“Hello. My name is Peter, and I’m an introvert.”
This is how the meeting started. We were all sitting in a circle.
Naturally, we were all facing out of the circle, not toward each other. Our leader started the session by passing around a note. Each person read it and then passed it along to the next person. The note said that if we had the energy to interact, it would be good if we turned slightly toward one of our neighbors and acknowledged their existence.
Some of us turned to people near us and muttered a greeting.
Would anyone like to share something today?
“Good,” said the leader. “That’s progress. Nobody groaned or wretched today.”
“Peter, you’re the newest person here. Would you like to tell us about your day?”
“Whenever you’re ready. Maybe tell us what brought you here.”
“Are you painfully shy? Socially anxious? Anti-social?”
“No, not really.”
“Could you elaborate?”
“I am a teacher.” [Loud gasps from the others. Some moans]
“Tell us more.”
“I’m a teacher. I like people. I like talking to people.”
[More gasps and expressions of horror]
“This is unusual for this group. Tell us more.”
“It’s just that… people are exhausting. Sometimes it just feels like they’re everywhere, and all they want to do is…communicate.”
[Rumbles of agreement]
“Yes, many other humans are very interested in socializing and exchanging ideas. Can you tell us about your day?”
“I woke up early. No one else was up except the dog. I had a great hour of breakfast, coffee, reading stories online and typing comments to people who couldn’t talk back.”
[Sighs of pleasure]
“I walked the dog, took a shower, and got dressed, but when I came downstairs, my wife and daughter were having a disagreement. They were communicating…a lot. Expressing their emotions. It was overwhelming. I had to leave.”
“Okay, so it was a challenging start to the day. Say more.”
“Yes. I was already a bit tired. Then, after a very pleasant drive to work with my audio book, I entered the building. It seemed like everywhere I turned there were people who wanted to talk. I finally made it into my room, but by then I only had 15 minutes before students arrived. I like to have at least 30.”
“I greeted the kids as they entered. They all wanted to talk. They asked so many questions. I kept gesturing to the message I’d written on the board, but they still wanted to talk. We talked while they arrived and settled in. They talked while they added their names to the mood meter. They asked me questions about the word I had posted on the mood meter (anxious). Then we talked while they had their morning meeting. We talked about the book I read out loud. We talked about the debatable topics they were researching. We talked about the math problems they were solving. So much talking. So much exchanging of ideas.
Finally, they had Spanish, and I was going to get a break. I was going to read emails and get ready for conferences, but the Assistant Principal came in and wanted to talk about a student who was having a very hard day. I wanted to say, “I am having a very hard day,” but instead, we went to his office and talked…for my whole prep period. I came back to the room and talked with the students about their afternoon work at home. I assured them that I would be working, too, since I had conferences. Then, after they left, I had a conference, and another conference. We talked so much that each conference ran over by at least ten minutes. Then I had another and another and another and another. Each one a little longer than it was supposed to be, and the last one twenty-five minutes longer because they knew that they were the last conference, and then it was four o’clock. I clicked “Leave Meeting” and “End Meeting,” and my head dropped to my desk and I was SO tired. So tired of talking and interacting and watching reactions and listening to thoughts and responding to questions. At 5:00 I headed home and had a quiet ride, listening to my book.”
“Well, that was certainly a challenging day for you. What are you going to do tomorrow to take care of yourself?”
“I have nine conferences.”