I’m an introvert. Reading An Introvert’s Guide to Networking got me thinking of strategies I’ve used to turn introversion into a strength.
I’ve often been envious of the camaraderie people who participate in sports have. The team work, the social connections. For me it was always a challenge. First there are just too many people on a baseball or football team for me to feel comfortable. In most sports, even pair sports like tennis or golf, there are many lulls between the action. While other people take advantage of these breaks to make conversation, I would find then too short to engage in anything meaningful. After a couple of hours of most sports I would feel anxious and tense instead of relaxed.
Then in university I discovered rock climbing. This sport was perfect. The natural rhythm of it fit me as an introvert. Even if I was going climbing in a large group, it always boiled down to me and a partner. I might climb with many people in an afternoon, but at any one time it was one-on-one with someone else.
Rock climbing features long periods of isolation followed by intense bursts of intimate time together. It might take an hour to climb a pitch and get to the next belay. This is time when I’m alone with my thoughts. Once we are at the belay ledge together, there is a rest and 15-20 minutes of focused conversation. This is perfect for introverts!
Finally, rock climbing has intense mental activity. Much of the challenge in rock climbing is the inner game. Solving the problem the rock is posing to you or gaining the confidence to attempt the next move. For many people this inner game is exhausting. For introverts it is invigorating. The intense mental effort let me recharge my batteries more quickly so I was refreshed and revitalized for the next social interaction.
Climbing allowed me to make many friends. I had no fear of spending an afternoon alone with a total stranger, or going out for the weekend with a group of people I hardly knew. This is how I turned my introversion into a strength.