How to connect with anyone

I came across this article, titled “How to immediately connect with anyone,” in my Facebook Newsfeed and gave it the old clickerooni. Because, although I am a standoffish introvert INTJ who hates other humans, I appreciate the value of forming relationships and am willing to learn.

But as I got further and further into the article, I got angrier and angrier and didn’t really know why. Until it clicked—this article was written for extroverts.

Which is fine. But it didn’t say that anywhere. It just assumed everyone in its audience was an extrovert for whom these tips would be helpful. Or worse: the author didn’t realize he was writing an article for extroverts. Maybe it never crossed his mind that these tips wouldn’t be universally applicable, noted down and gratefully followed by each and every reader.

That’s some damn vert-ism right there. Below are my real introverted reactions to a few of these tips.

Leave a strong first impression.

30 Rock Business Slut gif

And his advice on how to do this is basically positive body language… profit? This is a bit like saying, “Just be more memorable, ok?” Totally unhelpful for most introverts. I so often want to leave a good, strong impression on people but the way I’m wired for human encounters, especially of the first kind, is to listen intently, absorb what the other person is saying, process it, and then come up with a response that will connect with them. I mean, I’m not always so very thoughtful, but for important first meetings I am trying hard to understand who this person is and how I can draw a path from their thoughts/experiences to mine.

The sticky, jammy flip side is that, from the other person’s perspective—especially an extroverted person—I am likely to come off as standoffish or uninterested at best, meek and not worth remembering at worst.

A few years ago I was interviewing for an outreach position with a documentary production company. It was entry level, basically contacting people and groups that might be willing to contribute funding, or host screenings, etc. It was the in-person interview after a phone screening, and miraculously I had a big in—the production company was co-sponsoring a documentary I WAS CURRENTLY WORKING ON! The person I was interviewing with WAS FRIENDS with my producer, and my producer FUCKIN’ LOVED ME.

But maybe 20 minutes in, the interviewer threw me for a loop, saying, “I see that you’re on the quiet side, you’re sitting back in your seat, you seem a little low energy right now. Knowing this is an outreach position—how comfortable would you be making calls and sending out messages? You would essentially need to pitch the project and connect with strangers, would you be able to rise to that?”

In hindsight it’s probably a valid question put in a not very gentle way, but at the time I felt like I was slapped in the face. Just, like a jolt of OH SHIT THE SHIP’S GOING DOWN and also WHAT THE FUCK with a dose of how DARE you?

Downton Abbey Lord Grantham

I think I talked about my experience fundraising for other non-profits and my current work building a community around the documentary his SO CALLED friend was making. I’ve applied for this job, clearly I think I can do it. If we’re talking about a project or cause I care about, I’ll talk your damn ear off.

I felt I had to defend my natural state of being and that was a big fat bummer. Introverts are often walking into an interview with a disadvantage, especially in industries and positions where extroverted qualities like salesmanship are favored. But we aren’t usually directly confronted with a question that, to me at least, sounded like, “Uh I see you’re a weirdo introvert. What makes you think you belong here with the other humans?”

In fairness, I do hate cold calls, and I’ve never prized my selling abilities. On performance reviews I always gave myself a lower score on questions about how well you sell the company’s services. But you know what? My supervisors always countered with my soft-selling skills. It’s not as direct, but by providing good service your clients will continue to come back. And in the digital age there are so many ways to contribute to sales—at my current company, I helped rebuild our website, worked on SEO and ad tests, came up with some content marketing campaigns and guess the fuck what? That website has brought in my salary 2x over.

So there. Ya dumb fuck.

Be the first to venture beyond the superficial.

In other words, talk about something a little deeper than your basic bland niceties.

30 Rock conversation Kenneth

30 Rock weather Tracy

30 Rock weather Kenneth

I would guess that for most introverts, this is not a problem. We’re good listeners; it’s kind of our jam. And the whole reason I’m listening so intently during early conversations is so that I can catch some tidbit to glom on to—some topic or fact that I can connect with and offer an interesting response to.

Why? Because I fucking hate small talk. It’s the WORST. I can’t even stand to hear other people’s small talk. Sitting on BART without headphones, surrounded by people making trivial small talk is a miniature mobile hell for me.

