Sunday, 26 March 2017

Temperamentally subdued

Some people are naturally sociable. They make friends easily, they're gregarious, they enjoy being with others and mope when they aren't, they love throwing dinner parties, they're born chatterboxes, and they can get on with just about anyone from any background.

I'm not like that at all, quite the reverse. I like the occasional chat with other people, I like the occasional party, but in general I love being on my own and relishing my own company. I don't make friends easily, I'm not a chatterbox, dinner parties make me nervous as hell, and there are many people I simply can't get on with.

I envy those who are naturally sociable. It makes social occasions so much easier, it means you're comfortable in a crowd of people, there's less fear and anxiety, you're not stuck for words, and you've got plenty of friends to talk to when you're in trouble.

It's hard to say why I'm more of an introvert. It may be genetic or the way I was brought up (my parents weren't that sociable and seldom invited people round), it may be my confidence-sapping years at boarding school (which was totally the wrong choice for my personality), it may be too much exposure to egotistical loudmouths at one social event after another. But whatever the cause, I'm just not a people person.

It doesn't help that the "less sociable" are still often seen as inadequate rather than different, snooty and standoffish rather than temperamentally subdued, wet blankets and party poopers rather than fans of quiet enjoyment.

But one thing I always wonder - how do the socialisers keep up the pace? Where do they find the energy? Rushing from one social event to another, chattering nineteen to the dozen, organising ten things at once, keeping all the balls in the air. If I lived that way, I'd be chronically exhausted.

Excuse me while I unplug the phone and curl up on the sofa with a big fat book....

31 comments:

Wisewebwoman said...

As a "gregarious loner" I think I benefit from both sides of the coin you need tion. I abhor small talk, mainly because I'm so poor at it and am very fussy as to what I attend socially and always have an escape hatch.

My sense of humour is usually at odds also with everyone else's. I think I feel more bored than awkward at events I must attend in my civic position.

We'd get along just fine Nick.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

www: I can do small talk quite well, but I try to avoid it because it's so crushingly boring. My sense of humour baffles most people as well. They just give me blank looks as if I've started speaking in another language.

Bijoux said...

I am very sociable and love to go to events where I meet new people. I'm not a fan of small talk, so if I come across someone who wants to talk about the weather, I move on to someone else.

helen devries said...

I can do small talk...it´s a social obligation...but can´t say I enjoy it.
We used to be quite sociable but as Leo has become more unwell we prefer our own (relatively) stress free company.
There are people we like to see, but they are mostly those with something to say so that we can enjoy a discussion.

It can be a little difficult here when people drop in for coffee and cake as a matter of course but as the bridge has been down for over two years we have had relative immunity from social life...

Dave Martin said...

We sound quite similar in this way, Nick. I have no interest in small talk and I'm rubbish at meeting new people. I also prefer either the company of one other person or solitude. As far as I'm concerned three is definitely a crowd.
In the past I've spent a lot of time worrying about this aspect of my personality, but I'm now becoming more accepting of it.

Jenny Woolf said...

I think we are what we are, and can't change what we like. I don't think there has to be a reason for it, really, and I agree with your suggestion that there is no need to bother about it unless it is causing problems,

Secret Agent Woman said...

Most socializers keep up the pace because, as extroverts, they gain emotional energy by interacting with other people. As opposed to introverts who find interactions draining and recharge through quiet, alone time. There's pretty good research to suggest we are wired from birth as either extraverts or introverts. But there is another factor that isn't necessarily perfectly correlated - how much you like being around others. I think of myself as a sociable introvert. I like going to parties and hosting people at my house, but it drains me. And given that my job involves talking to people all day long, it's no surprise that all my hobbies are solitary activities - reading, gardening, cooking. I'm happy as a clam on my own, even though I treasure my friends. And recently, there's been almost an empowerment movement of introverts embracing their solitary nature. Google, for instance, "introverts unite." Or have a look at this "Year of the Introvert" twitter feed: https://twitter.com/IntrovertLiving?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

Nick said...

Bijoux: I'd always pictured you as a sociable person. As for weather talk, that's virtually impossible to avoid in the UK. But like you, I cut it short as soon as I can.

