At work, being a person at the point of sale at the cash register and being the receptionist answering the phone and greeting people at the front desk, I also was criticized (albeit more politely and constructively) for being too quiet. Now I know, maybe I shouldn't be in a job where I have to answer the phone or greet people. It isn't that I'm unfriendly, I'm just shy about it.Yes, still. even when it's my job not to be, it's still difficult to pretend to be happy to see a customer or a client when it really doesn't make a difference to me personally if they are there or not. It's not like I worked on commission or like I knew them all really well.
The last thing I am is phony, which is probably a big reason why I am not very good at small talk with strangers or greeting customers. I am focused on my other tasks and my own thoughts and projects, and having to put on this happy face feels false to me. Some people consider it just being friendly, but I draw a line between what I consider friendly and what I would consider going overboard with vivacity, for me anyway. I will smile and say hello, friendly enough for me, but I'm not going to strike up a conversation about your kids or the weather or the basketball game last night (overly vivacious).
All this time, I've felt like there was something wrong with me because I wasn't bubbly and giggly and super-friendly and didn't like parties or participating in class or meetings when I didn't have anything constructive to add. Now I realize that there's nothing wrong with me for being that way. It's just how I'm wired, genetically and through my upbringing, and I don't see why I should be forced to be somebody that I'm not.
I have other valuable traits and skills that are a result of my quietness and I think that people should take advantage of those things and reward and appreciate those parts of my abilities and my personality rather than trying to mold me into something I'm not. I'm not a dog--I'm not going to jump all over you and wag my tail and bark when you come into the room. I don't even do that with people I really care about and know well. I will be polite, but I can't promise anything more than that until we know each other better.
While I can now stand up and give a presentation, in front of 5 people or 50, I can't do it off the cuff. I have to have time to prepare. Some of the problems I experienced throughout my education and other situations growing up is because I was expected to adhere to a standard that was set for extroverted people. I am terrible with the Socratic method (used too much in philosophy classrooms considering how many of us are introverts!) because I need more time to process and formulate my answer. I'm not stalling because I don't know it (not every time, at least)--I'm trying to put my thoughts into words and put those words together in a coherent manner. I simply cannot come up with something to say just because you point at me when my hand wasn't raised.
This is why I also prefer writing to speaking. I can take my time to work on a problem or an argument or a topic and add the right details and evidence and background information. I can work at my own pace and I can go back and rework something if it's unclear or if I think of something to add.
One thing I realized recently is that maybe I should not be looking for a position that requires me to answer phones or greet customers. I may be good at the other "introverted" parts of the position, working individually, organizing dates, projects, files, managing my time, but I am not as good at the "extroverted" aspects which require a more social aspect with strangers that makes me feel uncomfortable and like I am not being myself.
Part 3 of this series will be focused on the book itself. Why people should read it, where it was really beneficial and where it was lacking. Still haven't decided if I'll do any additional commentary beyond that, but it's given me a lot to write about so far, so it's possible!
“Or at school you may have been prodded to "come out of your shell"- that noxious expression that fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter wherever they go, and that some humans are just the same.”