If you are to be a human being in this world — excluding those monks and mystics who go live in a cave alone for their whole lives — then you have learned to act.
Acting is part of the normal social fabric. So is lying, actually.
“Hey, how ya doin’?”
“Great, just GREAT.”
How many times have you been through that short conversation? Not REALLY doing great, but not willing to get into your problems with someone you don’t really know well… or maybe not wanting to be a “downer” in casual conversation.
So we act, and we lie. It is so much easier, keeps relationships simple, and gets us through life without too many heart-to-heart talks with the world.
I’m not being critical of this, because I do it all the time, and without any guilt. It’s almost necessary. For an introvert, it is REALLY necessary. We just don’t wear our hearts on our sleeves. Our hearts are wrapped up inside and we are analyzing them ALL THE TIME!
I have lots of stories of acting my way through situations over and above the simple “Hi how are ya?” interaction. Over time, I may share a lot of them.
But just so we are clear — we all do it, don’t we? It’s our ability to act that keeps a smooth society going, and makes sure that when we REALLY need to dump the truth out, it stands out and is listened to.
If I hear the word “networking” one more time I think I’ll scream.
It’s the activity de rigueur for those young, up-and-coming career climbers who need other people to help them achieve success. Too bad I’m not in that category. My worries about climbing disappeared many years ago. I’m happy with a nice, steady, smooth career with occasional moments of sheer joy or sheer panic.
So you’re invited to a cocktail party or educational seminar. You really don’t want to go, since it means you will actually have to TALK to people. Not just talk to people, but come up with topics to talk about on the fly, with people you have never met before. And keep the conversation going past the first Uh-huh.
You don’t know these people, and who knows? They may be Jack the Ripper, or an alt-right devotee. Or a beautiful woman who thinks the color of your hair and what you wear is something really important. What do you say??
OH, but it is a great NETWORKING OPPORTUNITY!!!, everyone says. You will get to know people who a. Can do you a favor in your business, or b. Can do you a favor in your personal life, or c. Have lots of money, or d. Have lots of power.
Looking at that list above makes me feel like a bottom-feeding fish waiting for the big fish above to drop something out of their mouth. Ugh!
But I usually go anyway, take a deep breath as I enter the room, scan the faces for someone I might already know (regardless of their “value” to my business or their net worth), and park myself next to them, chatting about the weather, or how their job has been going. My smile feels frozen.
The dictionary defines networking as “.. a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.”
Who in this crowd has a common interest? We’re a sea of random unique people thrown into a room. (Unless it’s a convention of Trekkies, of course)
OK– now for the overdue admission of TRUTH: At many networking events I have attended, I actually do meet interesting people who have a connection to my life. They are often the ones who are willing to sit down at a table, or stand in the corner and talk one-on-one, and obviously aren’t worrying about networking. Their eyes don’t scan the crowd looking for someone with money, or power, or business connections. They just want to have a quiet drink and talk (or not talk!) about things that matter to them.
So I continue to attend these events, and force myself to do the initial struggle of looking for those quiet people who, like myself, want to find a corner to share their work, their dreams, and their challenges. That connection can be priceless.
I was thinking the other day about my good friends, whom I appreciate so much! And then… (that “voice in my head” asked…) Why are those particular people my friends, and the many other people I’ve met NOT my friends?
I like most of the people I meet, but that doesn’t put them my friend category. My friend list is short but selective.
So I started wondering…. was there something my friends have in common? Do I pick people who are just like me? Or do I pick people who are DIFFERENT from me… to get balance?
Or maybe I don’t pick my friends, they pick me.? (Who would pick me? And why?)
Or — the third explanation — there is no “picking of friends” at all; just random circumstances that throw us together and somehow we stick.
Friends are like sticky notes you walk around with in your life, attached to your body everywhere you go.
I haven’t answered this question of how friends become friends. But I do know that mine come in all sizes, all ages, all temperaments, all income levels, all degrees of extro-vertedness and intro-vertedness. I do know that the “horse-theme” runs through many of their lives, giving us something very significant in common. But I have two very good friends who have never owned a horse in their lives. And never wanted to and never plan to. Go figure.
The final question is: Do introverts need friends at all?
YES, YES and YES!
To justify friendship in purely selfish terms, my friends get my brain off of myself and my problems. They remind me that other people have lives, have problems, view the world in different ways, and are joyous even when I am down. Ot they are down when I have had a great day. Their presence invades my brain like a wave of water, and re-directs my thoughts to “the other” rather than just ME ME ME.
Do you find yourself talking to yourself – inside your head – with a constant chatter that is almost impossible to stop?
Brain scientists tell us that our right cortex is for intuition, emotions, visual cues… and that our left cortex is our language center. This is where we form thoughts, our sense of identity, and our ego. This is also the place that sends out that ever-constant “voice in my head”.
We all have that voice inside – it tells us what we SHOULD HAVE done, what our task list is, who we need to call or email, how to deal with that unpleasant person. It talks and talks and talks. And no matter how much you try, it won’t shut up!
Both extroverts and introverts have this annoying voice inside their heads — the difference is I think us introverts actually LISTEN to it and BELIEVE it — at least part of the time. After all, we are our best friend. And we spend so much time with ourselves.
What I have noticed is that my brain — unless I am TOTALLY focused on one project — is pretty much out of control. It runs around from idea to idea, sometimes seemingly random, other times strings of things that relate to each other… but it ends up somewhere totally different from where it started.
Here’s a good exercise. Try for one hour to write down every thought that is running around in your head. I think it’s impossible. But give it a shot.
I tried but realized I was so much into listening to the voice that I couldn’t take the time to write it all down. It would remind me to go do something, or to call someone — which I would then do, leaving my “Brain notes” behind. I think I am starting to understand the true purpose of meditation — to get control over that wild brain.
But introverts like myself… reveal our true natures by going into the closet.
In the closet we can hide from the world, and keep company with the best company there is: ourselves!
I looked the word ‘introvert” up in a Thesaurus and found that many synonyms for “introvert” are NEGATIVE: Like
Hm. But I’m not any of these… am I? The thesaurus must be wrong — it has to be. Because I just don’t want to be a narcissist, egotist or — worst of all — a WALLFLOWER!
It took me about 50 years of living to really discover (admit?) that I’m an introvert. Up until that point, I considered myself just naive, socially awkward, shy (that may still be true..) or perhaps just unfriendly.
I don’t talk to checkout people at the grocery store. I really have to suck it up to call someone I don’t know, and sound calm and natural. Just a few examples of daily life that you too may experience.
If you too exhibit these symptoms, one book you really must read is QUIET REVOLUTION, by Susan Cain.
In the meantime, share your experiences as I share mine on this blog, so Introverts can unite and prove that we are not just wallflowers.