Helen: Understandable that with Leo being unwell you tend to spend less time with other people. Yes, that's one advantage of the bridge being gone!

Nick said...

Dave: A man after my own heart. You're right, we just have to accept that that's the way we are and we're not going to become wild extroverts overnight!

Jenny: I think it only causes problems if you're expected to be a chatter queen and thoughtful silences are seen as anti-social....

Nick said...

Agent: Yes, I'm familiar with those definitions of introverts and extroverts. I definitely find interactions draining after a while and need to retreat into myself. I quite like being around others but I'm crap at making any deep connections with them!

Your "social introvert" sounds a bit like www's "gregarious loner". I hadn't thought about the nature of your hobbies, but they make perfect sense as complementary to your work. I'll take a look at those links in a moment....

Nick said...

Agent: I love "Introvert Life". So true! I like this one: "Introverts may not speak as many words as extroverts, but introverts are better at making sure there is meaning behind those words." Well, maybe.

Ursula said...

"Introverts may not speak as many words as extroverts, but introverts are better at making sure there is meaning behind those words."

Really? Is that so? Nick, it's a poor insult.

We have had this conversation before: to assume that extroverts are fluffy airheads who'd rather chase social butterflies than settle down with a book is just claptrap. Doesn't even serve the purpose of making introverts feel better. Better about what anyway? Why the segregation?

Like with most traits all of us will be on a spectrum between extremes. If you asked me where I am on this spectrum I wouldn't know. Because, and just to debunk all this regurgitated categorization, I am not only outgoing I am highly approachable; I am a chatterbox; I have an ability to draw the most reluctant and tie tongued out of themselves; in fact I am an all round good egg (with edges, obviously). Yet, here I am - not least the way I make a living - leading a pretty solitary life by choice. I don't even have the radio on when at my desk. Silence is my friend. Indeed an inspiration. So, my dear Nick, what the hell do you make of that little combo as I just presented to you? Yin and Yang - as Ramana may suggest?

Fact is all this pigeon holing, categorizing people, serves no purpose whatsoever.

Your social anxieties make me feel sorry for you. How can anyone dread a dinner party? It's a hoot. Anyway we all make our own boredom.

I'd say that your insecurities/anxieties do not make you an introvert. For all you know you are singing swinging dancing lunatic trying to get out. If you do - whatever you do - please don't call yourself an extrovert. It takes many a swallow to make a summer.

U

Nick said...

Ursula: Oh dear. As usual you seem to be distorting everything I said to suit your own ends. Where did I say that extroverts are fluffy airheads who wouldn't want to settle down with a book? Nowhere. All I said was that some people are natural socialisers and I envy them. I'm sure they're just as intelligent or stupid, and just as likely or unlikely to enjoy a book as everyone else.

Of course people can be a mixture of sociable and not so sociable. Like Agent's social introvert and www's gregarious loner. And I'm not pigeon holing anyone. I'm only emphasising one particular quality that some people have and some haven't.

As for dinner parties, I usually dread them in advance but once I'm there I often find I'm enjoying myself. I'm not necessarily cringing in a corner!

kylie said...

Ursula has quoted your twitter quote and it does indeed sound like an insult to extroverts "Introverts may not speak as many words as extroverts, but introverts are better at making sure there is meaning behind those words."

I am an extrovert but only just, I'm very much towards the introverted end of the scale but I have to say that I notice introverts seem to think they are some kind of oppressed group which annoys me immensely. They say the world is built for extroverts but really there are plenty of solitary occupations and activities and we all have to build our life to suit ourselves.

Nick said...

Kylie: Oh, that was just a throwaway quote, distinctly tongue in cheek. No, I wouldn't say I belong to an oppressed group. As you point out, there are plenty of solitary activities. A misunderstood group possibly. But then, extroverts are also a misunderstood group!

tammy j said...

i never knew it growing up but i have always been an introvert.
moving so constantly from one state to another you soon learn to become your own best friend.
it has held me in good stead.
i can be a chatterbox. but i think it comes more from nerves than being extroverted.
a good killer of 'small talk'...
"is your belly button an inny or an outty?"

Nick said...

