Extroverted? Here’s some tips on how to be quiet and reflective

COVID made people less accustomed to social situations. It helps if you don’t have to be the center of attention.

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Nipper, the dog, on the old RCA logo.

Tipping your head to the side, like Nipper, the dog on the old RCA logo, helps create the impression that you are listening.

Bloomberg News

Going to many parties this year? Me either. None at all, in fact. Which is great. One of the guilty secrets of COVID is that the pandemic is a jubilee for us introverts. You mean we can’t go into crowded places? Or to the office? Or out of the house? Yessssss!

Introversion always struck me as a personal flaw. We’re all supposed to be salesmen for our own personal brands, striding up to strangers with a gleaming grin and a firm handshake. I never thought of shyness as a valuable skill that could be shared, until I saw this tweet mocking O The Oprah Magazine for printing yet another article on how to be more outgoing:

“Just once I’d like to see, “Extroverted? Here’s Some Tips on How to be More Quiet and Reflective,” observed Tom + Lorenzo, the brand for Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez, a Philadelphia-based lifestyle and fashion duo.

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The thought bubbled up: Hey ... wait a minute. I could write such an article.

Perhaps now is the moment, during the holiday hubbub. A bit of introversion might make it easier for everybody involved; might mute, just a little, the chest drumming of the relentlessly gregarious. Especially those who get into arguments, blurt out hurtful opinions they later regret, and otherwise dig a deep hole with their mouths they then have to try to climb out of, somehow.

It’s worth a try. Here are five tips on how to be more quiet and reflective in social settings:

1. Shut up. Take your hand and put it against your lips. Are they moving? You might be one of the many who talk continuously, out of habit. Who take the old “Silence = Death” slogan far too literally. Take your fingers and firmly clamp your lips together. If your jaws are still working, and you’re making muffled, “Mmm mmmmm...” sounds, take in a long, deep, slow breath. It’s impossible to inhale and talk at the same time.

2. Try listening. In that unaccustomed silence that comes when you cease yammering, you might hear unfamiliar sounds. That is other people, also talking. They’ve probably been doing that all the while you were rambling on about your kids’ achievements, but since you were so focused on blowing off your big bazoo, you never noticed. Pretend you’re curious. Tilting your head like Nipper, the RCA dog, enhances the effect.

3. Think about what others are saying. After you have succeeded in using the flat, shell- shaped appendages on each side of your head to gather in the sound of words being spoken, the next step is to consider the meaning of the phrases you’re hearing. Most people use the talk of others as mere background filler to be ignored while crafting their next barrage. Try instead processing the meaning of what is being spoken.

4. Ask questions. This might seem extroverted, but it actually helps keep the focus off you. It creates the illusion you care, and suggests comprehension of what someone just said. So if a person is saying how their mother died in Philadelphia last week, rather than parrying, “I visited Philadelphia once. There’s a big bell ...” you can express sympathy for the loss and ask how they’re faring. Questions are your friend, passing time until you can reach the ideal introvert state.

5. Disengage. Master introverts, such as myself, almost radiate a force field that deflects people, encouraging them to clump in conversation groups that don’t include us. A fierce scowl helps. After you’ve pried yourself away from whomever you were quizzing, and realize the whole room is talking to each other, you are free to escape. Read the spines on books, if they have any, as you quietly inch toward the door. Flee back to your own home, where a true introvert wants to be all along.

View this as a process, a personal growth journey. Shutting up is an art form, and like any skill, it requires practice.

Don’t be discouraged by setbacks — one moment you may be solemnly standing by the window, watching trash blowing down the street, nearing perfect introverted equilibrium. The next you are standing on a chair, delivering a patriotic speech. Whoops. That happens. Climb down, compose yourself, and start again at Tip No. 1, shutting up. It’s a challenge, but think of the benefits to those around you. And isn’t that what the holidays are all about, helping others?

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