“I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
-Henry David Thoreau
I have been a “loner” — an introvert — for as long as I can remember. Some times, there is nothing better after a long day or week than going home and sitting there by yourself. I love doing this and am most definitely an introvert at heart.
Being an introvert can bother some people, especially those who are wanting to go out and party, meet new people, and do exciting things. I want to do those things too, but it is difficult. Even writing personal stories — like this one — can be difficult at times, because you share a little piece of yourself with whoever decides to read your work.
Just recently, I saw someone I knew at the grocery store and without thinking — immediately darted down an aisle to avoid talking to them. I am not sure why I did this, the guy I saw is friendly and I don’t mind talking to him. Maybe I just wasn’t in a mindset to talk to anyone that day? Who knows, but this happens frequently. Anyone who is an introvert can likely relate.
Being an introvert has at times made my life more difficult. Particularly in my job, because of course, I would work in customer service. My job, as a retail banker, requires me to meet new people and build a relationship with them. The bank gives you training and tools to help do this, but it is all about your personality and ability to talk to people.
Introverts Like “Real” Conversation
Recently, I read a story about why introverts are why they are — loners. The author said it’s not that introverts don’t like talking to people, they just don’t like shallow conversations. Wow. I felt that deeply.
“Everyone shines, given the right lighting.”
I started reflecting on many conversations I have had with my customers, especially new people I just met. Who do you think the customers were I connected with the most? Yes, the ones where we had a real conversation about life. I am not necessarily “worldly” and culturally fluent, but I can hold a conversation in a fairly wide array of topics, from:
I remember 3 conversations vividly.
One customer, a social worker, sat down in my office and we discussed local political issues from low income and how it impacts crime to gentrification issues in the city we reside in.
Another customer and I discussed immigration, he is an immigrant from India and has been living here for 5 years now. Side note: he is not sure if he ever wants to live in India again due to the opportunity and freedom we have in the United States.
The last customer and I talked about hunting. They own some land and enjoy hunting whitetail deer, as does my family and I. We swapped stories and just BS’d around for a while.
The question I ask myself now is, what makes this so different? How can I possibly be introverted if I can have these types of conversations with people I barely know?
A-ha. Just as the author said. Introverts like talking to and meeting new people, they just don’t like small talk. I can concur. I don’t want to talk to you about the weather or how your day is going — I will to be polite, but it’s not going to be a long conversation. If you want to talk to me about something real, something intriguing, or something that stretches the mind I am all for it.
Overcoming Your Introverted Tendencies
In today’s society, being an introvert is going to make your life more difficult than it needs to be. As they say “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” To get ahead and be more successful in your career or personal life, you need to meet people and build connections.
How can you do this if you are an introvert?
To become more outgoing, you need to focus on making personality and behavior changes. If working on changing your personality, you cannot just say you are going to be more outgoing, you need to select specific and actionable change. Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. proposes to “decide that on this particular day, you will make the effort to initiate an interaction with someone else whom you don’t know very well.”
By breaking down your goal into specific behaviors you are more likely to succeed at becoming more outgoing. When you focus on changing behavior, not personality as a whole, the problem becomes smaller and easier to manage.
Today, pick one action you can take to step outside of your comfort zone. Meet one new person or connect with an old friend — be the initiator. After you accomplish that, feel free to curl up on the couch or in your bed with a warm, fuzzy blanket and a book or Netflix.
Who are we kidding, it’s going to be the new Disney streaming package and you are going to watch a childhood favorite show. That sounds like a fun time! Mr. Feeny’s life lessons are timeless after all.