Introvert Monday: The Best Way to Survive Your Own Open House

Open houses are unstructured parties with lots of people making small talk.  It’s no surprise that most introverts dislike open houses.  I’m no different.  Unless I know the majority of people attending an open house fairly well, these shindigs are draining and stressful.

Despite my dislike of these parties, my husband and I decided to host our own open house.  I have heard several pastor’s wives recommend inviting people from church into your home and an open house is supposedly a good way to do this.  My motivation for hosting an open house was purely selfish:  If I do this party thing once, then I wouldn’t have to worry about not seeming “inviting” to congregation members for at least a year.

Still, the prospect of flitting about my house socializing with people I barely know seemed daunting.  However, I found the best way to survive hosting an open house came down to two steps:

1. Have a baby

2. Host the open house while the baby is still young so you spend most of the time either feeding her or trying to get her to nap in the peaceful sanctuary of your bedroom.

It worked like a charm.  I spent over 2/3 of the time in our bedroom.  Granted, this was because Babykins was having an anti-nap day.  Still, dealing with a fussy baby was way better than small talk.

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Introvert Monday: Phone Aversion

Phone adversion

In a fit of severe loneliness a few weeks ago, I asked one of my online communities for advice to cope with being a new person in a small town.  One of the suggestions that people mentioned several times was “phone dates” with close friends.  *Cringe*

I finally had to admit that I suffer from phone aversion.  It’s hard enough for me to get my act together and call people on a good day, it’s an impossible feat for me to do so when I’m feeling down.  After I admitted my aversion, several other people commented that they also had a tenuous relationship with their phones.  I wasn’t alone!

Then I remembered:  Introverts typically don’t like phone calls.  Don’t ask me why I always forget this, but it’s such a relief to know that my phone issues aren’t something unusual.

Why don’t introverts like the phone?

Marti Olsen Laney concisely describes introverts phone phobia in her book, The Introvert Advantage:

“Here’s how most introverts view the phone: It’s an interruption that drains energy and requires losing focus, which you have to gain again; it requires expending energy for “on-the-feet thinking”; it doesn’t provide innies with Hap Hits.*  Introverts can have so many dips of energy during the day that they are not able to expend energy at the drop of a hat.” (Pg. 184)

That jarring ring-tone ruins the focus that introverts like to maintain.  It’s a demand for a conversation that you’ve had no preparation for (when starting an impromptu conversation in person, at least you have a few moments to register that a person is coming towards you with the intention of talking).

Likewise, a huge chunk of non-verbal communication is taken away when on the phone.  One introvert describes it as, “There’s no ‘text and subtext, body language. . .I can’t “place myself” properly (if that makes sense), when it’s not face-to-face'” (The Introvert’s Way, pg. 66).  There’s no way for introverts to convey that their momentary silence may be that they are thinking about their response–there’s just awkward silence.  This can lead to either the other person continuously chatting and not letting the introvert get a word in or lead to the introvert panicking and creating a nonsensical monologue.  I find the latter usually happens to me.

How to cope with the phone

Fortunately for me, I actually don’t have many people that I feel I need to talk on the phone with–just immediate family and close friends (and even with the close friends, I’m pretty terrible at maintaining phone contact).  Because I have such a limited number of people who call me, I’ll generally answer if I can (actually making a phone call is another beast to deal with).

However, for those who aren’t so fortunate to have limited phone contact, here are some common tips:

  1. Let your voicemail pick up the message and call back during a set time.
  2. Schedule phone calls with friends and family so you have the proper amount of energy.
  3. Don’t be afraid to end the conversation when there’s nothing left to be said.
  4. Try to keep yourself free to move around when on the phone.  Hands-free sets can help.
  5. Encourage and utilize use of other forms of communication like e-mail or texting (realizing that sometimes it really is necessary to have a conversation over the phone!).

That being said, some tips don’t work for me personally, especially since I also have issues with technology.  Many introverts don’t mind using video chat like Skype because it allows them to see the other person.  I personally don’t like video chat, mostly because I find technology glitches incredibly frustrating and more distracting then dealing with awkward pauses on the phone.  Likewise, texting isn’t a great way of communication for me.  I still have a flip phone, so repeatedly pressing buttons to find the right letter gets tedious.  If a texting conversation gets too long, I’d rather save time and talk on the phone.  But I do love e-mail!

