Sunday, January 19, 2014

Acting like an extrovert

All my life I've been the epitome of introversion.

When I was younger my hobbies were reading, writing, and nature photography. The only sports I enjoyed were solo pursuits; hiking, rock climbing, gymnastics, competitive roller skating. I prefered to spend time alone, and liked that.

Yet I was involved in choir and ensemble groups, I had a good time acting in several stage plays and in college I took public speaking every semester because of the confidence it gave me and I really liked the prof who taught the course.

As an adult I look back at my working life and realize that the majority of jobs I've held could best be described as either public service, customer service or retail management.

My current life exemplifies this dichotomy. I work in a convenience store 8 hours a day then go home to my rented room, where I tend to spend time with my beloved Cleo, the world's greatest Cocker Spaniel, and my computer. I have my meals in my room, often reading a book while I eat.

So how does a natural introvert adapt to a professional life as an extrovert?

I think it's best explained with a metaphor I invented when I had to council an employee who was being terminated. He and I were quite similar, yet I could adapt to life as a working extrovert and he couldn't. He couldn't understand how I managed it.

Since he and I had both been involved in theater, I told him that my working life was a role I played in a stage production called "My Working Life". At work I wore a uniform (costume) and acted according to a script (the expectations of the job/my employers). I wasn't me at work, I was a character in a play which earned me money that was used to enjoy my real life. In fact I took great pains not to mix my professional and private lives. I don't party with coworkers or make friends with them. I seldom if ever bring work home with me. I avoid discussing my job when I'm not at work. My two lives are wholly separate. It's a matter of compartmentalization.

So if you ever run into me at work, don't be insulted if I fail to be personal and treat you like every other customer I deal with daily. You're not meeting me but rather the character I play as a job. If you meet me away from my job, don't be surprised if I have little to say about my work and prefer to discuss philosophy, or science, or Cleo.


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