I am a fan of Amy Dickinson’s column and a recent piece caught my attention. As a professional keynote speaker and an author on all things small talk and big talk and communicating effectively in the world, people are often surprised to learn that I was – am – actually an introvert.
Somehow the word ‘introvert’ equates to ‘freaky hermit-like creature who lives in the dark knitting sweaters for a cat’ when in fact an introvert is simply someone who doesn’t love non-stop activity, long conversations and constant noise.
This, of course, is not the actual definition of an introvert, but my own take on it. Some people get energized by spending time with others while some feel a bit worn out by the same activity. Being an introvert isn’t right or wrong. It just is.
Dickinson understands this – read her take on it below:
Dear Amy: I’m a woman in my late 20s. I’ve only recently realized that I’m an introverted person.
This is what it feels like to be me: We all have a certain amount of battery in reserve for our social interactions and my battery happens to drain faster than other people.
Long chats or outings with friends leave me feeling exhausted and sometimes irritable.
I’ve discussed this with close friends and loved ones, but I haven’t figured out how to make this clear to acquaintances.
For example, my office mate is a person who can speak for very long periods of time, often with no natural gaps where I can jump in and comfortably excuse myself.
Do you have any tips for politely exiting a conversation when you’ve simply run out of the energy to participate?
— A Burgeoning Introvert
Dear Introvert: You seem to feel that being trapped with your motormouth office mate wouldn’t bother and deplete you so much if only you weren’t an introvert.
I think it’s possible that it’s not just you. The behavior might bother anyone.
If you are trapped with someone who doesn’t leave natural conversational gaps, you’ll have to say, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I’ve got to get back to this task. Maybe we can catch up after work today.”
I hope your office mate adjusts. Earbuds (if they are permissible) might help you to block out some distractions, as well as giving your office mate a visual cue that you are not currently available.
Also read the groundbreaking book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” by Susan Cain (2013, Broadway Books). The insight and recognition will help you to further understand and assert your own needs.
Feel better? Me too. Dickinson’s piece is a gentle reminder to those of us with the gift of gab to always be aware of people who might need a break; and a kind recognition of those of us who need a bit of solitude to succeed.