Volume 2, Issue 1, 01/10/08
Last night I had a great time at a birthday party, but not the
way I was expecting.
It was a small gathering – the "birthday girl" (turning 55) and
five of her woman friends. We sat in front of the fireplace and
ate soup and bread and birthday cupcakes and chatted about
nothing in particular.
The "birthday girl" has old friendships with everyone in the
group but the six of us had never spent time together. I knew
it was going to be a small gathering and mainly I didn't know
who was coming.
This was a party my introvert self could look forward to (and I
did.) Only a few people, a cozy fire on a winter's night, good
food (the birthday girl is a great cook) and the possibility of
some real conversation.
Here's what I think I was expecting (besides good fire, good
food). I think I had it in my head that because it wasn't 10
or 15 or 25 people, I'd find myself at ease in this more intimate
group and get immersed in an in-depth conversation with
some interesting women.
What actually happened is I quickly remembered that what I like
best is having a great conversation with one person – a group of
six is no small thing! (The generalization about introverts
preferring one to one interaction isn't exaggerating.)
But what happened after I got clear about that is what I truly
wasn't expecting: I had a great time immersed in small talk!
As I settled myself in – really close to the fire – I began
sizing us up. There was one other self-identified introvert
and one extrovert. I don't know how the other three identify
but my hunch is one introvert, two extroverts. That would make
an even balance - half introverts, half extroverts.
Now I may have had some help from being so close to the fire –
it was very relaxing. (And if I did, thank you, fire :-)) What
I noticed is that once I realized the in-depth conversation
(with one person) wasn't going to happen, I went with the flow
and I liked it.
Something I learned is that "small talk" isn't synonymous with
superficial. The conversation moved from one thing to the next
- little reports about people's lives, a question here and there,
comments about the food, laughing, periodic interruptions
to pet the two roaming chocolate labs, a short discussion about
At first I tried to figure out how to be part of this little group
and how to be in the conversation. Maybe it was the fire, maybe
I was tired, but I gave up soon and just went with it.
The extroverts were being extroverts, setting a lively (but not
speedy) pace. The other introverts seemed comfortable being
themselves, both listening and talking. As for me, I discovered
a way to be with myself and with the group at the same time that
was surprisingly pleasurable.
For starters, once I gave in, I realized this party was doing fine
with or without my participation – the pressure was off. I was
free to do what I felt like.
Mostly what I felt like was watching and listening. Five
beautiful people were being relaxed and natural and having a
good time – and I got to be in their presence.
A topic would come up that I could add a story to, but the pace
was faster than mine, so mostly I'd enjoy my story silently – it
was part of the conversation, just not spoken. Same with
opinions – I loved hearing what people said about the book and
I added a comment or two but mainly I enjoyed my own perspective
privately and didn't have to generate much energy to keep up
with the pack.
And when I got tired, I quietly excused myself and went home.
They paused to send me off warmly and got right back to business.
The moral of this story, for me? Don't underestimate the
potential to be "introvertly" happy in any situation. (And
don't cheat yourself on time in front of the fireplace.)
End of food for thought – on to a practical idea:
A Practical Idea for Introverts and Extroverts
The next time you're in a group setting (of any size), remind
yourself that who you are speaks louder than whatever might
come out of your mouth at a given moment. Then relax and