It’s About Where You Get Your Energy: The Introvert on Campus

(Work in Progress – suggestions extremely welcome!)

One of my projects that I am working on is trying to come up with good ways to get the introverted college student to learn successful career tactics and express their personality in a way that is comfortable for them, rather than pushing them to act like the extroverts that they aren’t.  Student Affairs staff spends a lot of time at the beginning of the school year (and beyond) getting students involved and encouraging those who don’t seem to be participating to join our socials and campus events.  Are we taking the time to understand the student and how they replenish their energy?  Are THEY concerned about their lack of engagement or are WE concerned because they don’t show a need for what we are pulling them towards – what we are selling as a must-do set of activities that we say they need to have a great college experience?   Do they want to be more involved and don’t know how, or are they comfortable with their personality trait that makes them more internally focused than the majority of the average population?  While it is important to learn to navigate an extrovert-dominated world, introversion is not a pathological condition that needs to be cured.  It’s also not a synonym for depression, anti-social behavior, shyness, or being socially awkward (a term I really hate BTW).

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Introversion and shyness are not the same.  It’s about where you get your energy.

Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not. – Susan Cain, author of “Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”

The key distinction is how a person re-energizes. Introverts get their energy by being able to spend time by themselves or in a quiet setting with others and are drained by people and chaos.  Extroverts get their energy from being around people and are drained by being alone.

Introverts need space and privacy.

How do we handle that in a residence hall setting?  Much depends on the structure of the building, and types of rooms offered.  Introverts will struggle most in a small traditional box of a room with a roommate, where privacy has to be created within very little space.  This isn’t impossible, but it is a challenge. Apartment settings may offer more privacy like a single bedroom or quiet corner of the living room for a favorite chair.  Can you help your introverted students figure out a way to carve that private space/time out of their current living situation if you see they are struggling?  Within a classroom or performance setting, introverts may concentrate best when they are on the edges or back of a room, where there is less distraction.  Unfortunately, many others will gravitate to those areas as well so they can goof off without being as noticeable.  Presenters will very often make everyone in a room get up and move towards the front before beginning because they feel it better focuses the audience’s attention towards them.  While this serves the purpose of the presenter, it does a disservice to those who could have recharged and concentrated better if left alone.

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Icebreakers and Group Projects.

If that line made you cringe, you might be an introvert. ;)  From the first floor social in a residence hall, to introductions around the table at a large work meeting, to getting assigned on a team for a project, having to work together can be challenging and uncomfortable.  Of course, for many group activities the extroverts think it’s a good thing to make people uncomfortable – it’s often a problem of extroverts (the majority in our society) thinking that introverts need to be “fixed”.  Many extroverts have a hard time understanding that the introvert doesn’t necessarily want or need help being social, being “more fun”, and that they are indeed having a satisfying life.  Working individually or in very small groups will get the best insights and analysis from introverts.  Can introverts work with large groups?  YES.  Absolutely they can.  Introverts can “flip the on switch” in order to spend a week training student staff, but it takes a psychological (and sometimes physical) toll.  They need to fit in some quiet time where they can renew and recharge without failing in their duties.  So maybe they sit by themselves at lunch, maybe they opt to set up for the next session happening in a break out room while everyone is else is working on a project, maybe you offer to plan and shop for the social rather than facilitate it.  Being an introvert doesn’t excuse a person from doing things they need to do, but maybe one can see why those optional “fun” things we try to get everyone engaging in may not be worth the energy drain to some people.  Making a withdrawal from your energy bank is carefully considered by introverts.

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Introverts make excellent storytellers, leaders, and ambassadors.

We shouldn’t assume that an outgoing personality is the only marker of a good leader.  Introverts can be excellent mentors and storytellers, especially if it is a topic they are passionate about.    In fact, introverts can give a speech to a room of 500 people on a topic they love – but don’t expect them to want to mingle with all those people afterwards. They often have fewer connections that they consider to be close friends than the extrovert, but unless this lack of friends is something that they are expressing distress over, you shouldn’t worry.  They aren’t social outcasts, they just prefer more time to themselves as well as fewer, more genuine connections.

