I’ve been described as: open, accommodating, smart, trustworthy, loving, funny, quietly headstrong, badass. I guess none of that is wrong.
I’m also socially awkward, lousy at small talk, and I have absolutely no desire to randomly ‚meet new people‘. Mind you, I do meet people all the time, through my work, both community (read school) work and actual work for $$. But quite a number of my clients have never seen me in person, although we do communicate a lot via Email and phone. I often prefer this to regular RL meetings; it gets the job done without me having to get snazzed up (f… the heels!), and having meaningless conversations with strangers.
After five decades of being me, I can say it without a shadow of a doubt: I am an introvert. I’m one of those people who can talk to a person they find interesting for hours but will freeze up when expected to work a room. I don’t mingle. In that type of situation, I will either single out a person I already know and go talk to them, or I’ll wait until someone walks up to me and starts a conversation. I may end up talking to them, or I may end up excusing myself to the restroom where one look in the mirror will show me what I already know in my heart: I am, once again, in the wrong place.
In our society, being like this is largely considered a handicap. You’re supposed to be outgoing, enthusiastic and energetic. The business world is full of coaches who work with the unfortunate fucks who find themselves lacking in this department. For introverts, the pressure can get very real – I should know, I was in advertising for a decade. For some, ‚fake it til you make it‘ can work just fine, another famous catch-phrase being to ’step out of one’s comfort zone‘. The latter can get physically dangerous for people like me. I’ve literally given myself migraine attacks doing it. This might be worth while if I go home with a number of well-paid assignments (or like in the ad agency days with a cool campaign sold). Either way, the price is steep. After a while, pretending to be someone you’re not can become overwhelming, to the point of people developing burn-out syndrome or depression.
My personal survival strategy, work-wise, has been to piece by piece eliminate such triggers and stress factors. I avoid social gatherings, but rather meet people I want to talk to individually. I work from home. Translations keep me busy for weeks at a time, and I don’t even have to go see anybody for a kick-off meeting, because all that is required is to open an Email attachment, buckle down and start doing my thing. To navigate the business world, I’d need an agent, and I’m not kidding. I am lucky, and I know it.
So what brought this on? It was a post by B., an esteemed colleague I ‚know-not-really-know-in-person‘, who recently wrote this in a forum I’ve been a member of for ten years:
„Events like these (meaning convention-type gatherings) can get very stressful and exhausting for introverts. I personally need a couple days to recover afterwards, every time. It’s in the nature of these gatherings that you’re required to have conversations with a number of people, for shorter or longer periods at a time. I personally find a series of brief conversations exhausting and unnecessary. Longer conversations, on the other hand, can get just as tricky for introverts. If I talk to someone at greater length, this is always for a reason. It’s not simply to pass the time, or to spend a fun night, or to bridge the gap between workshops. I enjoy longer conversations with people I truly connect with, because I’d really like to get to know them, and because I can picture having a meaningful (business) relationship with them.
If I happen upon an extrovert who simply enjoys chatting away, with absolutely no intention to deepen the contact later on, it can be next to impossible for me to discern the difference. If my counterpart seems nice and interesting, I will play along, investing a great deal of attention and energy in our conversation – only to learn that the other person will after a while barely even remember what we talked about, let alone be interested in further contact, because all they were doing was be friendly and pass the time. Even a well-meaning XYZ convention can make these two worlds collide, worlds that may miss each other’s purposes by miles and miles. And this can get too much for an introvert.“
Reading these two insightful paragraphs, I felt understood in a way I don’t experience very often, and I ended up replying not in the forum but via PM. She wrote back, I wrote back again, and here I am blogging about it. That’s exactly what I’m talking about :-).
Connection as opposed to contact all the way!
In her post, B. was asking about networking ideas for introverts – so if any of you have any light to shed on this practical aspect of the matter, by all means, let’s hear about them!
That was a huge amount of words, sorry not sorry 😉 – you guys know you’re reading at your own peril.
Want to see some pics from last week (that I was supposed to have off but in the end didn’t really?) Here we go:
My crazy ass teenager walking out on the frozen lake after doing the even more insane ice bath thing with his sweet friend L.
I also had an idea for a sweater, inspired by Finnish crafts artist Tuija Heikkinen, check out her IG, she’s amazing! I have a huge stash of the fluffiest black Mohair yarn, some mustard yellow because I couldn’t resist, and some gorgeous off white baby Aplaca … so there:
As you can see, it was approved by her Majesty:
And that is all I have to say for today (thank God, some might think, after this essay :-)…
Have a lovely weekend, everyone!