“You’re a loner.”
I was standing in the cold on campus at the University of Washington (UW), talking to my dad on a pay phone.
I was silent after his last statement. He began again.
“It’s not like you CAN’T make friends. You just don’t want to. Nothing wrong with that.”
I got off the phone and his statement stuck to me. I’m a loner.
I thought about it some more. Yup, I have no problem with that.
I’ve known for awhile that I’m an introvert. I didn’t really care for social settings when I was younger, although I’m much better now.
I remember visits to our relatives and sometimes I would just sit in the car. “You coming in?”, my dad would ask, probably already knowing what my answer was.
No. I’ll be fine right here.
And I would sit in the car until it was time to leave. If someone came outside, I would hide so they wouldn’t come over and talk to me.
I remember times during high school when girls would say hello to me, and I’d just stare or be non-responsive while they carried a conversation for the both of us. Tragic.
Parties were pointless. I didn’t do anything but bob my head and listen to the music, if I even went at all.
You think this changed as I got older?
I remember women asking me out for coffee and I’d respond with, “Oh, I don’t really drink coffee.”
She’s asking you out, stupid! Of course, she wouldn’t know what to say after that, just give me a smile and probably wonder wtf is wrong with me. I was kind of oblivious. Probably still am.
I missed some key opportunities in my life because I was clueless in social situations. I’m sure it’s cost me, but to what degree, who can say?
A simple test
When I started working for a social services agency, I participated in a workshop facilitated by an expert in Myers-Briggs personality profiling.
The facilitator was contracted by the UW and I proceeded to go over 350+ statements to assess whether I agree a little, a lot, or disagree a little or a lot. At the end of the test, they tabulated the results and 4 letters were presented to me:
I N F P
I = Introvert
N = iNtuitive
F = Feeling
P = Perceiving
The report also showed the degree to which I was an “I”, “N”, “F”, and “P”. I saw my “I” was practically off the charts. Sure, I knew I was introverted, but this much?? Can’t say I was surprised, then I remembered my dad’s words.
You’re a loner.
He didn’t mean anything by that statement, he was simply stating a fact. He probably had a little concern when he said it because I was young, and starting over in a new place. He just wanted me to be mindful of it.
Before we got off the phone, he said to me, “If you want to change, you can. It’s up to you.”
Acceptance & Practice
Over time I would learn to embrace who I was. I also learned how to improve myself in social arenas.
This led me to the understanding that if something can be improved upon, it’s a skill. I would just need some more practice.
Some psychologists believe that your personality type is innate. Some think it’s nurtured over time. Some think it’s fixed, and some believe you can change it.
I’m somewhere in the middle of all of that. I’ve been introverted for as long as I can remember, but I’m sure I’ve shifted a few degrees over to the extroverted side. Maybe I’ll take the longer version of the test again to find out where I am again. Maybe I won’t.
Finally, there are advantages to being introverted. I get to live within my wild imagination. I’ve become a decent teacher and facilitator. I’m developing my writing and public speaking skills. I’m able to generate fresh ideas and practical, but innovative solutions to everyday problems.
I’m still a loner, preferring my journal to a networking event, but I’m getting better, day by day.
How about you?