Trying to conserve valuable ‘conversation points’ is a struggle.
Note: In the chase for record monthly viewers this month (I need about 55 more views), I’ve finally gotten my shit together and and posted two days in a row! Sometimes you just hit that stride where you write a blog post that flows so easily and wonderfully that it doesn’t feel like a chore at all. This is one of them, and why there is a new post so soon; I actually haven’t gotten my shit together.
I’m an introvert, and a classic one at that. I’m also a shy introvert and while most people think the two words are interchangeable apparently they’re not. But even knowing that I don’t think I’ve ever come across an obviously outgoing introvert and sometimes think they’re a myth. I don’t even know what a person like this would even look or act like. I’ve probably came across them numerous times and just never knew what I was supposed to be looking for. I rambled a bit there, but shy and introverted. That’s the type of person I am. INTJ. Possible Type 5 enneagram. But that hasn’t been confirmed yet.
I should also say that I have some suspected and undiagnosed problems with social anxiety. I’m always wondering how people are “supposed to act” and find myself overthinking any and every remotely social situation I find, or even imagine, myself being in. If anything makes this painfully clear it should be this very blog post where I’ve written 2,000 words about talking to people. This social anxiety has never been properly diagnosed so the degree and even the fact of it is questionable. I don’t know, but it sure feels like I have social anxiety and if I don’t I do feel sorry for those that do have real social anxiety. This also brings up that age old question of whether people are more alike or different from each other. Maybe everyone feels this way and I’m blowing it out of proportion? Or maybe it really is a problem with me as an individual? The only person’s brain I can be inside is my own.
I’m a firm believe of something like a “social interaction point scale” or whatever it’s actually called (I’m sure it has a proper name). The idea is this: we all have an allotted amount of social interaction “points” that we can use within a day and once these are spent, well, I don’t really know what happens. Maybe you shut down like a robot that ran out of electrical power where you can’t talk or interact at all. Or maybe you just get really moody and while you can still force yourself to interact you can’t “deal with it” anymore. You turn grumpy and bitchy and start yelling at people, being curt, or just giving them constant side-eye. This “point system” makes perfect sense to the introverts such as myself. After talking to people, especially certain people I work with, I find myself mentally and even physically exhausted. I feel drained. As for how this “point system” works for extroverts who are energized by social interaction I have no clue. Maybe social interactions add points while time melts them away. Like a clock always ticking down to zero. But I don’t know. Remember, stuck in my own head and all of that.
And the fact is that people vary wildly in how draining or invigorating they are to talk to. You have to give the diversity of people credit; with people you will never find yourself feeling like you ever “have them figured out.” Every single person I talk to is different and unique in their own way and I’m not talking about lifestyle, physical traits, beliefs, or whatever, even though all of these differences are real. I’m talking about conversations. Talking to a person is always a unique experience and there are always subtle conversational differences between even similar people.
Some people I can talk to enthusiastically and easily for hours on end; it’s like they don’t make a dent to my social interaction point total. These conversations are always interesting and fulfilling even if the topic being discussed is something mundane. It’s like something clicks between myself and the other person. Sometimes I even think these people might add points which sometimes throws my whole identity as an introvert into question. Maybe I’m an extrovert with certain people and it’s only others that I find draining? Hmm. And obviously on the other side of the spectrum are those unique and special people whom I hate talking to. They’re instantly draining and I can never pinpoint exactly why. It’s like our personalities are so goddamn different that there is no meaningful conversation going on at all. I will literally find myself spacing out while making the damndest effort to pay attention out of the sheer politeness of being a respectable human being. It’s not that I don’t want to pay attention to them, it’s that I literally can’t. My brain won’t allow it. It goes into rest mode. Sleep mode. Hibernation. Whatever you want to call it. My go-to example here is a conversation I had with a well-meaning lady at work a year ago. She literally talked to me for twenty minutes about how she did her laundry. Yes, laundry. How she separated the clothes based on color/shade, washed them, relaxed while folding the clothes, and found the entire process to be almost an escape from the hassles of everyday life. Seriously. I couldn’t take it. Twenty minutes.