However, technology might be converting more people towards the introvert’s view on communication.  Sophia Dembling explains in The Introvert’s Way:

“Interestingly, society may actually be taking a turn toward our way of thinking.  According to Nielsen, we’re making fewer phone calls than we used to (we peaked in 2007), and in 2008 it reported that people were sending and receiving more texts with their mobile phones than they were making or receiving phone calls” (pg. 69).

Perhaps less phone chatting is in all of our futures!

How do you feel about phones?  Are you an introvert who doesn’t mind phone calls?  Are you an extrovert who abhors them?

*Hap Hits can be described as “hits of happiness”.


Introvert Monday: Introverted Mothering

At nearly 32 weeks pregnant, the excitement and worry about the upcoming arrival of Baby is heightening.  One of my bigger concerns is the fact that motherhood is a 24/7 job.  I’ve worked with babies and toddlers through my daycare and nanny jobs.  I know how demanding and exhausting they can be.  On especially hard days, knowing that I could leave got me through quitting time.

But motherhood has no punch-out card.  Motherhood has no guaranteed breaks.  This is unsettling for my introverted self.  What if I can’t find the quiet time that I need?  How do I find that balance between caring for my child and having alone time?

Thankfully, I won’t be the only introverted parent on the planet.  Many introverted mothers have and currently are lovingly raising their children.

Obviously I can’t speak from experience about balancing motherhood and introversion.  However, I have been looking for advice on introverts surviving (and even enjoying) child-rearing.  Here are some of the top tips I’ve found so far:

1. Carve out alone time into every day.  Since introverts need alone time to recharge, it is vital that they get this time every day.  According to Marti Olsen Laney in The Introvert Advantage, “Focusing twenty-four hours a day on the needs of another being can be extraordinarily taxing.  Introverted moms need to find ways to take breaks and be completely alone or shift into a relaxing adult activity,” (pg. 135).   Making children’s nap time/quiet time a priority is a good way to make this happen.

2.  Don’t be afraid to tell your children “No”.  Sometimes keeping up with kids’ schedules, especially when you have several children or an extroverted child, can be exhausting.  That means to keep your sanity, you have to say “no” to some activities.  It could be a long term activity–like joining another sports team, or a one time thing–like playing tea party when all you want is 10 minutes of peace and quiet.

Sometimes this also means that you have to create rules that may seem strict to others.  I liked this author’s rules about no unnecessary noise.

3. Find social outings with your children that you are comfortable with.  Not to say that introverted mothers should never try something out of their comfort zone.  However, if a specific activity or social situation makes you perpetually uncomfortable, don’t force it.

One introverted mother stated in this Today Parents post, “It is somewhat selfish of me, but for the most part, my daughter only has play dates with kids whose moms I also connect with.”  Since the new norm in the world of  playdates is for the mothers to socialize while their children play, this can be draining if you don’t connect with the other mother.  She also advises bringing something like a book to activities to signal that she doesn’t want to make small talk.

4.  Don’t feel guilty about needing time away from your children.  Parenting requires sacrifice.  Your children need you, and that means giving up or cutting back on some things you enjoyed before children.  However, as an introvert, having time to quietly recharge will make you a happier, healthier mom.  That alone time may need to look different than before you had kids (i.e.–it’s at a different time of day, the location changes), but it still needs to be there. 

And as your children age, “It’s important to explain to your children that you feel drained by too many activities, that you need breaks to recharge your energy in a way they may not,” (The Introvert Advantage, pg. 149).  Even if they don’t understand immediately, you’ll introduce to them the fact that people have different temperaments.

Introversion and motherhood can coincide

Being an introverted mother can have it’s challenges (as does extroverted parenting).  However, introversion can also help with parenting.  Introverts may be able to better listen to their children when interacting with them one-on-one.  Likewise, they may overall take better to the enclosed world that parenting small children create.

Hopefully I can take my own advice come October.  🙂

DSCN1065

And remember, at least you’re not like a cat who can birth 7 kittens at once!

Are you an introverted parent?  How do you find a balance between your children and your introversion?  

 


Introvert Monday: So It Returns and Overview

Well, it’s been in a year since I’ve consistently posted on Introvert Monday.  Apparently working full time took more out of me than I expected!

At any rate, I’m hoping to restart this series and find exciting facts and stories about introversion.  Yay!  But since I haven’t written much about this topic in the last year, I thought I would spend today doing a brief overview of what introversion is.

