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Friday, March 29, 2019

Five years ago, I had a sabbatical. I used it to work on myself in various ways. I lost about ten kilos with Spark under a different user name. I hadn’t done any crafting since school but always wanted to, and I did some during that year. Biggest of all, I found I needed to work on my social skills, so I worked on some problem areas some friends had brought to my attention - painful, but I was/am grateful to them.

For the first ten years after we moved from Osaka to Tokyo I made no friends at all. For the first few years, I was snowed under. I had a hard full-time job, one part-time job, I was going to school at the weekend, and my two children were still quite young. After a few months, I gave up even trying to make friends, and for several years after life had become easier, I still didn’t bother to look for friends. As an introvert, I was quite happy as I was, but I knew it wasn’t healthy. When I did get back into mixing, I found I was making some serious faux pas.

My conversation skills were in the tank. I didn’t know what to talk about. I didn’t know what to get others to talk about. I searched the Internet for hints, but it took me some time to collect helpful information. Eventually, I compiled a list of topics to ask and talk about - movies, trips, making a compliment, the weather, etc. I even prepared conversations the night before.

Last night I prepared for today’s lunch with a friend. I made a list of topics to talk about, tried to remember the last movie I saw and the last book I read. I listed things about her life to make sure I remembered enough, and this morning on the train, I reviewed the list which was a page long. (Don’t laugh! Actually yes, do laugh - it’s so ridiculous!) We have a lot in common, so I can talk about the things in my life which are most difficult, but because of that, I need to curb myself and make sure things are fifty-fifty, with both of us getting about equal air time.

I think it was a good afternoon for both of us. I enjoyed it and I think she did too. When I got home, I was exhausted and slept for two hours.

Are there any other introverts out there in Sparkland as ridiculous as this? Do you have any hints, tips or interesting experiences?
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I am an introvert and am finding it is getting worse in retirement. I love staying home and puttering around the house with DH. I love visiting our DD's and their families, but am noticing I don't see friends anymore. It is something I need to work on before I lose them.
    290 days ago
    You are NOT ridiculous, not at all.

    There is lots of great research out there about valuing introversion . . . The Introvert's Way is one such book.

    (My prejudice: all the best people are introverts!!)

    However, nothing wrong with taking friendship seriously and thinking about what you want to talk about when you get together with a friend. And being sensitive to the reciprocity between friends sharing "equally" (more or less) their particular life circumstances . . . how I wish I didn't so often have my ears talked off so it feels like I need to Velcro them back on to the side of my head . . .

    You had a good time with a good friend because you thought about your get-together in advance. I cherish friends like you.
    290 days ago

    I am not an introvert but I so appreciate your efforts and my social skills also need polishing from time to time.
    I'm glad that you both had a good afternoon....sounds like it took a lot out of you, but it's good for you too.
    293 days ago
    I'm not an introvert, though I do need my re-charging time, but I think you tackled the situation with good rational sense. I always write a script for things I'm rusty at. (usually using better grammar, too)

    And I have to be careful that the conversation isn't always All About Me.
    294 days ago
    I've often felt this way, too. Although I've gotten better over the years, I noticed that I still have trouble with small talk. For example, when I start a new class for the businesspeople I teach, I have to be accompanied to the first session by an employee of the dispatch company I work for. That person's job is to get me past the lobby and into to the classroom, where the person (ususally a woman) introduces me to the students. So I often have to spend time with this person on a bus or in a taxi or walking to the venue, and I've found that I really have trouble coming up with things to say. Then, as soon as I'm introduced to the students and turn my attention to them, it's like I become a different person, suddenly lively and excited and talkative. I figured out that it's because our roles are so defined--teacher and students--and so whatever is said is sort of already scripted. However, if I happen to meet one of those same students on the station platform after class, it's clam-up time again because I'm no longer in my teacher role. The teacher role sort of protects me from having to make real conversation, where I can make mistakes by asking the wrong question or sharing too much information about myself. Conversation can indeed be uncomfortable and downright un-fun. On the other hand, when the chemistry is good, it can make two hours go by in what seems like ten minutes!

    Oh, and my Japanese is not that good, so conversing in Japanese can make things even harder--for the other person, too!

    I'm not so sure that not having many friends is unhealthy. It might sound curmudgeonly, but I would often rather stay home and read a book or do SparkPeople.

    I hope your weekend was good, Margaret. I have another killer-schedule week in store, but just two more weeks like this, and then it'll be back to a more leaisurely pace. Take care, my dear.
    295 days ago
    Oh, yes! Chalk me up as another ridiculous introvert with poor social skills. Absolutely!

    I find small talk incredibly difficult. I don't watch TV. I don't go see movies. So many of the things that occupy others attention are not things that occupy mine. I do not share the interests of many others. And, quite frankly, find social situations extremely difficult.

    I suspect that I am an amusement to my students. But, being that I teach science and so many of them are also introverts. We tend to understand each other and our lack of social skills.

    Thanks for sharing your conversation tips. Seriously!

    295 days ago
    How thoughtful of you to prepare for the lunch conversation! I should take a page from your book! I usually make it up as a go - not always successfully :)
    295 days ago
    I'm really impressed that you worked hard to make the conversation 50/50. That is very considerate, and I'm sure your friend enjoyed the time as much as you did.
    296 days ago
    Thanks for sharing this blog. I can so relate to you in many way. My mom still lives in Osaka and that’s where I grew up. And I’m an introvert myself and definitely need to practice on my social skills. Yes, it doesn’t bother me not having friends either, m at peace when I’m alone. But I should get out of my comfort zone and start making friends. The conversation list is a great idea. Thanks for sharing. =)
    296 days ago
    I'm impressed you cared enough to prepare conversation ideas. I'm not an introvert but it takes a long time for me to trust anyone with my feelings. I love to discuss books, science, philosophy but not personal things.
    296 days ago
    Yes I am, and I found your blog very helpful!
    Your preparation for the conversation with your friend is a role model for extreme introverts like me.

    Before meeting a small group of people I haven't seen in a while I often feel the need to prepare, and when I do it goes better : ) Unfortunately often I'm too lazy to do it, but your example inspires me to do. I saved your blog in my notes!
    If it is a large group I never prepare, because it will not go well anyway...
    296 days ago
    Introvert, me? No!
    Believe me, it causes as many, if not more, problems of its own. Over the years, I have learnt to curb my enthusiasm and become a listener too. I now have some amazing friends...
    296 days ago
    I used to be very introverted and still have a long way to go to say I'm fully confident in any setting.
    I had CBT some time ago and the skills learned in that go a long way to giving me confidence. One tip was, everyone has doubts in some of their abilities play to your strengths and breathe........................
    296 days ago
    Not an introvert, but still have social skills to work on! Good for you for taking the bull by the horns and doing it. Glad you both had a good time.
    296 days ago
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