Friday, January 8, 2010

Zen-troversion

The ZenHusband and I take turns picking up the 5-year-old Minion from kindergarten. The other day, we were comparing notes and an interesting fact came up:

He has had several complete conversations with many of the other kindergarten parents waiting to pick up their kids.

I've never said so much as a word to any one of them.

That pretty much sums up one of the biggest differences between me and my husband:

He is an extrovert - a bonhomie for whom it is easy and natural to strike up a conversation with darn-near anyone.

And I am the introvert - I'm borderline anti-social when it comes to meeting new people. "Socializing" does not come naturally to me; and most social gatherings are just varying degrees of uncomfortable for me.

So much so that strangers and casual acquaintances have described me as unfriendly and even snobby. I don't think that's accurate. I like to think I'm actually quite a nice person, when you get to know me. :)

But I understand why I come off that way - I don't make it at all easy for people to know me.

Let me clarify here: I'm not shy. I'm introverted - two different things. "Shy" describes someone who avoids social interaction because of nervousness. Shy people want to interact, but they are anxious about it. Introverts are not nervous about social interaction - they just don't enjoy it.

In other words: A shy person is lonely. An introvert is just alone.

For me, there are some exceptions: With friends and close family, I can be very friendly and talkative - it can sometimes be hard to shut me up! At work, I'm never slow to speak up - in fact, formal and informal communication with all kinds of people is a key element of my job. A job that I happen to be pretty good at.

And yet, I'm the last person in the world who would strike up a casual conversation with a stranger. In fact, I'm more likely to be the person striding purposefully, headphones in my ears, avoiding eye contact with passersby.

Random chit-chat with strangers? Casual communication without purpose?

Meh. I'll pass.

I just don't have the inclination for "small talk" - it doesn't interest me. It feels forced and uncomfortable. It drains me. I'd really rather not do it.

That's where the (mis?)perception that I'm a snob comes from, I know. But it's true: If I'm not really motivated to get to know you for some reason, I'm not going to waste my time and energy - or yours - with idle conversation.

And then there's the internet ...

Where I bare my thoughts and ideas and opinions on a regular basis; where I engage perfect strangers in blog comments; where I strike up up random conversations on Twitter; where I trade jokes with Facebook friends.

For an anti-social person, I'm curiously entrenched in social media.

If you only "know" me online, I'd be curious to hear what your perception of my "socialness" is. Because I find it a lot more enjoyable to "talk" to people online than I do in person.

And I'm not sure why that is.

Why is it relatively easily for me to communicate with people online and yet I find personal engagement so uncomfortable? How can I have developed such strong bonds though a computer (and, yes, a few of my online friends have become very good IRL friends, too) ... and yet feel so completely removed from people I see every week - like the parents at my son's school?

Yeah, yeah, I know: It's not an unusual phenomenon. I gather there are many people like me - more comfortable conversing through a computer than face-to-face. There's probably even a name (and maybe even a pill, considering the state of things today) for it.

But, hey, this is my blog, I can naval-gaze if I want to. ;)

Whatever it is, I don't see it changing anytime soon. It seems like the older I get the less inclined I am to stretch outside my comfort zone and make the effort - and yes, for me it takes a great deal of effort - to "socialize" with new people.

And, you know, I'm really okay with that. As much as I love my darling, extroverted husband, I'm just not interested in sliding over to meet him on the extroversion-introversion scale - I'm not broken. I don't need fixing. 

Yes, I'm probably missing out on some interesting people in real life because of my (anti-)social quirks. But I'm pretty happy where I am - even if it is mostly in my own head.

So, I'll leave the socializing to The ZenHusband and he can leave the blogging to me. Maybe eventually he can introduce me to the other kindergarten moms.


What about you? Are you more introverted or extroverted? Is it easier for you to talk to people online then in person? Or am I just a weirdo? :)

17 comments:

David Edward said...

“I gather there are many people like me - more comfortable conversing through a computer than face-to-face”

You're certainly not alone, there are 3.5 million bloggers in the US (3 million in California) and 4.5 million in Britain - according to the statistics on the Google blog facility. Many people find it easier to express themselves in written posts.

I remember that 'pen friends' use to be popular where people would communicate through letters and build up very long term friendships, although they never met. Now it is done through the Internet. Nothing wrong in that.

It is interesting that your husband is an extrovert while you are an introvert. This attraction of opposites is well known, and can be very successful.

I've always found introverts to be quite 'deep' characters and thoughtful and understanding. I don't think you're a weirdo, as you put it.

“What about you? Are you more introverted or extroverted?”

Sometimes I’m one, sometimes I’m the other, it depends on my mood : )

WannabeVirginia W. said...

I was not always an introvert. I was sociable at one point but my job required that I talk to a lot of people on the phone and in person. At the end of the day I could no longer stand talking to another person or answer the phone. I still don't answer the phone.

My new year's resolution is to be sociable again. What I could be basically doing on line I can certainly do the same with actual live people. (Well maybe not everything I do on line).

Its funny though how a random person will easily strike up a conversation with me, which baffles my partner. Maybe because I seem approachable?

However, I cannot stand small talk (ice breakers). It seems like it is stating the obvious, such as the weather.

