Realizing My Own Limits

There’s a widely known issue with introverts in that we don’t have much useful data about them. For some reason, they avoid attention! Go figure. So when I try to read up on social cues and tools, they often reflect a alpha/extrovert personality. This has been challenging as I’ve essentially had to learn the hard way.

Another known fact (if you read this blog regularly) is that I am an introvert. It’s funny enough when I tell this to co-workers or friends I’ve only met in the past 5 years. I certainly don’t come off like one. You can thank honed personal defenses for that one.

I like to watch people. Not in a creepy way but more like ants. Ok, that sounds creepy. When I was younger, I would spend hours at the local mall watching people interact. I’d guess what they did for a living, how many kids (if any), the car they drove, what they were up to. I did that by looking and what they wore, how they held themselves, their speech patterns and a few other things. Over the years, I got better and better at it. I guess it was my “people type” database. I was missing an important part though.

I could read people well enough but I lacked the social cues necessary for progress. I could start a conversation, but I lacked empathy, so emotional feedback would often break the people type mold. Many years in client service, dealing with all sorts of people helped that along. I developed some rudimentary tools. Lead in sentences. Easy exits.

I remember the first time my wife to be met one of my coworkers. Both were dumbfounded that they were talking about the same person. At work, I was an aggressive, no-nonsense, logical throughput machine. I had a goal and hell or high water, I got there. At home I was soft, responsive, willing to compromise. I was in effect two different people because of my social toolset. 

It’s a stretch to call it multiple personalities but at a really high level, that’s just about right. I had a few too, for different events. Over the past few years, I’ve instead found more common ground between them and for one main reason.

It’s damn exhausting.

Let’s pretend that I ask you to spend a month using the word superfluous, at least once an hour. You’d keep track, try to figure out where to use it. That takes energy compared to being yourself.

Being myself at home works. With friends too. At work, less so. So it’s a slight variant. Where I would originally end my week and crash for 10+ hours of sleep and barely get through the week, today I can get til about 2pm on Friday. Past that point, bareknuckles me comes out. It can be jarring but the key item is that I know about it.

So I schedule my week accordingly. Sessions I know will have conflict are early in the week. Items that simply require heads down work are end of week. I just simply ensure that I’m not in a position where I feel drained and ineffective. That’s a core problem with introverts, self judgment. 

So today I have a bunch of social tools, the ability to read people and talk to them, a decent enough personality balance and the knowledge of my personal limits. It took 20+ years of work to get here. One day, I’ll either find that book or write my own.

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