Quiet! Trying to think here!

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Although some introverts are calm, or appear calm almost all the time, I’m not that type. When I’m under pressure to think and get something important done, I’m calm and analytical, unless there are humans talking to me while I’m trying to think. Actually, I’d always thought I was the type to get “stressed out” anytime the pressure got high, but I finally found out I don’t get like that if there’s no chance someone is going to come and talk to me.

One Saturday morning about ten years ago, I was supposed to build a new file server for the company I worked for, and I had never done it before. I knew the steps I needed to do, and in fact I was using several different computers to work on the new server. A few of them were copying data from old servers to the new one, and one more computer was a place for me to configure the new server. As I went from machine to machine to make sure things were going OK and to perform the little tweaks that were needed in the configuration, I realized: I have a lot of things going on at once, important things, and I need to remember what I’m doing and where I am with each. Usually I would be feeling a bit of stress, if this was a weekday. What’s the difference? No one is going to come and interrupt me and make me lose my train of thought!

I can tolerate some chitchat when I’m doing something I’m very familiar with, but if I’m in unfamiliar territory or if something is going wrong, I find it very stressful if I can’t find a way to be alone with what I’m doing. Over the years of course I have had many times when I needed to do something that was needed quickly and would take some thinking. Sometimes that would be due to an excitable executive asking for a report for a meeting he’d be going into that same morning. Other times it would be a server that had lots of critical users attached to it – and I needed to figure out what was going wrong with it. Any time I get a problem like that I first feel a bit of excitement, as if I can’t wait to get my teeth into it, then a flash of stress, almost expecting someone to come by and interrupt me and totally shatter the thought I was trying to have. If there’s time, if whatever it is isn’t due for a few days, I will sometimes take it home with me. Better to spend some of my evening or Saturday doing something for the office than to have the torture of someone talking to me and yanking me out of my thoughts.

There’s one more time I seem to need silence in order to think and do something, and that’s when traffic situations get intense. When I’m in a traffic snarl, whether it’s a tough turn I’m trying to make or a jammed parking lot I’m trying to navigate, I always quickly turn the volume all the way off the car stereo without even thinking about it. (Funny, I’ve mentioned this to two other introvert friends and they both say they do this too)! I’ll actually be driving along later and realize I’ve missed a couple of songs on a CD because I must’ve turned the radio off at that bad intersection back there and didn’t even consciously realize it.

My brain seems to get so overstimulated when there’s something intense for it to do that someone talking will send it right into a short circuit 🙂 where I can’t think at all. Obviously not all introverts are that way. Surgeons manage to salvage life and death situations while talking and being talked to, even when things go wrong. But I know my brain, so I know to shut the world out when I need to put it on the “High” setting for a while.

Photo credit: Pixel Addict

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40 Comments

  1. I know exactly what you’re talking about. When I’m in the zone I don’t like to be bothered. Of course that’s when every one wants to talk to me. The people that I work with have learned to leave me alone when I’m in that zone…the hard way.

    I also get agitated when I’m on a mission and I know exactly what I want to do…then every one wants to give me all their ideas. “You should do it this way” or “you could try this” no thank you…I know what I’m doing.
    .-= Nick Laborde´s last blog ..Quick Update…I’m Still Alive =-.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Quiet! Trying to think here! — Introvert Zone -- Topsy.com

  3. I can so relate to what you write about in this article. I hate being disturbed while I’m on the phone or I’m busy and focused on something. I find it really rude, as I try to acknowledge them so I can pay attention when I’m ready. Usually takes a few minutes to a few seconds; but some don’t have the patience; and like Nick says, they learn it the hard way to let me finish with what I’m doing.

    It’s so funny with the car thing, as we were talking about this for a while ago. I kind of notice it even more, when I’m parking, being in a tight spot or there’s a lot of traffic around me I turn down the music; and even let people in the car to keep quiet.
    I’ve also discovered I’ve forgotten to turn up the music again. :p

    I don’t really know why, but I’ve also been like this. I really need to focus when I do things, or else I get distracted and it might go horribly wrong. In certain situations that can be dangerous, but I also think that in other situations it’s the only way you can get a job done, by giving your job 100% focus.

    It’s also been proven that multitasking is inefficient and doing one task at a time and keeping focus while doing it is much more efficient.
    .-= xen yasai´s last blog ..Waiting forever to be told to wait. =-.

