that those who feel this most poignantly haven’t stayed around to tell anyone – they’ve just left. You may relate to this experience in your own church environment. You look around and others are deeply engrossed in conversations and excited interactions and you wonder why you’re not included.

 

The reason people at church might not talk to you is because they are exactly like you!

They are uncomfortable talking to strangers. As an outgoing, verbal, extrovert I am uncomfortable talking to strangers! Most people are! People don’t talk to you because, just like you, they are unsettled about talking to people they don’t know. How awkward will this be? What if we have nothing in common? What if I inadvertently offend or upset them with what I say? What if they don’t want to talk to me!? EVERYONE is processing these same questions.

They are comforted by their own friends. There’s safety and security in the knowledge of their connection to their group of friends. And in fact, they may well be worried that if they don’t speak to these people no one else will speak to them and so they don’t leave the circle for fear of feeling that isolation. We are all creatures of comfort and security. Stepping away from the known and into the unknown requires a bravery that we don’t always manage to summon.

Someone once said to me “I never realised how cliquey people were until all my friends were away one week and no one spoke to me.” She didn’t even realise the irony of what she was saying. She only noticed that everyone else stuck to their friends when the friends that she stuck to weren’t around.

They wrongly assess their social position. Frequently, the socially insecure assume that everyone else is socially confident. The quiet and shy ones assume that the noisy ones are more bold and self-assured (when, often, it is just the same feelings manifesting in different coping strategies). Those unfamiliar in an environment assume that everyone else is quite familiar. Those who are more connected don’t trust their social connections enough to leave them temporarily to reach out to others.

Ultimately, the human condition is such, that we are all looking for a degree of connectedness and are all at the mercy of one another to find that place of belonging and welcome. New. Old. Loud. Quiet. No one is exempt from contributing to the social dynamic of a community.

*** A common cry. ***

“What if I go up to someone and say – Are you new here? – and they say – No, I’ve been coming for 3 years.

OR what if you start your conversation a different way!?! (Genius, I know!)

“How are you today?” (Revolutionary, but effective.) “Are those your kids? Have you had a busy week? What’s ahead for you this week? How will you be spending your afternoon? Have you done the winter pruning of your fruit trees yet?” (Read – there are lots of other ways to start a question that don’t need you to guess how long they’ve attended your church!)

Or just a simple, “I don’t think I’ve met you before, I’m Kim!” might be enough.

The reason people in MY church don’t talk to you is because people like ME (and you) need to get better at it. We can do this!

 

your teen needs you!

There are times in the parenting (or leading and teaching) journey when this feels far from true. Your teen may not LOOK like they need you, they might not ACT like they need you and they may even SAY they don’t need you! But they do.

The cry of the teenage/emerging-adult heart is for relationships and community where three things are present – Trust, Respect and Belief. Sociologists report this drive as the key factors behind gang or ‘bikie’ culture. Such is the need of the heart that it draws a person to connection and belonging ANYWHERE these things are present. It’s true of adults too – but (hopefully) there is a greater degree of discernment to determine whether the presence of trust, respect and belief outweighs any negatives about the people or culture who are offering them.

Let’s unpack these three factors further.

TRUST

What they want …Teens want to be trustworthy but they also want to believe they are capable of trustworthiness and so will crave actions and communication that demonstrate this trust and confidence.

What they fear… Questioning their decision-making skills, their ability to consider all outcomes and options, or their self management or control, translates as an absence of trust.

What to try…

  • Give ample time and opportunity for your teen to explain what they do know and what they have considered (rather than assuming they haven’t really thought things through).
  • Ask questions or use hypothetical scenarios to extend  their awareness of potential outcomes and concerns and grow their consideration.
  • Express your desire to ‘assume the risk’ for the unknown or potential consequences of a decision rather than burdening them with that when their experience or vision is limited. In other words, sometimes a parent needs to be the one who decides because the decision and its outcomes are too weighty for a young person to have to bear.

BELIEF

What they want… In the face of sometimes crippling self-doubt, insecurity, fear of the future and competition teens will gravitate to people and places where they are encouraged to dream big dreams and imagine an extraordinary future.

What they fear… Youth are constantly wondering if they really have what it takes to succeed in life (aren’t we all!). They don’t have the history or experience of seeing how things will play out and so their capacity to predict the future is limited. They are highly sensitive to any inference from adults in their world that what they hope for or are aiming for in their future is not possible.

What to try…

  • Check any language that overloads current decisions or actions with future impact (“if you don’t do well at school you’re not going to have opportunities in work later”). Of course all choices and actions have consequences but then all consequences have options, grace and capacity for recovery. Finite, exaggerated or fatalistic language will scream dis-belief.
  • Encourage aspects of character, attitude and heart that, if they continued to develop them, will open up a world of opportunities to live a productive and impact-ful future.

RESPECT

What they want… As teens transition into adulthood, they are super sensitive to insinuations of immaturity. While they fight for independence they want adults around them to start seeing them as emerging adults and treating them accordingly.

What they fear… Commonly the language and tone we use when talking to young people is quite different to how adults would talk to peers. We can present as quite condescending and they feel that we are unable to see them as anything other than a child.

What to try… 

  • Ask the question “How would I handle this situation if this were a co-worker or peer rather than a teen?” (For example, if a coworker knocked a drink over at a meal table we’d probably be quite quick to help them feel ok about the mishap rather than chastise them for their behaviour.)
  • What actions or statements can you change or add to your interactions that communicate respect of their property or privacy, of their opinions and perspectives, and of their insecurities and fears?
  • Consider how you could deescalate a situation by prioritising respect – both given and received.

How about you?
How have you seen this need for Trust, Belief and Respect manifest in your teens? What do you recall of your struggle with this in your own journey into adulthood? How might you leverage this knowledge to bring greater connection with your teen?

 

why we MUST embrace conflict

I really don’t like conflict. In fact, I don’t think anyone does. 

Those who say they like conflict are either bullies who love a good fight OR are actually referring to the outcomes of conflict rather than the conflict itself. 

I love what healthy conflict accomplishes. 

Conflict achieves better results. 

Conflict ensures that all aspects of a decision, event or direction have been fully considered. When ideas are up for debate and discussion we refine and clarify them for best outcomes. Conflict means that we haven’t just settled for the easiest way or the idea that was presented first or loudest. 

Conflict refines our character. 

No one wants to be told that they’ve behaved inappropriately or that they’re being received in an unpleasant manner – but surely we’d rather the chance to change that through awareness and assistance rather than persist in ignorance? Conflict is necessary to acknowledge our sharp edges and give us the chance to smooth them down. 

Conflict strengthens relationships. 

Conflict builds trust. In relationships where hard conversations are lovingly navigated, misalignments recalibrated and, ways forward together are negotiated intimacy and trust are grown. Willingness to identify and endure conflict communicates a depth of commitment. Pressing in through the tough times is what forges strong relational connection. Ignoring issues over fear of conflict creates emotional distance, mistrust and, ultimately, separation. 

So how do we conflict well? 

HEALTHY CONFLICT – 

  • Debates issues not people.

Finding the best outcome means separating an idea from the person who presents it – otherwise we have to go with the decision that belongs to the person we like most or are more afraid of upsetting. We also have to be okay with our idea being trumped by a better one or refined by other thoughts without taking it personally. 

  • Is best when invited. 

Creating an environment where conflict is welcomed – through invitation and self-control in our responses – can diffuse some of the tension and apprehension. Giving others permission to speak frankly, critique honestly and call us to bigger and better in our behaviour and ideas won’t make conflict fun but will make it more healthy and edifying.