It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Introverted Me

Introversion is the Next Big Social Thing. Everyone’s talking about it these days. It rather bemuses me, all this sudden flurry attention. Hello? We’ve been here all along! Oh, I guess you extroverted types didn’t notice, huh, introverts being so quiet an all.

I am an introvert, but I’m a confident one who’s never felt inadequate or lacking, so the “it’s okay to be an introvert! there’s nothing wrong with you!!” emphasis of some of the writers is frankly annoying. This book? Totally mis-titled. “How to Thrive in an Extrovert World”? Nah. Merest survival. And advantages? Didn’t find a one. But this one? Is terrific. I really enjoyed it, and found myself nodding along … and learning lots.

Most recently I happened onto a Huffinton Post article, 23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert. Having no toddlers to write about this week, I decided to respond to its points, see how I, a not-so-secret introvert, tally according to this particular list.

1. You find small talk incredibly cumbersome.

Oh, I used to! Right into my late thirties. I’m not sure when the shift happened, but now I can actively enjoy it. Introverts, as the article notes, tend to see small talk as a barrier between people. Introverts like conversation to go deep. Chit-chat is anything but, and so for many years, I avoided it. It was tedious, it was annoying, and I just wasn’t any damned good at it.

Some people only small talk. For them conversation never develops beyond friendly chit-chat. That’s fine, if that’s what they enjoy … but I won’t be spending long hours of time in conversation with them. But! At some point in my thirties, I began to see that small talk is a terrific springboard to real conversation. Small talk is a way to get comfortable with someone, to determine their conversational style, their attitudes and interests, to evaluate whether they’re someone who’s capable of and interested in, conversation with more depth.

So now I enjoy small talk. Not as an end in itself, generally, but as a means to an end.

2. You go to parties -– but not to meet people.
True. I go to be with people I know, for conversation. I go for the food and drink, to dance if there’s dancing. I go to flirt. “Meeting new people” is not an enticement. It may be a fringe benefit, but it’s never the goal.

3. You often feel alone in a crowd.
Yup. This one surprised me. Doesn’t everyone? Guess not!

4. Networking makes you feel like a phony.
It used to. And goodness, networking certainly offers huge opportunities for phoniness which some people exploit shamelessly. But, as I’ve come to realize, it doesn’t have to be phony. Introverts just have to learn to network in a style that suits their nature. Also, I will not — not even sure I could — approach someone for some sort of job-related favour if I’ve never done anything for them. It doesn’t have to be huge: maybe I’ve sent them a few links to articles that I think they’d find interesting, with a personal note attached. (A perfect introvert technique!) It’s the relationship bank account idea: don’t be making withdrawals if you never make a deposit.

5. You’ve been called “too intense.”
Yup! Also been accused of ‘over-thinking’ when I thought we’d barely begun to explore the topic.

6. You’re easily distracted.
When I read this I disagreed. I have terrific focus, once I get my teeth into an idea. (See “too intense/over-thinking”, above.) The article isn’t talking about mental focus and distraction, though, it’s talking about physical. In that case, yes, absolutely. If I’m in a busy coffee shop, trying to have a significant conversation (as opposed to small talk!), I will place myself with my back to the room. It’s too stimulating; I can’t focus; I keep getting distracted. So it turns out this is a yes.

7. Downtime doesn’t feel unproductive to you.
ABSOLUTELY! I looooove my downtime. Not so that I can ‘do nothing’, but because it refreshes and restores me. Without the downtime, I am less productive, and I know it. When I have downtime, lots of healthy, nourishing, internal things are going on. I love it. I need it.

8. Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards.
Yes and no. I’ve done a reasonable amount of public speaking, though I think the largest audience I had was 100 or so. As long as I am well-prepared, I actively enjoy public speaking. The conversation afterward? Depends on how it’s structured. If we’re having a meet-and-greet with coffee or drinks, where people mill around and talk about whatever, that’s tiring and I’d rather not. I can, and I’m charming … but it’s tiring. If it’s simply a line of people asking a question about my presentation, and maybe moving into their own experience, that I’m absolutely comfortable with, and enjoy.

9. When you get on the subway, you sit at the end of the bench -– not in the middle.
Yes, though I see this as more good manners. When you take the middle seat, you’re hogging the whole bench, tacitly discouraging people from sitting there. (But maybe I only feel that way because I’m introverted, and would choose to sit alone if I had the chance?)

10. You start to shut down after you’ve been active for too long.
Absolutely. Yes.

11. You’re in a relationship with an extrovert.
Nope! My wonderful husband is far more introverted than me.

12. You’d rather be an expert at one thing than try to do everything.

13. You actively avoid any shows that might involve audience participation.
I would suspect it would depend on the show, but likely the answer for me is ‘true’. If the audience participation is stupid or potentially humiliating or conflictual, ugh. If participation means playing with fun ideas, then I could do that. I suspect the shows I’d feel comfortable being on are few and far between.

14. You screen all your calls — even from friends.
Yup. Loves me my call display!

15. You notice details that others don’t.
I don’t know. Do I? I’ve never thought about it.

16. You have a constantly running inner monologue
Oh, heck yeah.

17. You have low blood pressure
I do!

18. You’ve been called an “old soul” -– since your 20s.
I think my grandmother called me that for the first time when I was four.

19. You don’t feel “high” from your surroundings

False. In the right situation, I absolutely can. Now, I think my tolerance is lower than an extrovert’s. After a while the buzz wears off and I get tired/overwhelmed, but I can and do get high on busy, loud, positive surroundings, and I do enjoy it.

20. You look at the big picture.
Absolutely. I think it’s one of the things that makes me good at my job.

21. You’ve been told to “come out of your shell.”
Uh-huh. Lordy, I got tired of hearing that when I was in grade school. My response, had I been rude enough to say it out loud, was “Well, if the rest of you would SHUT UP for long enough, I might have a chance.”

22. You’re a writer.

Guess so! I also far prefer email to phone conversations.

23. You alternate between phases of work and solitude, and periods of social activity.
Yes! One of the things I’ve loved about my two weeks off is the opportunity to structure my time so that I can do exactly that. I have far more energy, get a lot more done, when I can pace myself, balance the demands. I’ve gotten SO MUCH DONE, visited a bunch of people, and don’t feel tired AT ALL. It’s been wonderful!

Too bad I can’t be on holiday all the time…

August 21, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 11 Comments