Extroversion And Conversation

The current Maxim has an article about TV chef Guy Fieri. As you might expect he’s a big BS artist, a super outgoing extrovert. Many people of this sort don’t have any hard skills; they make a living in sales or management positions. Fieri however has a specific skill, cooking. His first restaurant was a big success; his extraversion probably helped this a great deal, in motivating employees and making customers happy, but the food must have been very good also; a restaurant does not thrive without good food.

My guess is that while cooks aren’t usually highly extroverted, they aren’t highly introverted either; it’s a job that requires working closely with other people in a “fast-paced environment” as the job ads like to say (which means a lot of people screaming at you) so that requires more people orientation than a strong introvert, who usually likes quiet and order, has. Introverts tend to gravitate to positions with hard, technical skills

And yet are introverts anti-social? I don’t think so. Often they’re pretty interesting to talk to. However, this requires you get the ball rolling. “Getting the ball rolling” conversation-wise is a key skill of extroverts.

To get the ball rolling, you don’t actually need to be an extrovert; but you need to be able to act like one for a few minutes. Conversational skills material teaches simple methods for initiating and continuing conversations; opening with a question or a comment, asking open-ended questions, sharing personal information. All these are good but I think intangibles like energy are what make it really work. Maybe this is what Dale Carnegie means by being genuinely interested in others.

I’m going to try talking to people, but trying to pump it up, put some more energy into it and see if I can get a more enthusiastic reaction from people.

I did a few days of temporary work for the guy I was talking to around Christmas; but he was a bad guy and we didn’t get along. I’m pretty discouraged as I had high hopes for that turning into a decent permanent job. I was a little shell-shocked late last week and early this week but I’m trying to get back on the horse.

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3 Responses to Extroversion And Conversation

  1. Francis says:

    Reflecting on my past, I now realize that most of the problems I’ve had with work and social situations were caused by my pretending to be an extrovert when in reality I am a severe introvert.

    For example, when I would start a new job I would try to make a social effort, smiling at everyone and trying to start up conversations. But since I actually have no interest in socializing with others, eventually the conversations would become stale and I would withdraw and keep to myself. I guess this caused others to think that I was “rejecting” them and they would think me an arrogant asshole. Or maybe they just knew I was an antisocial loser and wanted nothing to do with me.

    This is the situation I find myself in at my current job; my coworkers look at me like some crazy weirdo and I don’t fit in at all. There is also a class and language barrier to exacerbate the issue. So I don’t know if I should just give up and never say anything, or try and win them over. Either way it’s getting progressively harder to go to work every morning knowing it will be social hell.

  2. That’s a good point- pretending to be an extrovert when you aren’t can cause problems also.

    I think there is a sweet spot between being totally withdrawn and winning them over. Be polite and friendly, but business-like. Say hello to everyone and smile, and respond to polite conversation, but don’t try to force things. If people seem receptive to a comment about the weather, you can make one, but don’t worry about it.

    I’m going to assume you are in some kind of a technical position. Your coworkers are in more socially-oriented, soft-skills positions; so they socialize with each other a lot and display a lot of emotions. Even if they are cold to you, you can’t be cold to them back; being too friendly is servile and thus counterproductive, but you need to be a little bit warm, as that is expected out of the lower-status person.

    The reality is you are different from them, and it’s good to acknowledge that to yourself, but also remember you aren’t there to be friends with them. Be polite, smile, do your job, and don’t worry too much.

    I wrote more extensively on this a year or so ago if you want to check the archives.

  3. Rollory says:

    I am an introvert. I have found that, with practice and focus, I can behave like an extrovert for an hour or two – at a party, for example – but afterwards I am utterly exhausted.

    I _can_ do it. I just tend not to care enough to actually do so.

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