I have a networking function tonight and I have slipped into the pattern of moroseness I usually feel on such days. I don't want to leave the house and spend two hours talking to other people. There will be more than 60 people there. Obviously I don't have to talk to all of them; usually I manage to avoid talking to many at all because I'm on duty with my camera or up on the microphone being an MC.
So I've been playing online jigsaws for the last two hours while my mind spirals down and I tell myself to buck up, it won't be that bad. It's cloudy and grey outside and that doesn't help either as I suspect I'm prone to SAD. I can't focus on work as I know I have to leave at 4.30 for this function to help set up. I haven't been able to focus on the To Do list since 9.30am and it's noon as I write this.
Most business people head cheerfully to networking events and actually enjoy them. I'm guessing most business people aren't as introverted as I and at least 50% of them are genuine extroverts (apparently the population split in general is 60% extrovert and 40% introvert… which means that almost half the population is introverted, in a world which seems more geared to extroverts).
I found this rather good post today which explains introversion nicely:
It's not that I'm particularly shy. I used to be as a child but these days I happily get on the microphone and address the networking group. It's the small talk chat and talking to people I haven't met before which I find excruciating.
I have friends who nag me to give up smoking, and part of me would, very much, like to kick the habit. But the fags give me an excuse to escape for a few minutes by myself at parties and networking events. Get away from the crowd, get away from the noise. A bit of me time. Far from the madding crowd, essentially.
My introversion is the same reason I will send an email rather than pick up the phone, unless I'm calling a friend for a catchup. I don't think quickly on my feet and writing down what's on my mind is a far less stressful task.
I work alone and work from home. The introverted part of me can't cope with the notion of going into an office everyday and being surrounded by people for the duration of the working day. I put up with that for 25+ years and got through it only by making sure I had lunch at my desk by myself with a good book. I suspect working alone has made my introversion worse, but frankly I don't care. I'm happiest alone.
My upline in the candle business is chasing me to book for the national conference in July, a horror of an event with 600 people, a networking cocktail party with all 600 and a formal dinner again with all 600. It's my idea of hell. I hate conferences with a passion, especially big ones like this. Two days of being locked in a room surrounded by, mainly, strangers unless I could sit with someone I actually know. The final straw is that we have to share hotel rooms; the only available me time will be in the bathroom. The thought of the conference is making me feel physically sick, so I shan't be going. I suspect I will not go far in the candle business; one is expected to attend the conference if one is on the pathway to building a team and achieving leadership. You might wonder what an introvert is doing in a direct marketing role anyway - but I have no problem with speaking about the product; it's speaking to the guests socially after the parties that's hard!
I'm fine with small dinner parties with up to ten people. I feel quite comfortable and able to chat, particularly if they are people I already know. I find it awkward to talk to new people, particularly if they are as introverted as I. I forget to ask open ended questions; I struggle to think of anything aside from "What do you do for a living?" to start a conversation off.
This week is a particularly bad one for me. I have the function tonight, later this week I have a "Chambers Day" with other execs from Chambers of Commerce (a full day of conference including lunchtime bloody networking), and my stepson is visiting for two nights from tomorrow. I can feel my stress levels rising. I do like my stepson, however. He is in his late 20s. He has Asperger's, which is no big deal, except that like me he is an introvert so we have lots of long, awkward silences between us unless my husband is there to (sometimes clumsily) break the ice. If my stepson does talk it's often about topics he is fanatical about, and it's hard to a) keep up, b) maintain an interest as his chief interests don't interest me, and likely vice versa or c) change the subject. He can talk on his chosen topics for hours.
So, dear reader, or perhaps readers (I might get lucky), are you one of our wonderful 40% of introverts? How do you cope with large gatherings or compulsory work networking events? Do you find you get miserable just thinking about them, or do you force yourself not to think about them until the time is upon you?
Me, I'm heading back to jigsawplanet.com for a few hours to take my mind off it.