Time to Practice

Most people who don’t know me well are stunned to learn that I am an introvert by nature.  They look at me and say, but you take on these leadership roles and you speak in front of audiences of hundreds of people and you seem so in command, how is it possible that you are an introvert?  My answer is, have you seen me at the end of the day when I do those things?  I’m exhausted.  Introversion versus extroversion is more of a definition of how you recharge your batteries.  In my case, being alone or with one or two people I know very well is the way I recharge my energy.  Extroverts, on the other hand tend to get more energized the more interactions they have in a day.

That brings me to the most exhausting and petrifying part of my specific form of introversion, the networking event.  I’m great in front of a large audience, but putting me in a room full of people and asking that I initiate individual conversations creates a sense of dread that is like going to the dentist to have a root canal.  In fact, having had two root canals, I can honestly say I would rather have a third than have to mingle in a room full of people I don’t know.

While I love Christmas time, I even got married a week before Christmas, the parties can leave me wanting the get the season over with as soon as possible.  In fact, one of the reasons my wife and I always put on a Christmas party was because it allowed me to always have to go do something, replenish the punch or get out more hors d’oeuvres, to get out of the conversations that I dreaded.  But then I realized something was happening.  By taking the conversations in small bites, I became more comfortable making the small talk, asking questions and bringing other people into the conversation so I could move on and talk with others.

I also realized that my learning was helped by the fact that I knew more of these people and the gathering was purely social.  There was no business on the line.  So, over the years I began to use all the Christmas parties as a great time to practice the one thing I dreaded the most, those small one-on-one conversations in a room full of people.  I can’t say I’m cured.  I still have a very hard time going up to people I don’t know at all. But each year I continue to practice, and I find that like Rudolph, I might be a little strange and funny looking, but in the end people are happy to have me around; and that makes putting the effort in going up to someone to talk worthwhile.

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