DOs and DON’Ts of Interacting With an Introvert


DON’T talk to me before I’ve had my coffee. Caffeine is an introvert’s best friend. I have just as much energy as the next guy, but talking requires a ton.

DO say hello. Just don’t say anything else. As much as I may love you, I wasn’t planning on seeing you on the street. If I had something to say to you besides hello, I would’ve scheduled a lunch or something.

DON’T talk to me if I don’t know you. Trust me, if you like awkward, empty conversations with strangers, we have nothing in common.

DON’T make conversation in a line of any sort. Talking in lines should be illegal. There’s no clearer example of a situation where I set out to do something that did not include having a conversation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to change my plans for lunch after seeing someone I know in line. I wish it were socially acceptable to wear a huge cardboard box while waiting in line. If you see me, pretend I am.

DON’T tell me I don’t go out enough. You don’t stay in enough. My room is my sanctuary. I’d love to spend time with you here. I have no interest in moving to a location with people I don’t know, where I’ll have to stand up, where I’ll have to yell to be heard, where no one has any interest in talking about anything anyone really cares about, and where it’s probably too warm.

DON’T call me “serious.” For some reason, it’s taboo to say anything thoughtful in a group setting. I can’t tell you how many times someone has responded to me with something like “Wow Danny, you’ve really thought that through,” and then chuckled, as if I were some sort of novelty. Of course I’ve thought it through, or I wouldn’t have said it.

DO embrace silence. If there’s nothing worth talking about, everyone’s time is better spent thinking. Most silences aren’t awkward, unless you’re just an awkward person.

Some of my favorite lines from Star Trek

From DS9:
Worf: At the first sign of betrayal I will kill him, but I promise to return the body intact.
Sisko: I assume that’s a joke.
Worf: We will see.

Q: You hit me! Picard never hit me!
Sisko: I’m not Picard

Odo: There are other ways to create order in your life. Your quarters, for example. Everything in mine has its specific place, and it’s all arranged just so.
Worf: Yes, mine too. Even with my eyes closed, I would still know where everything was.
Odo: Exactly.
Worf: I would not tolerate it any other way.
Odo: I’ll tell you what else to do. Make sure everyone knows they can’t just drop by your quarters to say ‘hello’. If someone does, whatever happens, don’t make them feel welcome.
Worf: Of course not! That would only invite subsequent visits.

[The above is one of my absolute favorites… Odo and Worf are such obvious introverts it’s awesome! :D]

End of Year Retreat a Success!

Yesterday was the End of the Year Retreat (aka holiday party) that I helped plan for the office. It went well, I think! We had some problems with the venue (like they were impossible to contact to arrange for the food, the food was late coming out, and then we ended up having to order extra food because the amount they suggested for 40-50 people was not enough), but other than that, things went well. The food may have been late and insufficient in quantity, but it was pasty and pretty healthy, compared to what we’ve had in past years. We had a build-your-own sandwich bar, salad bar, plus fries, chips and artichoke dip, and soda. We also had candy and (really good!) cupcakes, something that had been lacking in years past, when we’d had no dessert. (Seriously? What kind of party is it with no dessert??)

After the food came out, we had the one organized game, called Screamo. It’s a dice game and there is a commercial version of it, marketed as Flip-Oh if anyone is interested in how to play. It was a success! We had to kind of pull teeth to get some people to play, but we got it done and once we started, I think everyone had fun – several people commented that they enjoyed the game. The winner of the game (person with the lowest score) got a nice calendar as a prize, and the person with the highest score got…a Justin Bieber calendar!! The great thing is that the highest score was one of our student workers,  a 20-year-old male. Ha! It was awesome – everyone, including the guy, laughed.

How To Plan An Introvert-Friendly Office Party

I volunteered to be part of the planning committee for our annual office End of Year Retreat (aka holiday party). I did so for the express reason of making it more introvert-friendly, as it is traditionally an event I loathe, even though we get out of work early and get free food.

Usually, the gathering consists of some mingling time before food comes out, some eating, and then some kind of annoying, attention-drawing activity. The worst was the White Elephant exchange. That wasn’t just the introverts that hated that game though – you might say the white elephant in the room was that everyone hated the game (haha!). I always dreaded the moment when it was my turn to go pick a package and have everyone stare at me while I unwrapped some crappy “gift.” I always just picked the one closest to me, and never took the option of “stealing” someone else’s gift. This was designed to minimize the amount of time everyone’s attention would be on me. We haven’t done the White Elephant game for the past few years, which is nice, but one year we had something even worse—karaoke. Our director was donating $5 to charity for every person who got up to sing, so I really felt pressured to do it, and I did (I sang “Livin’ On a Prayer” with a few other people), but it was a very introvert-unfriendly activity.

I also hate the mingling time. So this year, the mingling time will be minimized by having the food come out earlier, and also having more of a meal instead of just appetizers. This wasn’t my idea, but it serves my purposes very well. [Insert evil laugh here.] Food gives introverts something to do besides stand around awkwardly if they are not engaged in an interesting conversation. It also provides a built-in conversation topic. Someone suggested that we should have assigned seating to force people to interact with different people, but I vetoed that. That is one thing I absolutely loathe. It’s fine for conference lunches and other events designed for networking, because it forces me to do what I’m there to do, but an “End of the Year Retreat,” with people I work with every day, should be a chance to relax, kick back, and have fun. The last thing a introverts find relaxing and fun is being forced to have an awkward conversation with someone with whom they are not choosing to socialize.