I suppose there is also a certain illusion of safety of bearing our thoughts on line. If we don't like someone's comment or blog, it is easier to delete it or move on.

Oops did I delete David's comment. Lol

stupid smart girl said...

:applause:

I am soo like you.

My husband is even more introverted, believe it or not.

There's a cultural belief that there is something wrong with introverts. We see extroverts on media all the time -- entertainers, politicians, entertainers -- people who love attention and interacting with other people. It's easy to forget that extroverts are in the minority by a long shot.

Another interesting little tidbit - introverts are accepting of extroverts and happy to let them do their thing, but extroverts think that there something wrong wtih introverts, that we need to lighten up, live a little, and can't believe that we're happy being alone.

Kind of funny and annoying at the same time.

ZenMom said...

"Another interesting little tidbit - introverts are accepting of extroverts and happy to let them do their thing, but extroverts think that there something wrong wtih introverts, that we need to lighten up, live a little, and can't believe that we're happy being alone."

Exactly! Couldn't have said it better myself.

Daddy Geek Boy said...

I'm not introverted or shy as much as I am socially awkward sometimes. If I can't remember your name, or how I know you, or if I should know you, I tend to just put my head in the sand. I think people might think I'm a jerk, though.

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

So what you are saying is there is nothing wrong with introverts!?

Wow I'm in shock ;)

I kid.

But I'm an extrovert in fact I find myself seeking out social situations almost like a drug!

Sunday said...

I am very much the same way. I can be social when need be but I prefer to hang back from the crowd and not put myself out there.

Chief said...

Interesting... you point out things I haven't thought about.

I consider myself an extrovert, yet I fall into the introvert category if you use the criteria you pointed out above.

I don't want to talk to strange people... I try not to make eye contact. I don't tell people their out fit is cute unless I know them really well.

on the other hand.

you get me in a situation where I am comfortable with the majority of the group or in a room with a few friends and I am the resident extrovert who livens things up.

Anjeny said...

ZenMom..you are definitely NOT a weirdo. I tend to be both depending on the mood and place. I don't know, I just feel like trying to strike up a conversation with a stranger is very taxing, u know.

I left my social butterfly, full-on extroverted self the minute I stepped out of my teen..LOL..I guess it was a good thing I've met and made a lot of friends back then so now I can just keep reverting back to them if I ever need a social stimulation..lol.

ComfyMom~Stacey said...

I'm introverted now, but I used to be shy. Then I became comfortable with myself. I'm lousy at making small talk but I am a champion listener. I know a great deal about several people who's first names I cannot recall, if I was ever told them when we met. They know I can say "no, really?" with deep sincerity but very little else about me. I don't think I manage to say half a dozen words to the other parents at the boys TKD classes but I hear all about their lives. It's very strange actually.
I'm far more social online. I will walk right up and chat with people as it were, on forums and blogs and I'd never ever do that in public.

SciFi Dad said...

On the subject of social situations, I leave nothing but a path of destruction in my wake. Remember - "SciFi Dad is really mean."

ZenMom said...

DGB: I know you will find this hard t"socially awkward" before, too. for the same same reason. Shocking, I know!

Shelle: The idea of intentionally seeking out social situations - especially with strangers! - make me *shudder*. I'd rather curl up with a good book or a a movie or a game.

sunday: I think there are more of us out there than you think.

Chief: My husband says I'm more of a situational introvert because in a small group of close friends of family, I can talk your ear off and lead the party games. But those are the exceptions.

Anjeny: Hmmm. Thinking back, I honestly don't think I was any more "outgoing" in high school or college than now. Maybe just a smidgen. Hmmm. Something to think about.

Stacey: I get that. I think the number of people who actually "know" me is quite small.

SFD: Oh, hush. You know you're just a big teddy bear under it all. ;P

LoJo said...

Wow. Did someone change my name to ZenMom and write this post without my knowing it? You have described me.
I also find that as I got older, I became "more" introverted, or rather stopped fighting it and started voicing my desire to be left alone. I don't even like answering the phone. Not that I fear talking on the phone, I just don't care to interact. I'd prefer to stay home on a Friday night and read a book than go to friends' and play cards. Yet, at work I'm a talker. I do enjoy my friends. I'd just rather be alone. I call it becoming a hermit. I also don't like having commitments; don't like knowing I have something I have to do at a certain time or some place I have to be.
My kids make fun of me and at some level appear to be concerned. They're actually shocked if I do engage in conversation with a parent of their friend, or go to a party. I joke "I totally socialized. I even told Knock-Knock jokes!".

Jessica Stier said...

I can so relate! I am not shy. I don't have any problem or anxiety being in a social situation or even in front of people on a stage or giving a seminar. I just have a really hard time going from small talk to anything meaningful. It's good to know I'm not alone! :)

Southern Sage said...

I am 'zactly the same.
I don't do small talk. I don't do random babble.

its so silly to me.

I'm with u Zenmom.

But you are still a weirdo!

mother goose said...

i could have written this post almost word for word! my husband is the extrovert and I am an introvert. I have to talk myself up for certain events and also want to know who's going to be there how many people, how long. However, if I find one comfort zone a person whom I connect with instantly by chance, than we can stay for hours. I control the when we leave. LOL because it boils down to if mama aint happy aint nobody happy.

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