Sunday, June 15, 2014

How can I be an introvert who gets energized from going to a folk dance with a large group of people, many of whom I don't know?

I love reading about and thinking about introversion and extroversion. I've always known that I am a pretty extreme introvert. I definitely do not get energy from being in a large group of people. However, I've recently noticed that there is one huge counter-example to this generalization. When I go to an evening of folk dance, I leave with so much energy - far more than any other typical introvert activity (jag älskar hemmakväll) would give me.

How can this be?

I've been pondering this quite a bit lately. Maybe this is a sign that I'm sliding more toward the middle of the introvert/extrovert scale? But by any other measure, I'm still an extreme introvert. So, really, how can this be?

My initial thoughts are that folk dances are different from most activities involving a large group of people. Of course, they are different in so many ways, but specifically, I think that the important factor is that there is sort of a prescribed way of interacting with people.

If I get invited to a big party where I will not know too many people, I have to spend a lot of time mentally preparing myself to have lots of small talk with new people. I have to try super hard to not be incredibly awkward. Honestly, I am happiest sitting and primarily listening to conversations, while contributing minimally. Or perhaps I'll get into a more involved conversation with one or two people, and not really talk to anyone else the entire night. Maybe I make this sound harmless, but most people can get uncomfortable with this, thinking my silence means I am having an awful time.

Now, if I am being entirely honest (and Greg would confirm this), most of the time before I head to a dance, I actually get a bit anxious and have second thoughts about going. My heart is just shouting, "Are you crazy, don't voluntarily go to an event with a bunch of strangers, especially if no one is expecting you to be there!" Most of the time, I have to rely on my brain to be the voice of reason, to remind myself that afterwards I'll thank myself for going.

My heart is so quick to judge all large gatherings of people equally. I so easily forget that folk dances have this prescribed way of interacting with others, compared to any other generic gathering of many people. You go there, you ask a person if they want to dance, and you dance. It is simple. There is usually not a lot of time for conversation. There is no expectation to continue conversation while dancing, since most people become worse dancers while trying to talk and dance. And while you may be in a large crowd of people, you are primarily only interacting with this one person, who you don't even have to talk to. To me, it feels like such a healthy reminder that there are ways of connecting with people other than through conversation alone.

Thinking about a lot of my friends who are also folk dance enthusiasts, I'd say most of them are more introverted than extroverted. Perhaps folk dances are events more suited to the introvert - a gathering of people who are all just interacting with only one other person at a time? Perhaps.

As I said, these are just my initial thoughts. I'm curious to hear what others might think. Is there agreement? Disagreement? I've also been trying to think of other examples of situations that we would typically expect an extrovert to thrive in, but secretly the introverts are thriving. I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have!

1 comment:

  1. Agree! It's the prescribed activity that takes the anxiety away. I also have to psych myself up to go to Boardgame nights on with mostly total strangers, but since there is a defined activity, its not too awkward and always rewarding. I think those types of meets are key to getting social interaction as an introvert. Also, introvert doesn't mean you don't like socialization at all, it just means you need way more alone time than an extrovert to feel comfortable in your life. :-)