Tammy: Yes, moving around so much and constantly leaving friends behind must have made you very self-reliant. And I think a lot of people are nervous chatterers. My belly button's an inny, by the way.

Rummuser said...

I am the easy socialiser type that you write about. I also like my solitude and socialise only when it is convenient. I have perfected the art of saying no without offending anybody when pressure to socialise arises.

Nothing wrong if you are not a natural socialiser. From what you say, it is obvious that you can hold your own in meetings. If you prefer being alone, so be it. That is natural too.

Nick said...

Ramana: Saying no without offence is quite an art. I'm impressed that you've mastered it! I'm sure not being all that sociable is a quite natural trait, so I'm not that bothered by those who think it's odd. Maybe I should write a book - "The Road Less Sociable".

Anonymous said...

I am very sociable, as you know I grew up in Namibia in a bushmen community and the only thing that counts is the community. You need it to be able to live in a not easy nature environment. Now living in Europe , I love to be with other people, but I'm not a small talker at all. If I engage conversation it's not about the weather or if my children are good eaters etc. I need to exchange about deep going questions. My door is always open for neighbours, friends and the refugees I take care of. If there is dinner for 4 there can be dinner for 5,6 or more. And I'm a lucky one cause my husband thinks like me which is important if you like to live the way I do.
Mia More

tammy j said...

mine too.
may the innys of the world unite!
I do think there is still a strange mistrust of true introverts in the world.
the 'loners' are always the ones supposedly who commit those terrible crimes.
in actuality loners are quite happy. it's the thwarted and ill equipped wannabe left~out extroverts that are mistaken for loners! true loners are very happy usually. as you've said in your post!

Nick said...

Mia: I'm sure it's true that a supportive community is essential in a difficult environment. Yours is obviously a very sociable household.

I didn't know kids' eating habits was a big conversation theme! But then I'm not a parent....

Nick said...

Tammy: I'm sure all the best people are innys. Interesting idea that it's not loners who're the problem but the wannabe extroverts. I shall mull that over!

(Maybe wannabe celebs also? The ones who commit horrible crimes to achieve a twisted kind of fame or notoriety)

CheerfulMonk said...

My main socializing is going to my Silver Sneakers class and blogging. I love it that way. :)

Nick said...

Jean: Blogging definitely counts as socialising. Okay, so you're not meeting in the flesh, but you're exchanging opinions and jokes and information. That seems pretty sociable to me.

Wisewebwoman said...

I didn't think to add before which I'll do now Nick. I've lived in many places and it's extraordinary how other introverts find me and "get" me as I find them. My closest friend in my town here is another introvert and we go out and do photography together and have long post-prandial discussions we wouldn't have with anyone else and roll our eyes at each other at community events when the going gets like molasses and the cute grandchildren lecture with photos has lasted interminably and every doctor visit is being recorded in stone.......I'm so grateful he's in my life.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

www: That sounds like a really great friendship. It's good to know someone you have such a rapport with - and someone with the same take on those deadly community events!

Rose Blackthorn said...

I'm fairly sociable. I like people. I find them interesting.

Until I don't.

And I need the silence and my own company.

Labels are boring.

You're on twitter? How did I not know that?!

I'm @roses_journey....who are you there?

Nick said...

Rose: No, I'm not on Twitter. That was just the link I followed. I can't think of any good reason for being a Twitterer, especially as it seems to attract every vicious troll in the country.

I'm much the same, I like chatting to people - until I don't.

BrightenedBoy said...

A friend of mine once described me as being "on the line between extrovert and introvert," which I think is a very accurate way of putting it. I am one of those people who makes friends easily, adores parties, and loves meeting new people; one of the hardest things about living in Arctic State has been the limited social interaction.

But when I need my alone time, I NEED it, and it's not uncommon for me to shut down for a weekend and just go into my cave. That's probably one weekend in three or four, though. I draw energy from social interaction, and not having it feels a bit like starving.

Nick said...

BrightenedBoy: Yes, it must be difficult living in such a remote spot when you enjoy socialising so much. Hopefully you'll make a few good friends in a while. I can understand how a gregarious person who's deprived of social contact can feel starved.