Right now, I’m in the Philadelphia, PA area at my wife’s big Italian family reunion. This is tough for me. I come from a small family. I’m an only child. I’m also, by nature, an introvert.
Oh, also, I’m horrible with names. The nice thing about her family is, as for males in the family, I know I have an approximately 30% chance of getting the right name if I use either ‘Dom’, ‘Joey’, or ‘Mikey’.
There’s big and little versions of each. Big Joey, little Mikey, etc. Dom is usually my first go-to name guess because it wins the majority. There’s three Doms in the family — grandpa Dom, uncle Dom, and cousin Dom.
Growing up, holidays and birthdays consisted of me, a cousin or two, my parents, and maybe an aunt or uncle. 10 people was maximum capacity at any family gathering.
When I married Alex, I was introduced to the concept of the big family.
Two nights ago, we had a “small” dinner at Alex’s grandparent’s house with the out-of-towners who’d arrived so far. There were 20 people at the table. At any one time, there was 4–6 separate conversations going on — each one increasing in volume to speak over the neighboring convo.
I appreciate small, intimate conversations. When I feel like people aren’t listening to me or that I have to compete for someone’s attention, I usually just give up. Not worth it to me. This is when I typically just go with the Irish goodbye.
Can’t do that here though…
Uncomfortable situations are the best opportunities for increased self-awareness.
I started thinking… Why am I so uncomfortable? Why do I hate talking to new people?
What I realized is that it’s mostly personal insecurity. I assume they won’t think I’m interesting. That they won’t care what I have to say.
In being really honest with myself, I realized one thing.
Being introverted doesn’t give you an excuse to be an asshole.
Everyone was having a good time, talking, laughing, etc. — and there I was — being all insecure, quiet, and unsociable.
Being shy is one thing. Being introverted is fine (just because you’re introverted doesn’t mean you’re necessarily ‘shy’ — it just means you recharge through alone time). But when you use that knowledge as an excuse to continue your awkwardness, insecurity, and general assholeness, even if you’ve justified it by being an ‘introvert’ — at the end of the day, you’re still just… an asshole.
I appreciate Susan Cain’s introvert movement that started a few years ago, but I think it made some introverts dig their heels in and be more prideful and stubborn instead of growing from their self-awareness.
I know I’m introverted. But now that I know that, I want to use that knowledge to grow into a better person. I want to be more sociable rather than settle in my natural inclination to clam up in social situations.
Last night, more people showed up and an even bigger party ensued at Alex’s aunt’s house. After night #1, I knew I had to work on this stuff. It was the perfect arena to tame my inner introvert.
A quote from Ernest Holmes came to mind.
People are dying for real human interest, for someone to tell them that they are all right.
Here’s how my self-talk went last night at family gathering #2…
Jonas, stop being such an asshole. You don’t have to be extroverted. Just be interested in people. Stop worrying so much if anyone will find you interesting. That’s not the point. Find them interesting. Ask them genuine questions. Be welcoming. Give the energy you want to get back without expecting it back.
I gotta say, it worked well. I connected with a couple people I’ve failed to connect with in past family events such as these.
Isn’t that what it’s all about, anyways? Human connection. I believe we all yearn for that no matter where we fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum.