Friday, April 11, 2014
Okay, One More Time
The other day the wife had an appointment with one of my co-workers at the university. It was an appointment to get some assistance with our number three child who has Epilepsy and needs some help with getting services for this disabling condition in his life. The co-worker is one of the best in the state of Montana at this sort of work, and so it only made sense that we use her skills in helping our son. The only problem . . . well, it meant that the wife would have to come to the university where I work. That meant that she would have the opportunity to meet my co-workers . . . that meant that they would have conversations . . . probably about me; and, that they would compare notes about me.
I work in an office of women. I am the only male in the office. I represent ten percent of all the people who work in the office. Yes, to state that I am a little overwhelmed at times would be an understatement. But, they are gracious women who have learned to accept me . . . or at least put up with me. Yet, and this may be a generalization, I have learned over the five plus decades of my life, women like to talk about the men in their life. And, when they are talking, they like to compare notes. They have inquiring minds and they want to know . . . they want to know if the "John" they know at work is the same "John" that the wife knows at home. My experience is that rarely do the two realities mesh.
They didn't this time either!
One of my co-workers told the wife that I was quite the extrovert. The co-worker explained that I talked all of the time to everyone . . . told a lot of jokes . . . was kind of in the way a lot of the time. This made the wife laugh. After more than thirty years of marriage, she assured my co-worker that I was not an extrovert . . . she explained that I was an introvert, through and through. None of the co-workers believed her. They weren't buying it despite the wife stating that when I get home, pulling a conversation out of me is like pulling teeth . . . in fact, pulling teeth is easier. He is exhausted at the end of the day and had enough of people. He is an introvert, said the wife.
As usual, my co-workers don't get it. They don't get what it means to be an introvert. Just because they see one thing doesn't mean that they are seeing the real McCoy. After five years, I have come to trust my co-workers, and I accept that they are pretty "safe" to allow them to step into my space. I like them. When I allow them to step into my space, I trust them that they won't hurt me or mess with what is in my little world. This takes a lot of energy on my part to allow this to happen. Unlike the extrovert--who gains energy from people being in their space, introverts spend a lot of energy when people get into their space. The result? Extroverts are raring to go when people waltz into their world, while introverts are exhausted. Even though I trust my co-workers, they exhaust me!
Both the wife and I are clergy. Being a clergy means that there is interaction with people . . . especially on Sunday mornings! The wife comes home from a morning preaching, teaching, and leading worship ready to save the world . . . she is energized. I come home from the same experience and I am exhausted. She cooks a three course meal, I take a two-hour nap. The wife is an extrovert . . . she can talk on the phone for hours; I hate the phone . . . I hate talking on the phone . . . the phone is an invader in the life of an introvert . . . an energy drainer.
People, including my co-workers, don't understand. Introversion and extroversion are a continuum. All of people have varying degrees of introversion and extroversion within their personalities. There are several personality tests out there in the world that can help people learn more about themselves and their personalities. Probably the most popular is the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicators. This is not a cheap test and is quite extensive, the better alternative is the Kiersey-Bates which is found in their book on personality traits, Please Understand Me. The book is at most bookstores and costs about twenty bucks. Their test is shorter, but just as accurate. In administering both over thirty years, the results are pretty accurate when comparing the results. In both, they emphasize that these traits are on a continuum and not a one and done thing.
Simply put the continuum is a line. In the middle of the line is "zero". Going in both directions from zero--left and right--the line is numbered to ten. When taking the personality trait surveys each person is given a score for introversion and extroversion. Typically one of the numbers is going to be bigger than the other . . . the greater number is the "favored" preference of the individual. If it is a seven in extroversion and a two in introversion, then the person's preference is extroversion. Introversion is the weaker of the two preferences. People have a tendency to rely upon their favorite "strength".
Now, put the numbers on the continuum. The extroversion number, in this case "seven" goes to the right; the smaller number, again in this case, goes to the left and is about introversion. Now color the space between the two numbers another color. This is the continuum from which all people will chose their preference. I have a real low number (below three) for extroversion, and a really high number (seven) in introversion. My preference is introversion when I am thrust into a social situation; but, I can choose to be an extrovert. After all, I am not a complete hermit . . . but, when it comes to people, I would prefer being alone. So, yes, there are moments, when I play the role, I am an extrovert . . . but it takes a lot of effort on my part to be that extrovert.