1. Definition

There are many definitions of introversion floating around, but the general gist of introversion is this: “What constitutes an introvert is quite simple.  We are a vastly diverse group of people who prefer to look at life from the inside out.  We gain energy and power through inner reflection, and get more excited by ideas than by external activities.  When we converse, we listen well and expect others to do the same.  We think first and talk later,” (Laurie Helgoe, Introvert Power, pg. 13).

2. Introverts need alone time

Introverts regain energy by having time to themselves to think, dream, ponder, etc.  This is compared to extroverts who get their energy from interacting with others.

3.  Introversion and extroversion are traits that are found on a spectrum

I’ve had many people comment that they thought they were introverted, but they enjoy so-and-so activity.  This is partly because no one is 100% introverted or extroverted.  You’ll meet introverts who work in fields that require a lot of social interaction and you’ll meet extroverts who occasionally retreat from the world.  In fact, even introverts need social interaction and even extroverts need alone time.  The key is how much an introvert or extrovert need.

In fact, some people may fall close to the middle of the introvert-extrovert spectrum.  They’re called ambiverts.

4.  Introverts aren’t necessarily shy!

This is a mix up that happens a lot.  Just because a person is introverted doesn’t mean they struggle with severe shyness.  Many introverts have no problem talking to strangers or public speaking, they just have to find time alone to regain their energy.  Likewise, extroverts can be shy.  This can be extremely difficult for them because they desire more social interaction but may have problems finding it.

5.  Introversion/extroversion is only one aspect of personality

People are complex.  To try to define them by one personality trait is ridiculously simplistic.  However, I’ve chosen to write about introversion because it is an often misunderstood aspect of personality.

If you would like to know more about introversion, check out my “Resources for Introverts” page.  I would love to hear if you have any suggestions for further reading!

If you aren’t sure where you fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, you can take a quiz here.


Introvert Monday: When Children’s Books Understand Introversion

It’s been awhile since I’ve written an “Introvert Monday” post.  Sorry!

Last week I was reading my youngest nanny charge One, Two, Three! by Sandra Boynton.  Since many of Sandra Boynton’s books weren’t published until after I had outgrown board books, reading her books are new to me.  Consequently, I had no idea that One, Two, Three! understood introversion.  First, the book took us counting up to 10 while looking at illustrations of animals doing funny things like having tea or exploring a cave.  *Spoilers*  But the last few pages went like this:

Ten makes a celebration LOUD, LOUD, LOUD!  And ONE is WONDERFUL after a crowd.

I smiled as I finished the story.  I might be trying to glean too much from a children’s book, but I felt that here was an author encouraging young readers to spend time alone and not to feel like they always have to be having fun in a crowd.  The illustrations also encourage this idea.  On the “Ten” page, nine animals march around with noisy instruments while the tenth animal (a little cat) gives a bug-eyed look to the reader.  On the last “One” page, the same little cat gives a relaxed smile as he stands alone on the page, because one is truly wonderful after a crowd.


Introvert Monday: Social Encounters for the Socially Awkward

Let’s face it:  We all have our awkward social moments.  Even the most outgoing of us can put our foot in our mouths or commit a faux pas in an unfamiliar social situation.  However, some of us have a tendency to create awkward situations more often than others in everyday interactions.  While not all introverts are socially inept, I definitely have problems navigating basic social situations.  Here are some of my most common awkward social encounters:

1.  Seeing a non-socially awkward friend while running errands.

Non socially awkward friend

There’s something about running into a friend unexpectedly that triggers a social etiquette mind blank.  How do I react to seeing them?  Do I smile at them and continue my errand because we’re both busy people?  Do I stop and chitchat?  How long should chitchat go on?  Do I yell really loudly, “HEY, I KNOW YOU!!!!!”?  For me, it’s much easier to wait for them to make the first move.

2.  Crossing paths with an acquaintance you only see occasionally.

an aquaintance occasionally see

There are a couple of things that go wrong in this scenario.  First, there is a good chance that I mistook a stranger for an acquaintance.  To greet that person with a bright, “Hello, how are you?” can lead to accidental social embarrassment for both parties. Secondly, there is a chance that the acquaintance won’t remember me.  While technically I’m socially correct to greet this person, it still leads to accidental social embarrassment.  Of course, by waiting for the other person to make the first acknowledgment of acquaintanceship, that leaves the chance of social embarrassment by ignoring a person I know.

