Currently, I test slightly to the introvert side of the extrovert/introvert continuum. Although it depends on the situation, if I had a choice between sitting home with coffee while digging into a book and going out to a social event, I’d almost always pick the former.
So, I guess you can say I’m an introvert (and was one before it was cool).
The other day, I was perusing the interwebs for some anti-boredom material and decided to watch an interview with one of my favorite musicians and people in general — James Taylor.
The one I happened on was from 1977. It was with him and his wife at the time, Carly Simon. They were on some groovy 70’s talk show talking about drug use (seems like he was in the early days of his recovery at that time).
So there James was, reflecting on his regrets when Carly Simon chimed in. What she said was profound, even to us non drug-users — especially us introverts.
She said something to the effect that drugs are often used at social gatherings as a form of ‘social lubricant’ (no, she didn’t use that term ‘cus she’s far too classy) that helps one feel more comfortable with their friends. She went on to say…
“In fact, there’s a certain thing to be gained from feeling tense with your friends. Because if you break it down from that point, then you’re really getting to know each other. If you break it down with the help of drugs, you’re not seeing who you are or who the other person is.”
It seems Simon is an extrovert, so I’m not sure if she was speaking on behalf of her INFP husband, Taylor, but as an INFP myself, I can TOTALLY relate to this feeling.
Her statement brought me to a revelation. I envisioned a huge plastic sheet between me and the stranger I’m faced with at a social gathering. This sheet is made of emotion, anxiety, insecurity, and fear.
THIS is what I’m scared of — dealing with the sheet — not necessarily the individual.
In looking at this clear plastic film, although it seems like it comes built-in to the territory, I realize I’ve created it. It stems from the fear of the awkwardness of the situation. Not the situation itself.
The thing we need social lubricant for is self-constructed and therefore able to be self-deconstructed.
To reduce the need for social lubricant, get comfortable with the discomfort between you and the other.
What’s really helped me is, in taking Simon’s advice, falling in love with that friction between myself and another. Falling in love with that awkwardness.
I have a friend who purposefully goes to parties, bars and gatherings with the sole intention to make it just awkward enough to throw people off center just enough to where they loosen up and laugh. I watch in wonder as he sparks unforgettable connection by saying the craziest stuff that makes people stop… silently look at him with jaw-dropping (slightly disturbing) bewilderment… and then bust up laughing, hugging him, etc. Before I know it, they’re best friends. Amazing.
For one, it’s such a beautifully human thing. Awkwardness keeps life interesting. I absolutely love the absurd (especially in that it serves as rocket fuel for something to write about). There’s nothing like awkward, vulnerable settings which allow that creative friction to blossom into something wonderfully, tragically hilarious.
So this is the question, my dear introverted friends…
Can you fall in love with that social friction between yourself and another? Can you fall in love with the awkwardness of it?
If so, I hope you look forward to your next social gathering. May your mission be to tear that plastic sheet of fear down and embrace the awkwardness that’s just steps away from making your evening an amusing one. May you stare the discomfort in the eye and thank it for adding complexity to your life.
And may you see that you’re not the only one not wanting to go:)