From the time I was a little kid, I’ve always preferred to ease in to new situations. A birthday party in a new, exciting place? I’d usually stop and observe the room and the crowd for a while. It didn’t mean I was unhappy or frightened; that was just my natural way. My introvert brain was soaking in all the details, processing it all at blazing speed, even if I just looked like a little girl standing silently at the door. As I grew older, even into young adulthood, I continued to ease into things rather than plunge in head first. If I came across a bunch of other people playing kickball or softball, once again I’d begin by staying at the edge of things. I’d just watch, enjoying getting familiar with the people, the game, the surroundings, until finally I’d get the urge to join in. And I would do so. Of course since life isn’t perfect, there’s always someone pushing, even well meaning parents. “Go on and jump in! What’s wrong with you?” But I believe that if we’re allowed to ease into things naturally instead of having other folks nagging or ridiculing us to hurry up, we’ll most likely get there faster and more smoothly, a lot happier for having done it when we’re ready!
I still ease into new things when it’s possible, and I think that’s very common for introverts. My friend Amy likes to ease in to every single work day. She’s an introvert as well as a natural night owl who’s currently getting up early every day to go to work at an 9 to 5 job downtown. Each morning she parks in a part of the deck farthest from her office so as not to encounter anyone she knows on the way to the building. Then instead of the lobby elevator, she uses the stairs to go up four flights so she can ease right on over to her desk without having to try to carry on a bright elevator conversation while her brain is still waking up. She brings her coffee to the office in a travel mug, so she can just sit right down and be quiet, making the transition to office mode. She says if she can manage to sit down at her desk and read her email before people start asking her questions she considers that a big plus, and if she can make it a whole hour without having to engage with anyone verbally, she is fully charged and believes she could face anything the work day could throw at her after that.
Easing in works great for new social situations too, if we are allowed to do so at our own pace. My young neighbor Matt is a great outdoors person. He is very experienced and skilled at many outdoor pursuits, from kayaking and whitewater rafting, to mountain biking and backpacking. But he didn’t want to join the outdoor club at his small college, because “Everyone else already knows each other and it would be weird.” Luckily, the leader/counselor of that group became aware of Matt, and he gave him an easy way to ease in. First he invited Matt to register for an upcoming trip, and of course Matt said no thanks, pleading too much homework. But then the leader said, “Even if you don’t have the time to go with us, could you spare an hour Thursday evening to help us with our equipment, and help me show some of the freshmen how to get their things ready for the trip?” So Matt was free to come to the group just for a little while, and he knew he was free to leave any time. And as you can guess, with the guidance of that tactful leader, by the time Thursday evening was over, Matt was very comfortable with the other students and could even see how he had almost a leader status himself, since he could help guide some of the less experienced students. He went on that trip and has gone on every trip since.
We can’t always ease into things in life, of course. Jobs can change suddenly, and so can our health and our relationships. We don’t like sudden changes, but sometimes they happen. When it’s possible, however, we can adapt very well if we’re just given a chance to let our brains process all the information coming at us. So don’t feel bad if you go to a new club and sit on the back corner seat for a few meetings. You’re getting what you came for – at the pace your brain can take it in. And pretty soon you may find yourself moving up a few rows so you can hear better and give suggestions of your own!
Are you conscious of easing in to things? Do you have any suggestions for making the beginning of the work day, or of a new school or new job, any easier?