One of my co-workers mentioned that other people in our office have approached him and stated that our team comes off as antisocial. To me, this is not a surprise, in fact, it’s more of a “no, duh” type revelation. My last office included going out to eat lunch when it wasn’t someone’s birthday and occasionally taking breaks from work to talk about our lives. That kind of thing is unheard of here. And that’s fine--but also--I don’t take it as an insult.
“I’m not the outgoing type” I admitted as we discussed this. “Yes, you are!” insisted the newest member of our team. I wanted to laugh. Why is it that you’re never supposed to admit that you’re not outgoing, or more specifically, that it’s a bad thing to not be outgoing. I will talk to someone else, sure, but I am unlikely to strike up the conversation and if I do, I assure you, it’s not coming to me naturally. It’s an effort.
I feel drained if I am around too many people for too long. I really, really have to consider whether I want to go to a social outing if there are a lot of people I won’t know. I have never been the type to work a crowd and I don’t like being the center of attention. While I find all of these things to be fun in their own right, I also find them terribly exhausting.
The problem with being this way is that there’s no reward for being an introvert. There’s nothing for you if you’re not outgoing. You don’t attract anyone if you don’t turn on the smile and engage in conversation. Like those gifted with the snappy comeback, I envy people who can charm with ease. These people can network, schmooze and rub elbows with anyone from the homeless guy on the street to the CEO of a major corporation. Barack Obama has charm. McCain (like me) struggled with it. What is it about them that draws our attention?
Here’s what I think—
1) They make you feel special. It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? They bother to learn a little about your life and the next time they see you, they ask. They compliment. They even flirt—hell with some of them, if they’re talking, they’re flirting. There’s one person I run into on the elevator from time to time. We have conversations, but every time we talk it’s as if there is more going on than just two people sharing the elevator. “I hope to see you again” he said the first time around. “Oh, hey” the second time around. “Your hair is so cute.” And so on. The last time I witnessed another woman step on and he switched channels to focus on her. I smiled. “Of course,” I thought, “He’s that way with everyone. I’m not actually special.” Not special! Oh well. The key is that they seem to want to be around you which makes you look forward to being around them. People in sales are experts on this. How much is genuine? Who knows. How much feels genuine? If the person is really good at this, all of it does.
2) They are funny. This goes without saying. Humor and charm seem to be linked. Humor is disarming if used the right way and who doesn’t enjoy a good laugh? You can be funny without charm, but I’m willing to bet that most charming people are also funny.
3) They know things—I’m willing to bet these people have just enough knowledge about most things that they can pick up on a conversation about a song, or a book, or a news article and run with it. They can insert themselves into a conversation and it seems as if they were always there. They can use what they already know to their advantage, and what they don’t know, they’ll pull from you by using skill #1 in this list.
I’m willing to accept that none of this charm stuff comes to me naturally. The harder thing to accept is that if you don’t got it, getting what you want from this world becomes much, much harder.