My eyes skim the neatly from A to Z arranged cards. H, I, J, ah, there’s mine. Holding my badge in my hand I proceed to the entrance of the room.
This could be the start of an intriguing story. One where our female protagonist plunges headfirst into a group of complete strangers. Vigorously she finds her way through the crowd, chatting to every single person she sets her eyes on, to go home energized knowing that she met so many fantastic new people that day.
It would be an amazing story. But if you’re an introvert and highly sensitive, just like me, this image usually looks totally different.
Throw myself into a group of complete strangers? Ehm…no. Actually my thoughts would be the complete opposite: if possible I would turnaround and go home, immediately. Believe me, if I could choose right then and there on the threshold of that room, I would. Perhaps I wouldn’t have signed up at all. I would have read the invite to that network meeting, drinks or party and at first I would have felt excited. Sure. But the closer I’d get to the day, the more anxious I would start to feel. And on the morning of the event I would probably think: “nah…I’m not going…”.
It is not because I don’t want to meet people. Not at all. I love humans. And even more, I love real and in-depth conversations. And despite what others might think of me, I am not shy. I know how to talk with people. It’s just…there are too many of you (yes you, the other ones) together, in one room. And that freaks me out a little. When I enter a room filled with people I am aware of every little detail, if I want to or not. The different voices filling the room, the sounds of music in the background, the smells of food and drinks. I’m even aware of the unconscious expressions and feelings people emanate. And that’s a lot of information to process. In these situations we introverts usually adopt our own, different way: we either silently join a group of people, we run over to the vacant table or we walk away. Yep…
I arrive at the entrance of the room. I pause. The room’s already filled up and everywhere I look I notice people gathered in small groups talking with each other. For a moment I hesitate and I sense the growing restlessness in my body. Shall I go in? And which group shall I join? I glance around the room. Briefly I let my attention linger with every little group that’s there.
Three men in blue suits on the left. Engaged in a heavy debate. Distracted and indifferent their eyes scan the room. Nah…that’s not going to work.
A little further a woman and a man. Quiet people. Friendly. Emerged in their conversation. No, that would feel intrusive.
On the right, a bar with a row of empty seats. Hmm….peace…that would be nice… No, Linda! Focus, you can do this!
Center of the room. A small group of five women and men. Friendly. Open. Looks promising. Ah, look, one of them looks at me with an inviting smile. That feels good. Oh, but two others are scanning the badges before looking away with disdain. Nope.
Table in right corner in the back. One man. Seemingly occupied with his phone. Hihi…a fellow introvert. Could be…could be…
I watch and I observe. But most of all…I feel.
I might be an introvert, but my more than sensitive side has a huge advantage: I can feel.
I can feel how someone is. I can feel if someone is uncommunicative or open and open to a real and meaningful conversation. I can feel with whom I will feel at ease and which persons I’d be better off to avoid. I can feel if someone is honest and real or pretends to be something he’s not.
My observation takes less than a minute. I feel how my body relaxes and confident I enter the room.
When I go home that day it isn’t with the knowledge that I’ve met so many fantastic new people. I’ve had a few meaningful encounters. I go home that day knowing I met the right people!