I had an interesting conversation with a professor the other day. He asked me why I never took any of his classes before this semester, and one in particular, which is taught only by him and one other professor.
Uh, oh. Can you say, “think carefully before you answer?”
I almost had an answer out when he waved me quiet and told me to shut the door. M-kay??? He said, “here’s what I know about you.” Pregnant pause. How do you respond to that?
He said, “you’re mature, you don’t suffer fools lightly, and you hate having your time wasted.”
Pick jaw up off floor.
Okay, he probably figured that out from the daily logs I’ve been submitting about my most recent courthouse experience. I had written several times about the differences in the way people treat time between my old career and my new one. There are plentiful jokes running around the courthouse where I’ve spent the better part of my time since January, along the lines of “juvenile court time is not regular time. 9:00 a.m. regular time means ‘whenever we get to it’ in juvenile court time.” This is completely foreign to me in terms of my old career in graphics, where if you don’t turn around work by yesterday, you’ll lose your client. I have been very honest in my daily logs about having a difficult time reconciling those two attitudes. And although I have loved every minute of the time I have spent at that courthouse, having to live long term with that kind of cavalier attitude about time would probably drive me out of my mind. I think it’s unprofessional and careless. And yes, foolish.
What does this have to do with taking his class? I had signed up for this class with the other professor, but she tends to be a bit scatterbrained. Her teaching style is all over the place and she can be disorganized. A person like me would find that very foolish and very much a waste of time. Indeed, I sat through one night of class and knew I’d never last an entire semester with her. I dropped the class. I didn’t pick it up with the current professor because frankly, I find him to be a little intimidating. Too late now.
But I’ve been thinking about his comments ever since.
“You don’t suffer fools lightly, and you hate having your time wasted.” What does that mean and where does it come from?
I’m well aware that those two attitudes are going to shape how I approach my career and my interactions with clients, with other lawyers, and with anyone who works for me.
But I think there is no place else that is so affected by these attitudes than in my every day dealings with people in my community. You see, I’m an introvert. I dislike being out in public, “people noise” bothers me, I don’t go to parties, and I avoid crowds like the plague.
Does anyone else hate grocery shopping? I get really impatient with other shoppers. They stand around and pay no attention to anything going on around them, and if you say "excuse me" to reach something they're standing in front of, they look at you like you're from outer space. Or they argue with cashiers about how much something costs. Or the cashiers themselves try to make small talk while you're checking out. I almost went on a rant today because the cashier, instead of ringing up my stuff, was talking to me about how happy she is that she woke up to sun instead of rain or snow. My knee-jerk response is always a blank stare, and I want to say "I don't care. Just ring me up and let me get out of here!" I am not a small-talker and I want to be left alone. I know it makes me come off as a crotchety old lady, and I don't like it, but I can't help it. I honestly don't give a hoot if the cashier woke up to sunshine today and I can't pretend that I do.
How about getting a haircut? All around me, I hear stylists making small talk with the customers in their chairs. Not me. Silence. Just cut my hair and I’ll pay you (including a generous tip if you do a good job) and leave. That is all.
What about in the car? I hate driving. I want to be Samantha from “Bewitched” and twitch my nose and just be there. Sitting in a traffic jam drives me buggy. And incompetent drivers who don’t pay attention, or who text and drive, or even talk and drive? They make me wish I had a plow on the front of my car. I could just scoop them up and deposit them on the side of the road, out of my way.
Even in my workouts I prefer silence. No music, no workout buddies, just me and the lane I’m swimming in, or the trail I’m riding or running on. The sounds of crickets or birds. Don’t talk to me while I’m working out; it’s a distraction and it wastes my time.
The locker room? Please… I’m naked here. I really don’t want to be talked to. And please for heaven’s sake, keep your little kids under control.
See a pattern here? The pattern I see is that if you try to interact with me, or even have a simple encounter with me out in public, if what you say or do doesn’t make logical sense to me, I’m likely to think you are foolish and you’re wasting my time.
Is that fair? Probably not. I’m sure you’re a perfectly reasonable, nice, intelligent person. And I really should give you the benefit of the doubt.
But the introvert in me doesn’t want to interact, and doesn’t want you around me.
Believe it or not, I have friends. Not a ton of friends, but I have friends. But in retrospect, most of my friends are like me. They’re introverted. Or if they’re extroverted, they at least understand that I am different and they respect it. They don’t insist that I be social “because it’s good for me.” They don’t worry about me being alone. They don’t call me shy, because they know that I’m anything but shy. I just don’t feel the need to share my opinion all the time. And I definitely don’t want to waste my time with meaningless small talk with someone I don’t know.
It is a well known fact that introverts thrive on quiet time. They recharge alone, while extroverts recharge by being social. An extrovert doesn’t consider small talk with a cashier at the grocery store to be a waste of time. An extrovert chats up the stylist during a haircut. And an extrovert would never consider those people to be foolish.
There’s nothing wrong with being either an introvert or an extrovert. It’s just a personal style that comes from the way a person is hard-wired. Whatever your style, don’t apologize for it. It’s who you are.
Just don’t waste my time.