By Stephanie Silverman
We had been traveling for four days on a guided business trip that combined individuals from different cities and professions. Some of us already knew each other, but the group hadn’t traveled together before. It was a friendly, interesting, intelligent group, but the days were long and the downtime was nonexistent. By day four, I had hit the wall.
Please don’t make me talk to anyone. About anything. I find myself praying for a genie to appear and grant my one simple wish—to be alone.
I say this all the time, and it still surprises people. When I tell them I am actually an introvert, it’s often met with: “You?! But you are so friendly.” I’m here to tell you there’s a big difference between being friendly and enjoying hours and hours of chatter. Let me explain.
Friendly is easy—you smile broadly, greet people, make a point of using their name. I’ve got that down. This doesn’t take a lot of my energy. I would equate it to a game of Go Fish. It’s simple and pretty much anyone can play, regardless of age or intellect. Even if I’m tired or cranky, I’ve always got a game of Go Fish in me.
But sustaining extended conversations, pretty much about anything, and pretty much with anyone, regardless of the number of people flowing in and out of the conversation? I put this in the same category as a game of chess: You constantly have to think about your pieces, your particular opponent, three moves from now, five moves from now, and so on. It makes my brain hurt. A lot.
My friends know that the thought of being in a room full of people and making small talk is my version of hell. It’s a lot of energy for a very low yield. You say “cocktail party,” and I want to run the other way. Quickly.
The Deep Dive
It made me wonder: What is it about these conversations that renders me completely unsatisfied? I have finally learned that I don’t like surface chatter with everyone; I prefer the deep dive with my favorite people.
Frankly, it’s a lot like my parenting, much to my children’s dismay. Don’t tell me the play you saw was “fine;” tell me what about it touched you and was memorable. (Insert eye roll here from any of my darlings.)
It’s why I like parenting my teens way more than parenting my toddlers. We can have deeper conversations (when they are willing, that is), which is what makes me tick. It’s so much more satisfying. In fact, I’m quite sure my kids can hardly wait to ask me some deep questions about my innermost thoughts from my trip—assuming they noticed I was gone all week.
During the trip, though, it was all about the chitchat, not a deep dive with my closest people. So when the guide said, “You have the afternoon free. See you at 7 p.m.,” I had to exercise restraint from throwing my arms around his neck and kissing him.
As fast as I could, I donned my workout clothes, threw my phone in my pocket in case I might need GPS, and packed the necessary items in my backpack. Gleefully, I fled down to the lobby and out the door. I had to stop myself from skipping.
I was lost in thought as I approached the steps of my favorite destination, where I removed my backpack and carefully laid out my items—pen, itinerary, pamphlets, and, finally, my journal. We had been so busy I hadn’t had a chance to jot down anything in it. I relished the chance to chronicle my musings about the sites, and my feelings in general—most definitely my happy place.
Just don’t make me talk to everyone about it.
Stephanie Silverman is publisher of Your Teen.