I’ve been shy all my life. Sometimes painfully shy. When I was in kindergarten, some of the kids had made fun of me so I quit talking. I had private sessions with the principal to see if I was mentally handicapped. He said there was nothing wrong with me since I would talk to him and my Mom didn’t find out about any of this until she went to Parent Teacher Conferences. She thought everything was fine since I couldn’t shut up after school.
In our society, being shy has a negative connotation. That person can be perceived as having low intelligence, not having any ideas during a meeting, anti-social and dull. But that is so off the mark. Many scientists, inventors, creative people, authors and even entertainers are shy. Well, the correct word is introvert. Think Einstein, Ben Franklin, Bill Gates, and even Barbra Streisand who is so shy she has debilitating stage fright and has to fake being an extrovert to get on stage and perform.
Introverts are the ones who don’t blurt out every thought that pops into their heads. They are the ones that sit back, observe and take their time formulating their answers. They are the quiet ones in meetings. Even though they are quiet, extroverts need to listen and not talk over them. Surprisingly, introverts are extroverts on social media and in their writing. Must be why I handle the social media at work and I love to write. I like sharing my thoughts on paper.
Here is a good example of extroverts talking over introverts. At my last job, I used to go to lunch at noon and sat with a bunch of people. Whenever I talked and I mean 98% of the time, people would start talking over me as if I had never talked like what I had to say had no meaning and what they had to say was the most important thing and everyone needed to listen. I soon realized it was draining having lunch with all those extroverts (not knowing they were extroverts, I just thought they were rude) so I switched to 1 p.m. where I could quietly read and avoid the extroverts. To be honest, it ticked me off how they talked over me. I have since seen other extroverts talk over introverts, even in a quiet setting, so I engage the introvert and ask them to continue telling their story.
I recently read the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain and it made me realize just how much of an introvert I am. For those of you, who are extroverts, let me give you a little insight on what it is to be an introvert. Most introverts, including myself, are not comfortable talking in front of big crowds, we don’t like the spotlight and we don’t like to make small talk. The thought of going to a party or social event where we really don’t know anyone is almost paralyzing. Yes, I said paralyzing. Recently, I was invited to a wedding reception for a former co-worker. I have to go alone as my husband and daughter can’t go. The thought of going by myself makes my heart race, my anxiety level go up and makes me not want to go. But I will, because I will actually know several attendees. But still, I won’t be comfortable, yet I will soldier through the event.
I’m also registered for a day-long conference in June where I will learn information on a program we use at work. There is a social afterwards. Will I stay? Of course not. After sitting in a room all day with strangers, I will be exhausted and the thought of trying to make small talk with the strangers makes my stress level go up. Do I register for classes or sessions that mention will breakout into small groups or will do role playing? No way. Just typing that sentence makes my heart race.
I also learned from the book that most introverts get worn out after a day of stimulation and need to recharge after work or school before they can socialize further. I always wondered why I am exhausted at the end of the day when I sit behind a computer all day. It’s because my desk is in the center of the room where I have constant interruptions and interactions with staff and guests. It makes total sense now why I just want to go home and put my pajamas on and read a book instead of running errands where there will be crowds or going to a big event or social/happy hour. I have found a way to curb some of the exhaustion my day could bring by not eating in the kitchen with the rest of the staff. I have created a quiet space in an empty office with a comfortable chair where I can sit quietly and read. It’s where I “recharge” for the afternoon.
Now I’m sure all the extroverts are thinking ‘what is wrong with you? Why don’t you want to be more social?’ Of course they won’t get it. They like to be around people. I do enjoy my friends, but I like the intimate gatherings in my house or going to happy hour with one to two friends. What I don’t enjoy is when our office has an open house and I’m supposed to make small talk. I would rather go in the kitchen and clean then stand around and talk to strangers.
Introverts and extroverts need to understand each other in order to treat the other person within their comfort zone. For example, I have several extrovert friends and my husband is an extrovert. They like to karaoke and I like to watch them karaoke. One night, one of my extrovert friends decided to sign me up to sing without me knowing it. When they called my name I said no. She tried to get me on the stage. What did I do? I walked out of the bar and did not return. This is a good example of how an extrovert needs to respect an introvert and not put them into a situation they don’t want to be in. I was perfectly happy watching the extroverts with their fun, and it made me happy to sit in the back booth and sing along from there, while they enjoyed the spotlight. What the extrovert did, was damage our relationship by disrespecting my wishes. She KNEW I wasn’t comfortable with going up there and singing in front of people, yet she disregarded my wishes.
The book talks about how sometimes introverts need to fake being an extrovert to get through situations. I work at a Sports Commission where we host many events. Yes, when we have big events, I interact with thousands of people. I know what needs to be done and I do it. Do I like being around all those people? No. Do I enjoy the events? Yes. Am I exhausted after an event? You bet. Most times after an event, I spend the day so drained I feel like my iPhone when it’s on 4% battery life. After our marathon I usually go to bed and sleep for several hours.
Recently, I’ve been describing myself as a hermit. When I say this people look at me funny and laugh. Those have to be the extroverts. I have many weekends where I get home from work at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday and I don’t leave my house again until 8 a.m. on Monday. That’s right I DON’T LEAVE THE HOUSE FOR TWO DAYS. No, I’m not a recluse, although I could be considered one. I just like quiet space where I can read and watch TV and spend time with my family. I don’t need to be out in crowds to get my enjoyment. In fact, being on a private island with access to Netflix, books, fresh food and a hammock sounds like heaven to me. I don’t even care if anyone is on the island with me, just give me a quiet location and I will be happy. Yes, that truly would be my happy place.
Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Take the unofficial quiz below and answer the questions with either true or false. The more true you have the more introverted you are. The more false the more extroverted you are. I answered 17 of the 20 questions with true, that is how introverted I am:
- I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities.
- I often prefer to express myself in writing.
- I enjoy solitude.
- I seem to care less than my peers about wealth, fame, and status.
- I dislike small talk, but I enjoy talking in depth about topics that matter to me.
- People tell me that I’m a good listener.
- I’m not a big risk-taker.
- I enjoy work that allows me to “dive in” with few interruptions.
- I like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale, with only one or two close friends or family members.
- People describe me as “soft-spoken” or “mellow.”
- I prefer not to show or discuss my work with others until it’s finished.
- I dislike conflict.
- I do my best work on my own.
- I tend to think before I speak.
- I feel drained after being out and about, even if I’ve enjoyed myself.
- I often let calls go through to voice mail.
- If I had to choose, I’d prefer a weekend with absolutely nothing to do to one with too many things scheduled.
- I don’t enjoy multitasking.
- I can concentrate easily.
- In classroom situations, I prefer lectures to seminars.