On Being an Introvert

I am an introvert in extrovert’s clothing.

When I tell people I hate public speaking, they’re shocked. As it turns out, I’m pretty good at something I really don’t like, which most people find pretty hard to believe. Inevitably, after I’ve insisted that I do–in fact–not like speaking in front of groups of people, they ask something like, “Why did you choose this career?”

I ask myself that pretty much at the start of every semester when I have to introduce myself and my class to a classroom full of people I’ve never met and who are predisposed to hating me.  And do it again. And then again. Ad nauseam.

I ask myself that every time I agree to a speaking engagement, which I do entirely too frequently for someone who hates public speaking.

I love what I do, but I am an introvert. And as an introvert, public speaking drains me. When it comes to social interaction, I prefer one-on-one interactions to group ones. Parties, too, wear me out–talking to all those different people. It’s why I’d rather have a nice quiet birthday dinner with my husband than a big party.  It’s not that I don’t like people or enjoy spending time with friends; it’s just that I find it overstimulating. And it takes me much longer to “recover” from that type of interaction than it does other (presumably extroverted) people.

Today I delivered the pre-conference workshop for the Two-Year College English Association Southeast Conference. From 9-11. By the time we finished lunch, all I wanted to do was take a nap.  I even drifted off just a little in an afternoon presentation–not at all because it was boring but just because I was so worn out. When I did get home, I took a nap. I had to force myself to get up off the couch, so I wouldn’t ruin a possible good night’s sleep.  I’m still exhausted. And I’m fighting dehydration by guzzling water. It’s like I ran a marathon. But I didn’t. All I did was talk to a bunch of strangers for 2 hours (ok–it’s actually a bit more than talking because every public speaking engagement is a performance, but still).

And that’s why I say I hate public speaking. But not enough to stop doing it. Because I love my job (most of the time).

I think I might go lie down now.

4 Comments

Filed under Teaching & Learning

4 responses to “On Being an Introvert

  1. amber.rankin@facebook.com

    I would love to hear you speak one day. I bet you are really good at it!

  2. Tricia Hulehan

    Yes, teaching and public speaking are like running a marathon! That is if you are doing them correctly. It requires a lot of energy to bring excitement to the subject you may have taught many times before or for the first time, along with watching your audience to see if they are following you (and your classroom rules). Of course, at the same time you have to watch the clock to make sure you are following the allotted time! I am so glad you are writing down your thoughts. I can tell you must be one awesome teacher who definitely has command of her classroom or conference room. This world needs more teachers like you who love their subject matter enough to switch to wearing extrovert clothing!

  3. I totally agree. I too am an introvert and prefer one on one interactions instead of groups. I’ve never been great at public speaking, but I can do okay after I get comfortable up there. Usually after the first joke in my speech and I get that instant reaction of people laughing then it makes me so much more comfortable and able to hit my lines better. It doesn’t make me as physically tired as it seems to make you though.

  4. I read most of this the other day, but had to finish this evening. Dang kids don’t always wait for us to finish a thought! Anyway, i love public speaking, and big parties. I’m almost the complete opposite of you–after I do something like this I feel an incredible rush and feel energized. Of course, as I’ve gotten older, I do prefer less loud raucousness and little more restraint, but there’s something about talking to a lot of new and different people that is good for my soul. Funny how different we are on that score, but gravitated to the same career field (kinda).

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