IMG_7711Last week Elizabeth and I drove to Newbridge in Co. Kildare for an event sponsored by ARC Ireland which drew pastors and church planters from the North and the Republic.

It was a great time. And although we would not have the same perspective, we heard one pastor comment how encouraging it was to see church leaders from all over the island together. He said something like this would not have happened 10 years ago. We were grateful to be part of it and look forward to what’s ahead.

One of the strangest things since we landed in Dublin, is that the introvert in me used to dread these type of get-togethers. A day devoted to meeting new people? (cue the cold sweats) And if there was the potential that you might need to break up into small groups and do some type of brainstorming exercises…I could feel the muscles in my neck begin to tighten.

Since we’ve been in Ireland, not only have I enjoyed, and actually looked forward to these types of events, (for the most part at least…of course, there have been times when I’m at a table and everyone breaks off into conversations with others leaving me alone to pull out my phone and start checking my Twitter feed. And as an INTJ, I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy brainstorming.)

But while I’ve tended to leave those types of events exhausted in the past…for the most part I’ve left these events here in Ireland energized. Crazy…I know.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about what the major difference has been. I don’t believe you move to a new place and are able to do things you hadn’t done previously. Basically, what you’ve done in the past tends to be a very accurate indicator of what you’ll do in the future.

At the same time, you can always learn new skills.

Prior to moving to Ireland, I worked with a coach who helps people prepare for living in cross-cultural settings, and this (meeting new people) was a major focus of our time together. Then shortly after arriving in Dublin, I went through a program where one of the key components was learning to network.

To be clear…I’m likely never going to be the life of the party and making small talk will always be a challenge (while I think making small talk is another skill you can learn, like most introverts I don’t enjoy it enough to work all that hard at it).

However, an important lesson I learned from the couple of coaching opportunities I had was about how you approach these types of events. Both in preparation, and perspective.

When Elizabeth and I moved to Ireland, our main goal for the first couple of years was to learn. To learn about people, culture, life in Dublin, people’s thoughts on church and Jesus…we both love to learn and we’ve spent the past 18 months in learning mode here in Dublin.

So as I’ve gone to these events, I’ve gone with the goal of learning from the people who will be there.

Rather than going simply hoping to survive the night without saying something stupid, or worrying if people will want to talk to me, I’ve gone with a goal of asking good questions.

This has seemed to address both the perspective (go with a desire to learn) and the preparation (have some questions to ask).

The vast majority of people at these types of events obviously know a lot more about life in Ireland than I do, and most likely there’ll be at least a few people who enjoy talking. (And if you ask questions about a topic they are interested in, you might even be able to open up…it can happen).

For now, this has been a very cool turn of events.