And there are all the grey areas in between that you can dream of. Some people I feel submissive talking towards, they lead the conversation and are in charge, and other conversations I feel dominant in, the rare conversation that I lead. There are fun conversationalist, serious conversationalists, the people who like to constantly joke no matter what, or the people who constantly bitch about stuff. There are people who you can’t actually talk to but can only talk at, they provide nothing in the way of actual two-sided conversation. And there are some people who can only talk about themselves. No matter what, these people play a complex game of conversational chess to take any topic, sentence, theme you’re talking about and make it about themself in as little back-and-forth motions as required. Obviously they’re exhausting to talk to as the conversation is blatantly one-sided. And you’re not being paid therapist wages to listen to them whine, bitch, and complain either.
I used to deal with conversations I’d found myself stuck in just because it’s the right thing to do. People are people and you should respect them and whatever other feely-good bullshit you want to spout off. Something like they enrich the world. I believe this stuff — seriously — I’m just terrible at taking the high and noble road and actually implementing it into my actions. Basically the general theme of what I was bitching about in the enlightenment post; I have the right ideas and I’m just a terrible person in general. But lately I’ve had a twisted revelation that throws all niceness out of the window, a sort of blatant acceptance of who I am as a person, as douchebaggy as it is. Given my point system theory here, why would I want to sacrifice my precious and limited points talking to someone that drains them? Why aren’t I selective with my points? When there are a handful of people whom I love to talk to, why wouldn’t I save my points so I can spend them where I’m happiest? It isn’t a radical idea, but might be radical to me being as shy and introverted as I am, but I can actually decide who I talk to if I wanted or needed to. I’m not obligated to talk to anyone.
To hell if we don’t do this in every other aspect of life when it doesn’t involve people. I don’t sit down and watch random movies that I’m not interested in “just to watch them.” With books — especially with books as they require a lot of time — I don’t force myself to read things I’m not enjoying or slough through some bullshit book to prove a point. Video games, music, YouTube videos, and food, with almost everything we are immensely discriminating towards because we have no reason not to be. I’m not advocating staying ignorant and tucked firmly inside your comfort zone at all times, but you need to know what you enjoy and be decisive with the time that is given to you. You can’t piss your time away doing everyone else’s interests for them and no one expects you to. It makes sense and no one would shit on you for being this way. We’re picky about our time and we treat it like the precious resource it is.
And so back to conversations. We (or maybe just myself? Who knows.) aren’t very picky with how we spend our precious and limited conversation time/points and the only reason I see this being any different from anything else is because people are involved. Once again I invoke the “people are special, unique, and beautiful” outlook here that I agree with; it’s easy to stop reading a terrible book and there is no real personal insult to anyone by doing so but it’s much more difficult and possibly insulting to stop talking to a person because they’re awful to talk to. I don’t think it has to be this blatant thought, you don’t have to flat out tell someone, “Look, I just can’t talk to you right now. My mind is seriously shutting down and won’t let me pay attention to anything you’re saying. But it’s not your fault it’s mine!” That’d be terrible to do. But you know how conversations are; they’re fluid and chesslike, a game of back-and-forth and give-and-take where one thing you say leads the other person to say something. If you’re sort of aware and talented you can always find a way out of nearly everything. A convenient excuse to use the bathroom, or directing the topic away from something terrible to something more interesting usually works. Or passing your “conversational baton” to another person, swapping conversational roles with the unknowing, ignorant sucker standing next to you allowing for your selfish escape, your points saved up and your motivation mostly intact.
As stated at the end of this post, I have a friend who likes to rip my worldview apart in a fiery outburst of his usual optimism. When complaining about all of this to him, he pointed out that the places we feel most angry, upset, and awful are the places where we have the most room for improvement. This is the direction of optimal growth and possibilities. These things that piss me off, the boring conversations where my brain shuts the fuck off, are like a giant neon arrow sign saying, “Jeremy, this is where you need to go to have personal growth. RIGHT HERE.” If only I could face my fears, realize that this is something that just irks the fuck out of me, maybe I could learn to deal with it and grow as a person. What would happen if I got over my anger of talking to these certain people? Would I even have anything to complain about anymore? Could I learn to love and accept these people as they are? Maybe this is my path of personal growth and peace with humanity and the universe? Maybe.
But I just hate talking to certain people. And my points are precious. And maybe I’m just a terrible person because I want to drop these conversations faster than I drop a boring-ass book. Maybe I’m just not wired for it, and as the wise prophets on Facebook say, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you don’t deserve me at my best.” I mean that in the most goddamn sarcastic way possible: I’m joking. That saying is stupid. Maybe I should sacrifice some conversation points in the pursuit of personal wisdom and growth. But damn is it difficult to do.