Some of the best educational opportunities in my field are through conferences and seminars. I have attended some great events for my security and contracting work. However many events are an extrovert heaven and an introvert professional purgatory.
I pass on the mixers and the networking events: I prefer my ice not be broken. I have a strong dislike of playing silly games with total strangers to look like a fool in the assumption that if we all look like fools we might want to be friends. Extroverts, please enjoy the games and Congo lines among yourselves; I do not want to stop your fun and I know you need to get it out of your system. I enjoy watching you and I am laughing with you, not at you. But full participation doesn’t agree with my system so I’ll take a mind clearing walk alone.
I went to a seminar recently where the organizers showed a patriotic slideshow with “Proud to be an American” playing. They provided a small flag in the welcome kit. During this you were encouraged “to react however you felt appropriate.” Soon some people stood up, others waved their flags as they stood. Many were breaking out in a cold sweat. Others looked confused. I am extremely proud to be an American and had just taken my kids to Washington, D.C. However, I felt very awkward and eventually stood when some around me did. Since it wasn’t the national anthem playing, I feel I would have been respectful though seated, reflecting on the images and our great country. My gut was that the extrovert organizers anticipated a hall full of cheering, flag waving, celebration but it fell short of that as well (hint to organizers, you will have better results if you tell your audience how you want them to react–we follow instructions well). I don’t fault the organizers but they must realize that some of us just come to learn new data and skills quietly. Some of us are content to drift in and out without trying to make BFFs. Sorry, that’s just how we roll.
My extrovert wife has playful fun when I return from these events. “Did you make any new friends?” “Did you talk to ANYBODY?”
No…and I had a great time.
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