Parks and Rec April scream

Don’t make them regret removing the mask.

Sarcasm, criticism, or jokes that might make the other person feel judged for what they’ve shared are major faux paus.

Uh, if you take away my ability to be sarcastic and make jokes, then I literally have nothing to commit myself to your memory. Remember in middle school when they asked everyone in your class to write one adjective about every student in your class? I got like 17 “Nice”s. “Nice” is a nothing response. “Nice” isn’t memorable. “Nice” is how you describe something you know nothing about. Your boyfriend I’ve said four words to seems nice. Once I drove through Salt Lake City, it was nice. Haven’t read much about it, but the eventual heat death of the universe sounds nice.

And toasty.

Sarcasm and jokes are a fundamental part of my personality. I’m not gonna tear you a new one right after introductions, but for a lot of introverts, humor is the safest way to connect. The best way I’ve found to quickly suss out whether a person I’ve recently met will understand me, whether there’s potential for a real connection, is to subtly slip a few jokes into the conversation. If I lob a jocular comment over the wall and they don’t pick up on it, no harm done. I just move on with niceties until I can GTFO. But if they catch it, respond with a laugh or—even better—with another joke, well then. You’ve got yourself a stew.

A potential friendship stew.

Smile.

MAKE ME.

Broad City smile

Don’t make it a contest.

Again, I feel like a proclivity for one-upmanship is more of a problem for extroverts.

Their accomplishments and life experience sneak up on you and make you feel the urge to make yourself look just as good (if not better).

I learned way late in life that extroverts are sometimes uncomfortable in social situations too. It’s just that, where my social awkwardness manifests as receding into myself and getting even quieter, theirs is projected as word vomit. Which is often about themselves, if they have nothing better to talk about.

Sesame Street Cookie Monster business

Although, maybe that’s unfair. Maybe it’s more a problem for certain people. People with low self-esteem, usually. Whenever this happens in front of me I just want to say, “It’s ok, little buddy. I’m very impressed. Don’t try so hard.”

Hamilton and Burr advice

Turn off your inner voice.

This point, this final tip is the one that really pushed me over the edge into definitely not a rage stroke. The space between every sentence is filled with the sentiment “FUCK YOU INTROVERTS YOU’LL NEVER FIT INTO NORMAL SOCIETY.” So I will shout back at those spaces. Into the unfeeling abyss, probably, but it will make me feel better.

One giant thing that keeps us from connecting with other people is that we don’t really listen.

See earlier shouts. I listen intently.

Instead, we’re thinking while the other person is talking.

I can do both, you linearly-programmed Cold War-era robot.

We’re so focused on what we’re going to say next or how what the other person is saying is going to affect us down the road that we fail to hear what’s really being said.

Ok, no. Not what I’m doing. The process for many introverts is: You talk, I internalize what you’re saying, I plan what my response will be, I give my response. We feel most comfortable when we are able to process before talking. And in order to keep a normal flow of conversation we have to multitask. Or there would be a lot of… pregnant…

… pauses.

The words come through loud and clear, but the meaning is lost.

Again, no it is not. I HEAR YOU. I’m trying to figure out what you’re saying. I GET IT.

You must turn off this inner voice if you want to connect deeply with people.

LITERALLY THIS IS NOT POSSIBLE FOR INTROVERTS. Or necessary. Or advisable, even. This is casually suggesting I change the fundamental mechanism through which I carry out most of my voluntary responses. Just real quick.

The more problematic part of this statement is the “must.” Suggesting that if you cannot silence that pointless inner voice you are doomed to a life of miserable solitude, sitting forever alone at lunch with no one but your internal monologue to share your Gushers with.

There is a right way to connect deeply with people, and you are simply not capable of doing it.

On the dry, crusty flip side: If you can hide your gross introversion and force yourself to go against your own nature, then you might just be able to win friends and influence people.

Parks and Rec April I like people

 

Just kidding.

Parks and Rec April I hate people

You know what’s a great way to connect with people? However you feel most comfortable doing so. Or not doing so. Introverts make deep as fuck connections when we want to, we just do it our own way. It’s no better or worse, just different. Let us do our thing, and you do you, and we’ll all do our things and do our us’s in a beautiful multi-verted orgy of deep love connections.

Parks and Rec April Ann hug

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