Thursday, November 21, 2013

Introvert Myth

It's funny how a single personality can have a transformative effect on an entire office. It's like something I vaguely remember Deepak Chopra saying to Conan O'Brien about how the way your "energy" oscillates affects all those around you. It's as if a wayward electron that usually swerves right decides on this overcast day to zoom straight ahead, bouncing off other electrons to create a chain reaction that has all your coworkers singing and dancing.

My mentor, Gary, tells people I "brighten up" the office, but I've never really known what he meant by that. I know I dress like a kook sometimes, wearing big flower blooms in my hair and gaudy costume jewellery over fruit-patterned skirts. I know it can sometimes be overwhelming when I bring up the Spanish Inquisition or Hannibal's exploits in Carthage while someone's trying to eat their microwaveable lunch. (My friends have always insisted I've been on the intense side.) But how does all this translate to "changing" an office culture exactly?

On Monday, a veteran freelancer came in to fill in for an art director, who was away on vacation. Overnight, this corner of the creative floor swept away the cricket chirps and tumbleweeds. There was more friendly chatter and general camaraderie. If I had to simplify it, the results could be explained by the very act of replacing an introvert with an extrovert.

***

It seems like every year, articles are written describing the merits of being an introvert. These people are described as being thoughtful, private, and intelligent. Inevitably, people I would have never considered an introvert would describe themselves as thus.

Baloney!

Paul's a bonafide introvert. We've been together over 4 years and in that time, he's put his foot in his mouth more times than I can count.  He's embarrassed me in front of guests, said things without thinking of how they would be perceived in specific contexts, the whole shebang of social un-sophistication.

But in that time, he's learned the value of pretending to be an extrovert once in awhile.

Which brings me to my latest (job) update: through my connections at work, he was introduced to a photography agent and will be meeting with the owner of a notable production company to see if he can get into shooting commercials. Over the past year, I've pushed him to attend networking events and join business groups. He used to resist, telling me he was uncomfortable "selling" himself and felt like a fraud, but over the past year, he's become a natural schmoozer. I told him had he not got in the practice, he wouldn't have been able to take advantage of all the opportunities that came his way.

I mean, extroverts are just as likely to have depth and be conscientious and feel worn out after an hour of partying, but we don't make people feel like they're doing all the work in a conversation.