3.  Happening upon another socially awkward acquaintance.  

social awkward duo

Have you ever watched two socially awkward people try to create small talk?  It’s incredibly uncomfortable.  I wish we could just have the above conversation and be done with it!

What types of awkward social encounters do you have?


Introvert Monday: This Is So True

My sister linked me to this comic the other day.  Her depiction of introversion is spot on and her drawings are, well, actually drawingslife like instead of doodles.  And her character even has red hair!

In other news, I finally bought The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D.  I’m very excited to reread this book!  I hope to highlight some of the important points from her findings and share them with you.


Introvert Monday: The Birthday Party

birthday party

On Saturday, my husband and I attended my nanny children’s birthday party (my nanny kids and their cousins all have birthdays in the same month, so their family throws a big birthday party for them every year).  This would be the first large group, non-church event we have attended since starting vicarage and truth be told, I was dreading this party all week.  I knew that I wouldn’t know most people at the party.  There would be a lot of people at the party.  Basically, I feared that I would go into introvert/anxiety mode in front of my boss.  By Saturday morning, I was berating myself for not finding an excuse to get out of going to the party.

However, it turned out to be a pleasant party.  The usual sensation of unease and stress never arose.  I didn’t feel my shoulders tense or my heart race.  It was the most comfortable I have felt at a large group event in a long time.

As we drove home from the party, I wondered why I felt so relaxed at the birthday party while Sunday mornings still remain a stressful ordeal.  My ponderings lead me to three reasons:

1.  There was ample space.  Crowds and noise are big triggers for me–that’s part of the reason I struggle so much at church (I know that I should be thrilled that the church is crowded with happy people; it still makes me uneasy).  However, the birthday party was outdoors with plenty of space for the numerous children to run around.  Likewise, there were several picnic tables spread out, meaning that when we sat down we weren’t bombarded by other tables’ conversations.

2.  I had a surrogate.  I’ve mentioned before that having a surrogate–a non-shy person to help a shy person in social situations–can be extremely helpful.  My husband is my surrogate.  While he is an ambivert (someone who falls in the middle of the extrovert/introvert continuum), he isn’t shy.  Likewise, he is a very gifted in small talk, meaning he can navigate social encounters with much more ease than I can.  Unfortunately, on Sunday mornings (and really any church event) my husband cannot be my surrogate because he is working.  However, for this party he was able to stay with me.  He didn’t need to rush off to talk to this person or that person.  And he was able to handle the small talk.

3.  There weren’t any expectations about my behavior.  I’ve heard it all before:  Just because I’m the vicar’s wife doesn’t mean I have to do certain things.  Despite this, I still feel pressure to be gregarious at church.  And whether I like it or not, what I say and do reflects on my husband.  This adds to the stress of Sunday mornings.  However, at the birthday party I was only the nanny.  If I didn’t talk much, if I seemed “shy,” that was okay–I have never heard of anyone expecting their nanny to be outgoing.  Likewise, it’s easier to monitor my behavior in relation to how it reflects on me than how it reflects on someone else.

The party provided both comfort in concern.  On one hand, here was proof that I could still function at a social event without going catatonic.  On the other hand, the three factors that made this party easier to tolerate cannot be easily emulated on Sunday mornings.

What do strategies to you use to make awkward social situations easier?    


Introvert Monday: Keeping Sane as an Introverted Nanny

introverts and children

Aside from the chirping birds outside and the fridge humming, my boss’s house is quiet.  I lounge in the armchair as I wait for the children to awake, rotating between gazing out the window and reading.  I soak up the solitude and silence now because I know that once the kids are up, it will be hours before I experience quiet again.  I glance at the clock.  7:55, I should really wake them up, I think to myself.  In less than 10 minutes, I have the kids seated at the table to eat breakfast.  They quickly shake the slow sleepiness of the night and move into the high energy of the day.  Before I know it, they are happily talking over one another and wrestling in the living room.

It’s loud.  It’s chaotic.  It’s everything that the introvert in me tries to avoid.  Why am I doing this job again?

