The holidays are upon us. A time to get together with friends and family to eat unhealthy food products, reminisce about times spent together, and hopefully avoid talking about politics or religion. I like to get together with people, but there are times when it holds no appeal whatsoever for me. So when does a gathering transform itself from being something I look forward too into something I dread?
After reaching The Tipping Point.
As an introvert, there is a tipping point I must always try and be aware of. It is the precipice reached while being around others when my patience begins to wane and I get the creeping desire to retreat back into my shell as soon as possible. This tipping point functions in two different scenarios, either of which can send me over the edge. The first one involves the amount of time and/or social interaction I can partake in before I need a break. The other scenario is related to how many people I can stand to be around at any one time and still expect to feel comfortable and enjoy myself.
Once falling over the edge of the tipping point, my politeness begins to recede, the smiles come less freely, and my attention begins to drift off to far flung places. There is a physical weariness as well. I can run a marathon and feel energized and enthusiastic, but put me in a situation where I have to make small talk for multiple hours and I can feel utterly spent.
The amount of time I can spend engaged with any one person or group of people varies greatly. Some people I can be around for days and still feel ok, while others take it out of me within a matter of minutes. It’s all about the level of engagement. I don’t want to listen to someone who opens their mouth and away they go down whatever circuitous paths their mind might be wandering along. I’ve already got to listen to my own never ending discombobulated brain dump and that is exhausting enough! I also tire of hearing about the minutia of someone’s day. What they ate for breakfast, who said what to so and so, etc. I think to myself “Does this story have any point at all?”. I know, some people need to verbally process. I do too sometimes, but not about my breakfast.
Each social event has its own tipping point. After the attendance at an event surpasses a certain number, I no longer look forward to going and instead begin to view the occasion as a chore. I think this number might be two, myself included. Just kidding. Between eight and ten persons is a good number, depending on the individuals of course. Some people count for more than one. Beyond that number, the gathering must naturally break up into smaller units in order to have any conversation that doesn’t feel like a support group meeting of some sort. As a larger group breaks up into smaller components, then I have to make decisions. Which sub-group should I go too? What should I talk about? If I just go sit in the corner and pick up a magazine, how rude will everyone think me?
Lucky for me, over the years I have developed a strong introvadar. With it I can generally pick out the other introverts in the room. This is not hard and I’m sure you can find them too. We are either hiding in a corner of the room somewhere, hanging out by the food with our mouth full so we won’t be expected to talk, or we’re outside where it is quieter. Once another introvert is spotted, I move towards them as quickly as possible, hoping as I cross the room that I don’t get stopped by an extrovert who needs an ear.
Contrary to what one might expect, introverts are great conversationalists. Why? Because we do not enjoy small talk and consider it a waste of valuable energy that could better be spent staring off into space. When we do talk, we like to have conversations about the things that keep us up at night, about the things that truly excite us, and about how annoying and tiring all the extroverts in our lives can be. Don’t get me wrong, we love extroverts and we need them. They can be quite entertaining and they fill up awkward silences very well, though for an introvert, there is really no such thing as an awkward silence. This term was clearly penned by an extrovert. Silence is a beautiful thing, even in a room full of people. For introverts, silence provides the space for life to breath, to notice the things of beauty all around us, and to appreciate all the wonderful people in our life. Even the extroverts.
This post was influenced and inspired by Caring for Your Introvert