It’s hard for me to explain how I can love my family to the brink of infinity and at the same time need five minutes. Five minutes to decompress. Five minutes to collect myself. Five minutes to recharge. No matter how much I love them, as an introvert, I still need those five minutes.
The same principle applies to other people who I come in contact with throughout the day. Here are seven times when I might need to take some time to think or decompress. Can you relate?
1. Immediately after waking up. There are some people who jump out of bed, ready to take on the the world, ready to talk to whoever presents themselves, and ready to interact as required. I am not one of those people. If my kids come into my bedroom before I’ve had my five minutes and want to chat or ask a million questions about the state of the world or the square root of pi, I will not respond as I know I should. I may grunt or spew half-formed sentences. Because, you see, I am not ready. Once I’ve had some time to allow myself to enter the social world slowly, I will be good and ready to tell them what the square root of pi is. After I google it, of course.
2. Over my lunch break at work. Interacting with people all day can be exhausting for an introvert. So when my lunch break rolls around and I’m not in the break room ready to chat right away, please cut me some slack. It’s nothing against you. I’m just doing what I need to do in order to get through the afternoon with my sanity intact. I usually head to my car, go through a drive-through coffee joint, sit in my car, and read a book. It’s an introvert’s version of heaven.
3. When I get home from work. This is going to sound horrible, but sometimes, on my way home from work, I pull my car into a parking lot and just sit there. Five minutes of alone time helps me recharge and bring my “A” game when I walk through my front door. It helps me to genuinely ask my girls how their day at school was and fully appreciate their long, drawn-out answers — which give me deeper insight into their lives away from me. I need this connection with them, but in order to “show up” for them after a busy day at work, I need my five minutes.
4. When I arrive at a social event. These five minutes are not exactly taken on purpose, but I definitely need them. It usually takes me five minutes or longer (sometimes much longer) to scope out the event before I get up the courage to walk up to someone I don’t know well and start talking to them. If I ever do. So if you see me sitting alone on the couch or standing quietly at the edge of the room, don’t assume I’m disinterested or not having fun. I may just be taking my five minutes. Introverts are natural observers, after all, and we usually need time to pause and reflect before diving into a situation.
5. When I’m trying to relax by taking a bath. Nothing shatters an introvert’s peaceful recharge time as much as kids entering the bathroom 20 times while you’re trying to take a shower or bath. Lock the door, you say? Hmmm, I’m not sure if the incessant knocking and question-asking through the door are worth it.
6. In a large meeting. The first five minutes of a meeting are a bit of a wash for me. I usually use that time to quietly gauge the situation and be sure that we aren’t going to play any dang icebreaker games. Ugh. The bane of the introvert’s existence is the icebreaker. Generally, introverts are private people who’d rather not call attention to themselves in a large group by sharing “something interesting people don’t know about me.” Once the first few minutes of a meeting are over — and I’m relatively sure that I’m safe from any icebreaker — I can let my guard down and fully devote myself to the task at hand.
7. When someone asks me a question. This is why I find job interviews especially hard. I’ve got lots of great things going on in my mind, but when I’m asked questions on the spot and am expected to come up with intelligent answers quickly, well… I might not get the job. That’s because introverts tend to struggle with word retrieval; we favor long-term memory over working memory (as opposed to extroverts, who favor working memory), so we may need more time to “reach” into our memories and locate just the right words we want. Having a few (unpressured) moments to think really helps this process.
Overall, I find that I can operate reasonably well in this extroverted world if I’m given my five minutes when I need them. Five minutes is not that long, really, so if you want to see me at my best, you might as well yield that time.
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