    • Xen, I also tell my passengers to be quiet when the situation gets tight. I’m not sure what exactly I say, quietly but urgently! I’m with you – things really could go horribly wrong if we don’t focus. It’s not just a matter of preferring quiet – I think I need quiet to make sure I do things correctly.

  4. I’ve always had to turn the volume down when I’m in unfamiliar places requiring me to pay attention to street signs, etc. Not usually for tricky intersections that I’m familiar with, though I’ve done it. I always thought it was weird of my brain to need it quiet so I could see better! 😀

    At work it isn’t people talking directly to me that bothers me, since I just focus on them in those times, it’s when I’m trying to focus on something and there’s a lot of chatter not directed at me. But noise canceling headphones are always at the ready. Of course sometimes I have to stop listening to music when trying to figure out something in my code, for the same reason I have to turn down the volume in certain driving situations!

    But for me, it doesn’t feel like I’m being yanked out of my thoughts – being disrupted by someone wanting to talk directly to me is a lot less irksome for me than all the distracting background stuff when I’m trying to concentrate on something that’s new/difficult/tricky. It’s like the filters stop working, and I’m overwhelmed with too much info coming in at once, and everything gets jumbled in my head. However if I had to try to talk to someone while accomplishing something else, I’d do poorly with both.

    • Hi Deb, yes! “Be quiet so I can see these signs!” I can imagine that. Overwhelmed is exactly what it feels like. Our brains are so stimulated by normal stuff, we just can’t take the overload. Or, we can take it, but it doesn’t allow us to do our best thinking!

    • Hey Klaus, I seriously thought these things were just more “odd” things about me, until I finally found out what the word “introvert” meant. I think extroverts welcome interruptions because after all, contact with people recharges their batteries, if you can imagine such a thing. So they get drained by working alone!

  5. Gotta love the car thing, I think a lot of us turn down the volume when were trying to think or figure out which way to go. Ironicly enough, even the gps voice thats supposed to help me gets me off track from time to time.
    A thing that happens (quite often) for me, can be that Im driving along with a passenger in the car – on a route Ive taken hundreds of times before – yet I still manage to miss a turn and end up somewhere I in no way intended. It’s like my mind wanders off and just focuses on the traffic and the driving.
    Fortunately by now my wife knows this and gives me discrete clues along the way :-p She tried telling me directly to remember to go there and take that turn and what not, but that only makes me defensive and be all “of course I know where were going”.
    Dont know what it is, it never happens when Im alone.

    I guess thats an upside to riding my motorcycle, no one is going to come and bother you there. No cellphones, no nothing.

    • Hey Martin, Haha..I hadn’t thought about the gps voice, but yep, she’d need to keep quiet if we’re in confusing traffic. Wow, that happens to me TOO – getting so distracted by having one or more passengers, ESPECIALLY if I’m talking, that I don’t pay as good attention to the road as I should. I might miss a turn or be in the wrong lane when it’s time to turn, all because I was apparently using a big percentage of my conscious mind to deal with the fact that someone is with me.

  6. Wow, that’s actually really interesting. I have the same problems with being interrupted, but it’s never occurred to me to turn off the music in my car when I have to focus on driving. Usually I have the music on, and I sort of tune it out. I wonder if turning the music off would help me be less stressed out when I’m driving. I’ll try that next time!

    • Hi Clare, If you’re able to tune it out, that might be all you need, but noise in general adds to my stress if something is bothering me. Is the elevator stuck? Has traffic on the interstate come to a halt? Well everyone BE QUIET because it’s bad enough already. 🙂

      Thanks so much for your comment – please come back soon!

  7. Oh geez, you’ve described me to a T. I even turn down the radio when merging onto a busy highway, as if the quiet will make me a better driver.

    I think in other situations, the thing for me is that when nobody is around, I feel like I have as much time as I need, and that takes the edge off. Of course, I also work better when I’m under the gun, but it is a less enjoyable process.
    .-= Evan´s last blog ..We’d Like Your Input on Ethics in Blogging =-.

    • I’m thinking the quiet absolutely makes me a better driver. 🙂 It’s almost as noise overwhelmes the “signal” in my brain – so I can’t think straight.

      Yes that is exactly it! If nobody is around, time can “stand still,” if only for a second or two, while we gather our thoughts. I also work better when I have an upcoming deadline, but if someone is standing there talking then I may as well stop what I’m doing, because I’m not doing my best.

