Thursday, September 10, 2015

More To Say On Introversion

*gulp* It's getting tight in here. Halp!!!

At the very tail end of 2014, I wrote this blog entry describing why "I am the way I am." Among other things, I took the time in said entry to go on about this idea of introversion. About how it's not the absence of social skill, nor is it the fear of interaction. But in fact, an introvert is someone who feels drained of energy when interacting with large groups of people in a social setting. Particularly if those people are not close loved ones or friends.

I've been thinking about that blog entry a lot because of a recent experience I had over the 3-day holiday weekend. While attending a BBQ/cookout being thrown by my sweetheart's parents at her childhood home this Labor Day, a bunch of us started debating the latest big-issue topics of the day. Stuff like Transgenderism, Black Lives Matter, the Kardashians ... and other very important subjects. Now, I must preface all that I'm about to say by first revealing that these people are all close to me. They're like my second family, and I've known them for going on two decades now.

I mention this just so you know how important this detail is to someone like me. For had they been all strangers, or even co-workers, I would have run fast for the hills the minute even a whiff of these topics became apparent to me. As a rule, I know better than to engage people I barely know on the topic of politics, religion, or race relations. I usually clamp shut and then excuse myself at the first opening that presents itself. And if you happen to press me for an opinion before I can make said escape, I quickly resort to canned, flippant remarks that are easy to digest and does not commit me to any one side or another. I'm very good at this, in fact. And it's a sure sign I don't want to engage when I'm being joking or sarcastic.

I'm ninja at escaping parties!

But, anyway, going back to the discussion me and around four other adults were having ... one of them decided to call me out for not contributing. This invariably happens every time we all meet up: they talk, and I listen. Hey, I can't help it: it's my natural state to revert to! But I feel that not everyone understands this about me. My sweetheart does, but no one else at this gathering really *got* this about me. So the perception was that I must be too timid or shy to butt into the conversation and interject my own feelings into the mix.


Oh, you foolish summer children. How little you understand!

I already mentioned it above, but I'll reiterate again: it's my default setting to simply listen in on conversations. I do it so automatically that I don't even know I'm doing it most the time. And while I'm listening, it doesn't even once occur to me to offer up my own thoughts on a subject.

Now, why do you think that is? Do you, like most people, assume that it is because I'm afraid? Does it appear that I think so little of myself that I assume my opinions are not important? Holy SHIT! You couldn't be further from the truth!

Here's the deal: I remain silent simply because I *like* keeping my thoughts to myself. They are private for a reason. I don't want people getting into my head unless I'm very intimate with them. Even my own family members don't get the privilege of hearing exactly what goes on in my mind. To be honest, only people I'm extremely connected with either on a mental or physical level (or both) get to see this part of me. These people include my two best friends whom I've known since childhood, my ex wife (once upon a time), and my current sweetheart ... whom I consider my best friend of all!

Why should this be, you might be asking? Simple, really. I just happen to be intensely private. I'm generally low key and calm of temperament. In fact, I'm probably the most unassuming, relaxed person I know. It's a state of being I come by quite naturally, and I've been this way even since I was a baby I've been told. So I'm quite sure I was born this way. And one of the ways I maintain this constant low stress zone is by employing the trick of letting everyone else around me speak themselves silly while I relax in the background and soak it all in. I soak in so much that I quite literally forget to speak myself, that's how absorbed I am in the conversation! It never occurs to me to contribute, because I simply don't care to rise to the bait. It's not a need of mine when in a social gathering. In fact, insomuch as I do contribute anything to a group conversation, it's simply as a means to be social and "play nice" with others.

Add to this, also, the fact that I usually wait very late into a conversation to add anything of my own. This is because I'm extremely meticulous and thorough in most everything I do, and the one way this manifests itself during debate is to first gather all the clues and opinions of those around me so that I ken the grift of the conversation -- which way the wind is blowing, so to speak. And in this matter I ensure that, when I do eventually speak, it's with all the facts gathered into my possession first. Of course, what usually ends up happening is that by the time I reach this point the topic has changed. And so I have to wait all over again until I hear everyone else out first.

In retrospect, this sort of behavior could be quite off-putting to others sitting around me. I would hazard to say it might even strike some as annoying! Oops. Hey, it's just the way I am.

Now ... back to the barbecue and the conversation that was raging around me. So this one person calls me out for not contributing, and pretty much demand that I let it be known how I felt on the subject currently under discussion. And so I decided to give it. But before I could, others in the group shouted over me to voice their own opinions. And when that happened, I immediately stopped and waited. It's what I do. When others start getting loud and boisterous, my instinct is to freeze and wait them out. Why? Because past experience has taught me that you only make a fool of yourself if you try to talk over other people talking over you. It ends up looking like a shouting match, and that's just a damn waste of energy if you ask me!

What this girl is thinking is my Shangri-la.

So I waited. Twice more when the noise level died down I tried to resume what I was saying, only to have the same offenders do it again. Seems rude, doesn't it? Well it would to me, too, except that these were close friends of mine. Like family, even, remember? And in that case, I don't mind. Plus, I'm far from one to shout other people down into submission. That is simply not who I am. I'm not rash like that.

I mean, what do you expect me to do? Jump up, shout and holler, and demand that I be heard? Pffft! You have a better chance of convincing a Republican that systematic and widespread oppression still does exist in this country despite the abolishing of slavery 150 years ago. (see what I did there?)

Anyway, I waited a second time until the flurry of pontificating died down. Then the original moderator insisted that I say my peace at last, and so I did. It was no big deal. I said what I had to say, engaged in a little back and forth to affirm my position, then said no more. But it strikes me as odd that this would mark me as shy, which is the feeling I got from this group.

Shy? Shyness had nothing to do with it, good people. I'm an introvert, don't you get it? And forcing me to be more than what I am is just folly on your part. I think this attitude must drive extroverts crazy, because they just have to find some other way of spinning this natural state of mine. Like the shaming of naturally skinny girls I mentioned in my previous blog entry, these people just can't accept that this is *my* natural state. They feel the need to assign some other impetus toward this apparent aberrant behavior. And I suppose convincing oneself that I'm shy rather than noncommittal is easier to accept, isn't it?

Typically me at a party.

Still, at the end of the day it was all a friendly family gathering. Not one of these people were monsters, nor were they being mean toward me. It's just that they are loud, fiery debaters and ... I'm so not. I hold my cards close to my chest, and when I do play them, it's not to dominate a conversation, but to let you in behind my barriers. So you can see, viewed that way, why I don't engage very often. The barriers only get dropped around those I'm most intimate with. I.e., those I trust the most.

But not everyone feels this way. If you would like to tell me how it is you approach social gatherings where debating of the hot-button topics is going on, do so in the comments below. Do you consider yourself an extrovert, or an introvert? I would love to know!

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