Although the music is noticeable and people at the table in front of me are chatting and laughing, I’m happily engaged in one of my favorite activities, writing. I’m unfazed by the noise from the music and people as I sit in a plush chair in my favorite coffee shop.
The people and music are more like white noise than a disruption. It’s as though I’m alone. You could say I’m in the zone. The introverts’ ability to be alone, even in a loud setting, speaks to their ability to concentrate on the task at hand.
We introverts simply block out those around us. Some may see this as aloofness or even snobbishness. But it’s none of these; we just refuse to be distracted. Extraverts, who are drawn to people, may not demonstrate the same discipline; they thrive on stimuli and are more aware of their surrounding. Not me. I’m alone.
My alone time is about to be disrupted.
A man sits down next to me and after a few minutes wants to talk about the Red Sox’ World Series win; and I would gladly discuss the momentous event with him, but not now. I’m friendly, so I respond to his greeting and comments but quickly return to my writing.
It becomes obvious that he wants to talk more about the World Series, despite my obvious hint—I think it’s a clear hint. Maybe two minutes of conversation will be enough to satisfy this interloper, I reason.
Two minutes pass and soon it approaches five minutes. Then I start to feel annoyed with this man who wants nothing more than to talk baseball. He launches into Big Papi’s MVP award, followed by the duck boat parade he wanted to attend but had to watch on TV with his wife, who kept asking about the various players. The conversation seems more like an obligation than a mutual discussion.
My feeling of annoyance soon turns into the uneasy feeling of being trapped; after all, I didn’t ask for this conversation. A simple “hi” and a comment or two about the World Series would be fine, but to launch into a full-fledged conversation is ruining my focus, unlike the music and chatter that seem like they’re in the distance.
Prior to his arrival, I was pounding out sentence after sentence. Things were making sense. I had this eternal happiness that some mistake for simply being within oneself, which to an introvert is true happiness. And this man, although pleasant and gregarious, should know the following about introverts:
- When you see someone so focused that his eyes drift not from his computer screen, leave well enough alone. He’s probably taking advantage of what small amount of alone time he has.
- We like human contact, but at times we want to be alone, even if it’s in a crowded coffee house. It’s one of our pleasures which you, as stimuli-driven individuals may not understand.
- Conversation is not about you. If the other person is not engaged, it’s a sign that the person is not interested in the conversation. On the other hand, a welcome response signals a two-way conversation.
It’s obvious that I won’t get anything done with this person to the left of me talking incessantly, so I turn to the person who is sitting to my right, my adorable daughter, and ask, “Honey, are you ready to go?” Together my daughter and I leave the coffee shop, and on the way home she asks me who that annoying guy was. Just someone with bad timing I tell her.