  8. Wow, cb, we ARE living parallel lives – I relate to what you’ve said 100%. I’ve been there, putting together new servers, which requires a great deal of attention to detail – I will have my steps all written out, a checklist if you will – and if anyone interrupts me or tries to talk to me while I’m working on something like that, I get absolutely stressed out. I lose my train of thought, become very agitated and fearful of missing something important or making a mistake. When I’m doing something like that “off hours,” though, and nobody is around to bother me, I actually enjoy the work and take pleasure in methodically getting each step accomplished. I relate to the driving thing, as well – if I’m in a sticky traffic situation and need to concentrate, everybody needs to be quiet and I will turn off the radio (which usually isn’t even on in the first place if I’m driving, unless I’m by myself). If I need to concentrate, I need quiet, PERIOD. There is simply no way around it. Interestingly, though, the noises of machines don’t bother me. If I’m in a server room, the noise of servers and network equipment doesn’t bother me one bit, even if it’s loud. If the server room wasn’t so darned COLD, I’d move my desk in there, heh.
    .-= hermit loner´s last blog ..Energy =-.

    • Yes – and we WILL miss something important or make a mistake when someone is yapping on and on to us. Then the really annoying thing is when they say, “Oh, how did you miss that?” or similar. Hmmm.. I have had that same thought about the server room, in my previous job. The hum of the servers didn’t bother me at all either, because it was constant, but yep the cold kept me from moving. Having a cipher lock between me and the rest of the world sounded so tempting!

  9. I think that’s it, you can tune out machines because the sound is rhythmic or predictable in some way. I had a hard time tuning out an Indian coworker when he was on the phone there in our cube farm. I figured it was because the rhythms and sounds were not familiar to my ear, and thus kept “catching” it.

    I went for a pedicure the other day, needing some pampering and hoping to zone out with a meaningless magazine. But no: they had the tv on, loud, and the radio playing, and of course a loud conversation or two going on. I was doomed…no zoning out for me! (I did ask them to turn the tv down, which they did, but it still was really distracting.)

    • Bella if I could find an introverted hair stylist and manicurist I’d be a lot poorer, because I’d go a lot more often. From the time I get to the hair salon I’m really eager to get out of there. I hate trying to read in the waiting area while people are talking – it’s almost impossible. Sorry you didn’t get to zone out, just when you needed it!

  10. How funny I’m the same way. When I’m in the middle of something very important that require my full attention, I loath being disturbed with useless chit-chat or advice. In fact, I get rather snappish and irritable. My brother got a tongue lashing a few time (haha poor thing). That why I love working on things at home in the morning when it is quiet and no one is home to interrupt me. If that can’t happen then I go somewhere where I can be left alone for at least a few hours.

    • Jennie – 🙂 Yeah, your poor brother probably had no idea what had happened, but that’s just the fate of people who insist on distracting us when we’re trying to concentrate. Glad you have a way to get things done uninterrupted – so you can work in your “zone!”

  11. Zack@opalescencetoothwhitener on

    When I am focused I can’t even have a radio on while driving, yet I have to have it on when I go to bed or I can’t sleep. I can’t explain that one LOL

  12. OMG, what a wonderful website and sharing 🙂

    As I wear short hair as a woman, I need a haircut regurlarly, but how draining that is. At my hairdresser I always ask her to take me upstairs to the quiet room, because downstairs the chitchat makes me crazy. After we exchanged our how are you´s, she mostly leaves me in peace. I believe that she is an introvert too…

    /me waves from Germany, leans back quietly in the corner, takes a deep breath, smiles, feels understood…

    Will write more soon. And what a relief to (only recently) learn that I am an introvert, that I am not weird and not alone !!

    • Welcome! Glad you like it! 🙂 Oh yes, one time I went to a hairdresser who talked and talked and talked, often stopping what she was doing to talk and give me orders on what vitamins I was going to take when I got home. Finally she asked, “What’s wrong?” I (almost) wailed, “I’m exhausted!” She was so surprised – exhausted? But I was the one sitting in the chair!

  13. ooopsies, I believe that I posted that one on the wrong thread, sorry for that, had several of your webpages open today *carries posting over to hairdresser on amazon thread*. Guess I lost what I wrote on this thread….
    —————————————————————————————————–

    And I so relate to noise killing brain…needing time to think and find words. I often have images in my head as reply, and need to find the right words to translate them.

    I am extremely visual (vs. acoustical or haptical oriented people). Also I have less trouble with text chatting than with real talk, as I see what I say first, and can edit it. But both drains me when several people are involved. Like in real life I best like talk with one person at the time, not several chat windows.

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