Whether we think of introversion as a matter of spending energy when we’re interacting with others and recharging alone, or as becoming overwhelmed and overstimulated by human interaction, and resting when alone, we definitely know that being with people comes at a cost. We can’t possibly do every social thing that our extroverted friends are doing, even if we really think each event would be fun. We have to budget our social time. If we over-spend, we may get very grumpy or withdrawn, and worst of all, we’ll feel miserable until we can get our alone time we so desperately need.
I decided to try to look at this from an outsider’s point of view to see if I can learn anything new. I’m asking myself: Since we have to be selective about who we spend our time with, does that sort of make some extroverts’ accusation of introvert snobbery or aloofness a little bit true? Are we insulting people by our picking and choosing who we spend our time with?
I can see myself thinking, “Hmmm..I don’t think I’ll heat up my lunch right now, because Ron’s in there and he’s going to talk and I really don’t want to be with anyone…,” but later deciding, “Joe and Dave are going for a beer after work, and those two are so funny I think I’ll go too!”
So am I saving myself for only the cream of the crop as far as people to spend my precious energy on? Or is it more a matter of time and situation?
We have to be discriminating in who we spend our people-time on, because of course some things we just have to do, because they’re good for our careers or necessary to keep peace in the family. Then there’s the matter of how much people-energy we’ve spent on a given day or week. If I’ve been in close contact with other people for hours on end, I don’t care who’s going out for a beer, I just want to get away by myself! But if my family and closest friends are unavailable for a couple of days, I find myself seeking out people I like very much but usually don’t spend much time with. That sounds as if I consider them second tier or that I’m desperate, so I wanted to examine what’s going on.
The real issue is that I only have a certain amount of people-time in my “bank,” and I try to spend as much of it as possible with my family and a chosen few others. If I’ve spent all my social-hours, I actively avoid others, although I always hope and imagine that no one notices. At a conference or other gathering, when there’s a break, I head for the vending and restrooms off a deserted hallway, even if it’s much farther away than the one the growing knot of people is occupying. I know all the ways to get from Point A to Point B without getting detained by “quick question” and other things that will delay me and interrupt what’s going on in my head. There can be lots of nice and fun people there, but if I’m spent, then that’s it
As I said though, I really like most of the other people I see too, and they’d be great to be with if only I had the people-time. But this is sort of like how I’d love to have a new sofa: I know it’s not in the budget, so it’s not going to happen. 🙂 Maybe it be a good idea to consciously insert one of these people in place of my usual people and events sometimes, but of course I love my routine with my family so much that it takes a conscious effort to make plans with someone new.
So – although as an introvert I may have an “A list” of people I spend most of my people-time with, I’m really not trying to insult anyone. Likewise I may consider certain other people even nicer, smarter, and more fun to be with than some of the people in my inner circle. I just can’t afford to deal with anyone else right now!
Photo credit:Jeff Keen