I’ve returned from holiday and am slowly getting back to normal. I had a great time, very relaxing, and in due course I might share some pictures.
Today, I’m musing about introversion. It’s something I’m very interested in, as I identify as an introvert. It’s only more recently that I’ve begun to celebrate the fact that I’m an introvert, rather than look on it as something I need to train myself out of. It certainly feels like modern Western society is designed for the extrovert. We’re told to push ourselves forwards, to be sociable, and to make ourselves heard from a very early age. And yet for me, this goes against my nature. I hate being in a room full of people and having to introduce myself to someone I don’t know. This extrovert way of thinking penetrates all parts of our lives – family, work, friends, even things like church, which is an important part of my life, but can often feel very draining.
And that for me is the key definition of an introvert. Not a shy person, or an antisocial person, but someone who is drained by social interaction. An extrovert is someone who uses social interaction to recharge – a completely foreign concept to me.
It also took me a while to separate introversion from shyness or anxiety. When I was younger, I did find social interaction nerve wracking and experienced shyness, mild terror, sweating palms etc, when in social situations (generally more formal ones). These days, I’m not scared of interaction in the same way, I just choose to avoid it because it’s not something I enjoy. I get terribly frustrated by small talk. It seems that it takes such a long time to progress a relationship to the stage where you can talk about more meaningful things, and yet without that small talk introduction, you would never reach that stage. I mean, one can always talk about the weather here in England, but I get tired of repeating the same old phrases. “Ooh, bit nippy this morning, wasn’t it?”
I enjoy the way that interaction on the internet often manages to miss out that rather tedious stage of talk. It’s fair game on social media or forums to jump in and have an in-depth conversation with someone you don’t know or barely know. Internet conversations often relate to specific topics, and yes, I’m thinking of writing here, but it’s a far pleasanter way to further relationships with people, in my opinion, than swapping banalities about the weather.
From a conversation I had with someone else recently, they mentioned that they can interact better with strangers or acquaintances in a social setting than they can with life-long family or friends. They said it’s easier to put on a persona to enable social interaction with people they don’t know as well. Putting on a persona doesn’t necessarily mean not being yourself, but it can be a way to project yourself whilst putting a mental layer between yourself and who you’re talking to. I suppose it’s something I tend to do at work. I have a ‘phone voice’ which I use regularly. I hate talking on the phone, but I have to do it at work, so I just pretend I’m a nice, chirpy person to get the job done. Then I can go back to being grumpy!
I think in this extrovert-geared world, it is necessary to come up with coping mechanisms if you are not that way inclined. Limit your social calendar. If people press you to attend things, have some decent excuses ready. Don’t feel bad at saying no to social interaction. Carry a book with you all the time, so you can ‘escape’ inside it if there are no other options.
Finally, if you’re interested, I read a great book on this subject: Quiet by Susan Cain, The power of introverts in a world that won’t stop talking. Very interesting read.