Believe it or not, I do actually like children.  They’re funny and enthusiastic, and I enjoy teaching and helping them.  While I didn’t go to college to become a nanny, there are certainly other professions I could have pursued to help pay the bills while my husband is in seminary.  Nannying has simply worked out to be the best option for me for the time being.  Consequently, I find myself in conflict with two parts of me:  One who enjoys the world of children and the one who thrives in a world of structure and calm.   Obviously, both parts need to compromise with one another in order for me to keep my sanity.  The two biggest helps I have found in balancing my life as an introverted nanny are quiet zones and quiet time.

Quiet Zones

I am acutely sensitive to noise.  The inevitable roar of a large crowd makes me cringe and I have to put my dress watch in my jewelry box so I can’t hear it ticking at night.  When by myself, I often choose to do my hobbies in silence rather than turning on the radio or television.

However, children are noisy creatures.  Whether it’s by increasing their volume during play or making odd, unconscious sounds during quiet activities, kids suck the silence out of any situation.  That’s just the way they are.  I realize it would be unfair of me to expect them to keep their play quiet.

To find a compromise between my preference for quiet and the needs of my nanny children, I try to ignore the reasonable noises they make.  Sounds like a happily raised voiced or an occasional burst of loud bangs or crashes should be tolerated.  However, if they start getting rowdy or continue a loud noise for several minutes to the point where I can feel my nerves tingling, I give them choices.  Either they can switch to a different activity or go play somewhere else, like the basement or outside, where they can make all the noise they want.  Sometimes they choose to find a different activity, sometimes they choose to go elsewhere, and sometimes I wind up choosing for them to go elsewhere after they have been already warned to keep the noise down.  Usually they sulk for the first few minutes after I choose for them, but soon they are happily being noisy again in a place where they won’t get into trouble.  After a few minutes of quiet for myself (often I’m doing something like cleaning the kitchen), I’ll go and join them, able to participate another round of loud, rowdy play.

Quiet Time

Like a stay-at-home-mom, I don’t have a real break .  Since I am the only adult in the house, so I can’t punch out for an hour and tell the kids to leave me alone. This can make for a very long day.  Consequently, finding some sort of reprieve from childcare duties for at least an hour after lunch is vital for me to keep functioning at my best (or at least keep me from become a blubbering mass before a parent comes home).

Naps are a useful way of making quiet time.  Ideally, you tuck the child in and they’ll sleep for a couple of hours.  Of course, no child likes taking naps, especially as they get older.  This means some compromises maybe  needed to create a quiet time in the house.   For kids not yet in kindergarten, sometimes I put them in bed with a couple of books to look at (sometimes they’ll even fall asleep reading!).  For older children with their own bedroom, I’ll let them play with quiet toys in their room.  This year I have permission to show a movie for the older kids while the younger child naps.  While this isn’t as the quietest option, it still gives me a chance to drink a cup of coffee and stare off into space for awhile.

This quiet time can be good for children as well as introverted nannies, even extroverted children.  Marti Olsen Laney, Psy. D., explains in her book The Introvert Advantage, “Many extroverted children don’t want to miss out on anything, which can really be exhausting for parents, even extroverted parents.  Schedule quiet time even if your children don’t want to slow down [. . .] Even every extroverted children can do too much.  They need opportunities to practice introverting,” (pg. 148-149).  Just like children need adults to help them understand how their bodies need healthy foods and when their bodies are telling them to use the bathroom, they also need adults help to teach them that their bodies need rest.

Preparing for the Future

While nannying isn’t exactly the same as parenting, there are some things that overlap.   Consequently, I feel that learning how to handle my days as an introverted nanny will help me when I become an introverted mother.  Of course, this could be an overconfident delusion, but one can always dream.

What tips do you have for other introverted nannies?  Do introverted parents have any survival tactics they would like to share?

Here’s another nifty list of how to handle being an introverted parent: http://creatingafairhaven.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/10-survival-tips-for-introverted-parents/.  I’m not saying that I would implement every rule she has created, but I admire her for realizing that she needs to care for her introverted nature in order for her to function as a mother. 


Introvert Monday: Awkward Social Encounters

I’m currently working on an introversion post that will take some time to write (and by “working on,” I mean “I have an idea and it sounds cool but I’m too lazy to sit down and write it.).  Anyway, I thought I would encourage you to read this post:  http://www.hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/09/four-levels-of-social-entrapment.html.  I realize I’m a little late on the Hyperbole and a Half bandwagon but her posts are hilarious.