Not Cease from Exploration

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Welcome to Introvert Hell (population 1, thankfully)

(from THIS page)

We all, each and every one of us, have our "crosses to bear" (as was often said in my youth), and I readily accept that mine are far from that heavy.  That noted, there are times when I'm truly, utterly and completely mentally exhausted.  Mostly those are caused by self-inflicted wounds.

For example, why on Earth would I ever choose for a career a job that, given my desire to not call all that much attention to myself, regularly requires me to stand in front of large group of people and talk?  Heck, sometimes I do it even outside of my day job.  For example, during a recent company "town hall" meeting there was an audience question and answer period with our senior leaders.  It was clear that, outside of the lone question already asked, no one else was going to speak up.  What's my reaction?  Why to stand up and ask a question.  Bingo, a room full of people (plus hundreds more on video feed, mind you, and I'm not going even count the replays) are now looking at me.  Granted, I think it was a decent question, but just as I handed over the microphone and sat down, a quick check my heart rate yielded a reading of 110. If I were exercising that would be a good number.

Now part of my motivation in asking the above question was to avoid our senior leaders having to seemly beg for audience questions.  I don't like it when I am in that position and if I can help someone else who is, well I file that under the category of "professional courtesy".  The other part?  Well I was genuinely interested in the answer.

I don't get anywhere near a rush from standing up and being looked at by large group of folks, regardless of the setting or reason.  Town Halls or classes I teach or meetings I facilitate.  None of it.  In fact, if I were to actually ponder it all that much before standing up, I'd probably not actually do it in the first place.  Regardless of what "it" happens to be at any given moment.  However it's my job...it's what I do.

People are sometimes surprised, at least when they see me work, that I am an introvert.  The situation reminds me of a scene from one of Star Trek movies...


Female Character to Captain Kirk:  You must be some kind of space man or something.
Captain Kirk:  No, I'm from Iowa; I only work in space.

I'm fine working in front of others, but as noted above it takes a toll in that I'm often exhausted after any kind of large engagement.  Years ago I actually had a truly introverted kind of job, working in accounting.  I really didn't like it.  I like numbers, but the job lacked any kind of edge for me.  Truth be told, I like being challenged, even when I find it terrifying and exhausting.

Oh, and what's worse than being looked at by large numbers of people?  That would be work-related social functions.  I accept these as important element of team cohesion, but they make me very uncomfortable.  It's easier for me to ask a question to a group of senior leaders than it is for me to engage in small talk with colleagues over dinner.  It also feels like far more pressure.  When I'm teaching or facilitating I have some measure of control; with small talk it's like the wild west of communication:  I don't know where things go and I'm unsure of my part.  It's all so random and unpredictable.  If such things were graded, I'd get a solid D- in the art of reading social clues, which is another reason why small talk is so vexing for me.

Welcome to my world.

I do have a strategy for dealing with work social functions though:  Find another introvert and then introvert together.

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