Have you ever heard the story about the friendly introvert?

I am definitely an introvert. No doubt about it. After spending many hours with people, I need to retreat, to be alone, to be quiet. If I do not get enough alone time in a day, I wind up hopelessly depleted.

My introversion is a fact and so, in my mind, incontrovertible. But then there is the story that I tell myself and others, the story of how awkward and socially inept I am. I tell this story because in my low moments I wholeheartedly believe it to be true. But also, I tell this story because it lets me off the hook to some degree. It enables me to hide, however feebly, behind the mantle of "awkward."

The revelation? That story is just that: a story, one that is not necessary based on fact, one that is not incontrovertible.

This fall, after campaigning for a political candidate (door to door and on the phone) and going to The Blathering to hang out with a whole bunch of people I've never met, I realized something major: being introverted doesn't mean I can't be friendly. It means I may have to work a little harder at it, and I certainly should rest afterwards (preferably with chocolate rewards for good behavior), but I can do it.

Maybe it means I need to make the conscious choice to do it, even more than other people. Because I don't instinctively seek out opportunities to chat, I can get lonely and isolated. Because I fear I will say the wrong thing, I often say nothing and feel excluded.

Though introversion does not have to equal awkward, I do think they are linked. A big part of what's draining about being in with other people is my own insecurities. I spend so much mental energy worried about the lameness of my social skills that I lose the opportunity to enjoy my companions' company. I've been noticing that when I make an effort to smile and be friendly, right from the start, the whole interaction feels that much more smooth.

This is counter-intuitive. I will require a lot more practice, of the fake-it-till-you-make-it variety.
Since this fall's forced meeting of new people, I've found myself a little more practiced at being friendly. At church, I've been a little more likely to walk up to someone and initiate a conversation.  When I see someone an acquaintance a school function or around town, I've found myself smiling and saying hello and chatting like a.... like a....  like an extrovert?

No, like a friendly introvert.


Hillary said...

I'm telling you, this is roughly 90 percent of the journalists I know. It's more common than you think

Marie Green said...

Ok, so here's the thing: I would have NEVER KNOWN you were an introvert! Never! Though I've had this problem before, with introverts revealing their introverted-ness to me after I've known them forever and had NO IDEA. So I think it's partly because *I'm* not introverted (in fact, I'm extremely extroverted), so introverts... talk to me easily? Or? I'm not sure, but I notice MANY THINGS about people, but seem to miss this detail often.

(I probably totally depleted you in NOLA! HA! Sorry!)

Anyway, I found you to be SUPER friendly and easy to talk to. And you tell the best, most animated stories. And I didn't think you were awkward at all, and I saw you meet a TON of new people. :)

Michelle said...

Yes to all of this. I find if I mentally prepare myself to be outgoing, to be friendly, to be around other people, I can do it. A lot of it is just throwing away my expectations of myself and others and also realizing that I'm not the only one feeling a bit awkward.

But yes, I do need some alone time after to decompress.

Pamela Hunt Cloyd said...

I love this! I remember when I first had the revelation too that I could "fake" it. I think that it makes life a bit harder for us, but we are also a bit more sensitive too and appreciate the subtle things ... or at least that's what I tell myself!!!

Anonymous said...

This is why I can hang out with you: You can smile and say "hi" and meet everyone and I'll just hide behind you and pretend I met them too.

Jessica said...

I’m also much more comfortable going up to people and talking after the Blathering. Not after the first time I went (go you!) but having gone a few years now I’ve gotten a lot of practice talking to new people. (Except you sort of know them! Which makes it easier to practice!)

Alice said...

i'd just like to note that, as a super-extrovert, i am also extremely awkward because i do NOT ever stop and think "gosh, should i tell these strangers this inappropriate and embarrassing story about myself?" and as a result tell terribly inappropriate and awkward stories to strangers A LOT. however, i do have the good fortune of not finding it draining when i do that so that's nice i suppose :)

Laura Diniwilk said...

So interesting, I would have never pegged you as an introvert! I think I am moving away from being an extrovert as I get older, so maybe I am also in friendly introvert territory? The Blathering was so weird for me because on the one hand I kept feeling like I wasn't meeting enough people and like I was missing the party, but then when I was in a literal party it was crazy draining and loud and I wanted to just curl up and take a nap. I still score as an extrovert on all personality tests. Maybe I'm just a really bad extrovert.

Anonymous said...

Like everyone else, I would not have guessed. BUT! I TOTALLY get this. People are always surprised that I too think I'm introverted and awkward (seriously, you have NO idea how much time I spend on my couch), but I feel like I put SO MANY CLUES OUT THERE. I think I talk SO much that people think I MUST LOVE TALKING, except I talk so much because I am TERRIFIED. OH MY GOSH, EVERYONE IS LOOKING AT ME, MUST TALK MORE. (I'm a mess. I mean this lovingly, although truthfully about myself.)

I like your friendly introvertedness. :)

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