Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How About I Call You Back?

As an introvert, I cannot express how much I hate the phone.

I have always detested the phone, even as a child. Nothing was worse than hearing the dreaded "Call your aunt to thank her for your birthday gift". "Right now?", I would ask. Begrudgingly, pick up the phone and pray for the answering machine.

Not much has changed.

Unexpected phone calls are much worse than scheduled ones, for two reasons. One, I am completely unprepared and know I will likely have to engage in chit-chat with the caller. Often, after the call ends and I have had time to process what the caller said, I end up berating myself because I should have said this or that. And sometimes, god forbid, it results in me having to call back. Two, if I'm in the middle of a task, I feel completely thrown off and interrupted, because I like to place all my focus on one thing. Nothing about an unexpected phone call is on my terms, as selfish and ridiculous as it sounds.

Picking up the phone to call out is even worse. My heart starts racing no matter how many times I yell at myself to "Relax! It's just a phone call." Yes, that's more a symptom of anxiety than introversion. But, I believe I've made myself phone-anxious because I know the second the person on the other line starts talking about something outside the direct point of the call, I'll be thrown off.

At home, I can easily let my cell phone go to voicemail if I don't recognize the number (Thank you, caller ID!). If it's an important call, a message will be left and I then know what the caller needs from me. It's also much easier for me to engage in a phone conversation with someone I am familiar with, but there are even times when I don't feel up to talking to a friend. Work presents a much different situation. I'm a paralegal, which requires me to constantly communicate via the phone. Letting the call go to voicemail is an office no-no. The piece of plastic with its blinking lights might as well be mocking me all day. The phone rings and I let out an automatic, audible groan. My cubicle neighbors undoubtedly think I'm bananas.

The reality of the situation is that I can't go through life avoiding the phone. Nor can any introvert. Does anyone else avoid the phone like the plague? Any techniques? I have found that at work, doodling on a post-it helps. Sure, the resulting zigzags and lines drawn over and over again would probably raise the eyebrow of a psychologist or two, but it really reduces my tension during the call. When I have to call out, I draft a quick list of points I need to make. At home, I schedule a time to return calls so I can mentally prepare myself.

I'm really working on ways to calm my phone dread. As much as I accept being an introvert, there are just some introvert adverse things in life I must accommodate. I need and want to conquer this.

If nothing else, thank god for e-mail.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Once I began reading about introversion, I kept coming across an aspect of the trait that rang so true with me I almost jumped out of my chair.


It is the concept that an introvert does not necessarily dislike people, but an introvert tends to require time to rest after engaging in social interaction with a group of people. Quite frankly, it sounded pathetic to me as a 25 year old girl. I should want to be out until all hours at a bar, shouldn't I? At the same time, I realized "recharging" reflects exactly how I behave, and have behaved my entire life. How many weekends where I spent more than one night out with family or friends was I exhausted after? Countless. It is not that I don't want to socialize. Trust me, I do! I just like to do so in small quantities. I crave alone time after a night out. Me, myself, and the TV or a book. Going without my alone time results in what I like to think of as social shutdown where while at a social gathering I will likely sit in silence, only responding when being spoken to as to not be rude.

It honestly feels like an instinctual reaction. As nutty as it sounds, I physically cannot muster up the effort to engage in small talk if I haven't had time to myself. No matter how much I try to pep talk myself (anyone else do this?) or try to snap out of it, I can't. Anything that requires consecutive days of socialization (being in a wedding, for instance) is a source of stress.

Now that I understand this is a typical reaction for an introvert, I don't think of myself as strange for feeling the need to be alone at times. My goal is to make sure that I make plans accordingly, and not feel guilty saying no to certain social functions so that I can enjoy the social events I do attend as much as possible without entering social shutdown mode.

Has anyone else experienced this?