I am currently reading Quiet by Susan Cain which is a fascinating book I recommend to any introvert.
I am on the chapter called ‘When should you act more extroverted?’ And well, not one says you Should.
But some of us Do sometimes.
Why is that?
It turns out when we are really into something we may find it beneficial to engage our audience in a specific extroverted way based on what we perceive.
Those pseudo-extroverts that excel at this are good at what is called ‘self-monitoring’ and are “highly skilled at modifying their behaviors to the social demands of a situation.” (p.212). We look for the cues on how we should act given any given situation.
Low Self-monitors gauge their behaviors on their own internal structure. Not interested in playing a role or putting on a different mask for different audiences.
Fake it to make it?
Turns out that High self-monitors see the Low self-monitors as sort of rather awkward and rigid.
Whereas Low self-monitors see the High self-monitors as, well, fakers… conformers and deceptive.
But the High Self-Monitors see it in a service to what they love and a bargain– doing it some of the time to be ourselves the rest of the time. (Like the example she uses of a professor that loves to teach and is a rather extroverted lecturer… but very introverted).
What I think about being a High Self-Monitor
I was a very awkward and shy teenager. But I started to learn in customer service jobs, very young in fact, that didn’t work out so well. So I did develop a work ‘persona’ or ‘facade’. I can say this is a case of doing something out of necessity, and learning all the rules and behaviors, but not liking it. I see it as a necessary evil, not to be enjoyed at all.
I have chronic pain and learned to be quite stoic about it. Turns out people really do not want to know how you are doing and society just wants you to do what they want you to do with a smile on your face. Anyway, I developed Major Depressive Disorder and was real keen on hiding that. I always had a well developed humour. And I magnified that to hide my depression. And it was exceptionally effective. I got so used to it, it became a true part of my public self and a good way to keep people at a distance. It was so people wouldn’t see me as weak. And so I would be able to endure the depression and work. It was a survival mechanism… until nothing worked aside from medication.
Keeping people comfortable
This self that uses humour is one way to help me socialize and make myself comfortable and others comfortable. And I like that. I like everyone at ease. Especially myself but others as well. I have had people quite surprised to find out I am an introvert because I am so engaged and humorous and always joking around.
I think at this point it is a bit of a defense mechanism. I am aware people do not truly engage well with who I am naturally. Most people are not abstract thinkers and into the random abstract ideas I read or think about. They are more in the real world and less in their heads. And I do not like that look of ‘zoning out’ or ‘boredom’ I get when I am into something, share it, and get nothing back. Maybe a ‘huh’ or ‘I’ve never thought about it really’. And nothing else. So I have learned to gauge my audience and speak according to it. As a way to basically adjust to the people around me. And my humour is the social tool to get me going on that. That can be a bit lonely sometimes but it is effective. It works. And I have trained myself this way to work effectively and to socialize effectively.
I have been told this is fracturing myself. And I should be myself and people will appreciate me as I am. So I tried it lately. And I get the same reaction. People are not into weird ideas. Except I can find people online who are. Especially if they have the same personality type… because they Also like weird abstract theories. But I have not found someone in my actual life, aside from my parents, who I can talk about all the stuff that actually goes on in my head.
That being the case, I find it essential to read people and interact with them on the level they appreciate and value.
So none of these extroversion traits I manifest are for an good reason. However, I agree with a High Self-Monitor we do manifest it easier and use it well in situations where we are engaged and excited to share something. In fact, it is much easier because we desire so much to share that information we can overcome some of our introverted nature to do so.
She says the price of this is we need to take a break from it with necessary reclusive downtime. Just away from it all during the day or whatnot. When I worked in sales I never ate in the office when I worked in town… I would have to remain ‘on’. I drove home. I chilled and relaxed and recharged and then when I went back to work felt a whole lot better.
I can also turn off my exroverted-ness like a switch. Or some situations do it for me. I can become overwhelmed by an environment and when that happens I retreat inward, I become uncomfortable, and my shyness comes out. I do not want to play the game.
Maybe you think… you’re an ambivert then. But I’m not. I score high on introversion. I am very, very introverted. Every hobby, every thought, all my down time I need. Crowds exhaust me.
I just manifested more of my existing humour and sense of humour and over time magnified it. I used it to function better in sales. I used to to mask my depression. And now I just use it as a tool. But it has become an essential part of my nature. It may seem when I am goofy and joking around and laughing a lot I am extroverted, but nope, just trying to make harmony around me. Make people laugh and hide behind a mask.