They just don't get it.
Yes, I like to talk to the people I work with. In fact, they are pretty much some of my closest friends . . . as much as I will let them be. I usually arrive at work well before any of my co-workers ever show up . . . it is my time to prepare for them . . . my time to work into the role. In situations where I have to deal with people--at workshops, Sunday worship, mingling with the masses--I can be quite the extrovert . . . but, it is a "push" for me. It wears me out . . . tires me . . . and, it makes me a grump when I have reached my limit. Grumpy because enough is enough, and I need a break.
I remember a guy from the state Office of Public Instruction telling my boss that he was an introvert . . . and, she didn't buy it. She didn't buy it because she had always experienced him in a group setting . . a leader of the meeting . . . and, his behavior was that of an extrovert. He laughed and said, "It is a role I play."
Again, one has to go to the continuum . . . there are strengths and weaknesses. Introverts prefer introversion to being out in front of a crowd being the headliner. Any introvert who lead a public life will tell you that he or she is worn out from acting like an extrovert. Remember, extraverts get their energy from crowds . . . introverts get worn out.
Despite what people might think . . . I am an introvert. I love the life that floats around within me. It is a life that is more fascinating than the world that floats around me on the outside. Yet, at the same time, I know that when 75% of the world's population is extraverted and to exist in that world I, as an introvert, must jump in with both feet if I am going to survive. Most of the time I do not mind . . . I do what is necessary . . . yet, it wears me out. Totally floors me! Come Sunday afternoon I NEED that two-hour nap just to get back to my baseline.
I am an introvert . . . plain and simple. Do not let the "act" I put on deceive you. Just because I can act as an extravert does not mean that I am one . . . it is the weaker of my personality traits. Given a choice--which I am not often given the choice, I am going to pick the introversion side of life. I guess I need to let the people I work with know that it is all an act. What I do not understand is how they miss it I am constantly complaining about the phone (a great invader of the introvert's domain and life) and how it interrupts the day. I complain about having to go to meetings to speak . . . I complain about having to go to "all campus" gathering . . . and, I complain about hob-knobbing with the faculty and other staff in campus-wide events. Yet, because it does exist in my personality, I do what needs to be done no matter how tiresome it might be . . . I do whatever is required of me. True it is with a lot of whining and complaining, but I do it.
That does not make me an "extravert" . . . far from it. I am an "introvert" . . . plain and simple. I know that my co-workers would disagree, but they only have to put up with me and the daily act I make myself do. I do what I have to do . . . as tiresome as it might be . . . in order to keep my job. That does not make me an "extravert". What it makes me is a person who stumbles into the world of "extraverts" and it wears me out.
The differences between "extraverts" and "introverts" is more than a simple understanding. Just because I talk to people--because it is a part of my job and how I sell it . . . that does not paint me as an "extravert", What it paints me as is a weary "introvert" . . . it goes back to how one reacts to the situation. What my co-workers have experienced is far from the behavior or being an "extravert" . . . I am, always will be . . . an "introvert". Ask the wife and she will vouch to this .
I wish the world . . . and, my co-workers . . . could accept the fact that I am an "introvert" without having to prove me wrong. If nothing else, they should believe the wife . . . she doesn't lie . . . when she laughingly affirms the fact that I am an "introvert" . . . because I am. Despite their experiences to the contrary . . . I am an "introvert". Always have been . . . always will be. Nothing is going to change that. For those who do not believe me . . . check with the wife . . . check with my kids . . . and, they will tell you that I am an "introvert". Shoot, I am what I am. And, for those who do not believe it . . . well, there is a ton of literature and research out there that will confirm exactly what I have written. I just wish my co-workers would believe me.
As they say inAlcoholics Anonymous, I am who I am as God created me . . . with all of the quirks and oddities that come with who I am. I can be nothing else . . . as tiresome as it might be . . . I am who I am. Sort of biblical wouldn't say? Believe it or not . . . all I can do is to deal with the cards God dealt me. In a world that has over 75% of the people being extraverts . . . well, maybe they need to change rather than giving us "introverts" such a hard time. We are who we are . . . "introverts" . . . and, if the world can't handle us, so be it. But give me a break . . . especially at the university where I work . . . I am an "introvert" despite my actions. I am who I am . . . the sooner my co-workers accept it . . . well, the sooner they get over it. What ore can I say . . . other than, "Give me a break!!!!"