Identifying the Introvert

Many people don’t realize they are an introvert – or don’t want to admit it to others – because they incorrectly equate “introvert” with “shy”, “loner” or “anti-social”.  There is no pure introvert or extrovert (most people are a balance), but there are some typical introvert traits…

  • Introverts tend to think about their answers before speaking, so you may find they take longer to answer a question and it may be more organized than most people. In a classroom setting, they are most likely the last people to raise their hands, but it’s not because they didn’t know the answer. Try throwing out a question and giving everyone a minute to think about their answer and you’ll get a better response rate from the introverts.  Extroverts don’t tend to have as much of a constant running internal monologue.  Because they seem to observe a lot more and take time to think before they speak, introverts are often thought of by others as wise or “old souls”.
  • Introverts tend to hate small talk. They see it as mindless chatter that actually creates barriers between people.  They would rather have a deeper conversation that is more genuine.  Networking feels especially disingenuous to the introvert, and they are advised to network in smaller, more intimate groups rather than large mixers.
  • Meeting new people isn’t motivation to go to an event. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to go to an event and if they meet someone new, great – but selling it as a great place to meet new people won’t do it for them.
  • Introverts are more easily distracted than the extrovert who thrives on noise and other external stimulation. Studies show it take the average person 25 minutes to get back on track after being interrupted from a task but it takes introverts a considerably longer amount of time to calm down and refocus.  Multi-tasking is difficult.  These are the people who need to find that quiet nook in the library because a noisy residence hall or social butterfly roommate is going to wreak havoc on that paper they have to write.
  • When possible, introverts avoid being surrounded by people on all sides. If they can hear you at a meeting or program and they are paying attention, leave them be on the edge or back of the room.
  • Introverts try to avoid anything that might involve audience participation. Yes – icebreakers and team builders, the foundation of all things Student Affairs.  They are not for everyone, and our chipper taunts to get up and show some enthusiasm do not help.  Can they do something else to participate?  Keep score?  Be a judge?  Hand out supplies?
  • Introverts tend to communicate better in writing than in person. If you are looking for feedback or suggestions, or suspect something’s wrong but you can’t get the information from them, try to work with them through email, chat, text and see if that helps.
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I Miss Old-School Horror

Remember when horror movies involved Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, zombies, ghosts and demons? Maybe throw in a psychotic leprechaun, shark, or a set of possessed puppets? Those were the good old days.

These days, horror has resorted to something I can no longer stomach. I can deal with evil in the forms of things I can’t personally relate to – the “other”, the “alien”, the “non-person”. The damaged monsters like Freddie and Jason and Michael were pushing it but you could still see them as the nightmarish freak show that only lived in the realm of fiction.

Now it seems the masses can only be entertained by the ruthless horror that “average” humans inflict on humans. It’s unconscionable and disgusting and I don’t understand why so many people consider it amusing. I can’t get away from it right now since it’s October and so many channels are showing Halloween movie marathons. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge horror movie fan…or I was anyway. But the movies and shows from the past few years are really starting to kill it (heh heh) for me. I’m tired of the torture porn being passed off as entertainment.

At first I thought maybe I was just getting sensitive in my old age or something. But then I thought about this example: The Walking Dead. In the beginning, I found the show fascinating as all these people figured out a way to survive and escape the zombies that were hiding around every corner. Now the zombies have become an afterthought that are easily dispatched without the characters breaking a sweat whenever they happen to wander into a scene. Instead, the focus has shifted from surviving zombies to surviving other humans and the battles of group dynamics and personal demons gave way to gang rape and cannibalism. As much as I want to continue to watch the series to check in on characters I’ve come to care about, I don’t think I can do it anymore. I’ll have to just read an Internet synopsis the next day because it’s easier to gloss over the ugly parts.

Not that every old horror movie uses the supernatural or monster plots to scare people. Far from it. I can’t stand any of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies. But I guess what bothers me most is how the demand for this type of movie or TV show has grown until it’s really hard to escape. Even the movie trailers on TV expose me to scenes that I never wanted in my memory and now they are stuck there. Humans doing awful things to humans and other humans can’t get enough of it. That makes me sad. And angry and disappointed.

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And That’s the Sound of Hell Freezing Over in South Carolina

I’m still kind of confused about the whole gay marriage legality issues that have happened this week in the south. Part of that is my privileged ignorance as a heterosexual who never had to worry about fighting for the right to get married, and part is that this whole “we will accept your application but won’t issue you a license” or even “we’ll issue you a license but it’s not legal in this state” seems like total bullshit. Plus it varies by county. I don’t know what this all means. It’s so much easier for me to just hit the LIKE button on a friend’s Facebook post as they announce the latest state where same sex couples can be legally wed.

Remind me again how same sex marriage between two consenting humans threatens me in the least? That’s right, it doesn’t. Wait, were you going to tell me about how it ruins the sanctity of marriage? The sanctity that we heteros are constantly spitting on with adultery, divorce, and domestic violence? Mm hmm…

I can’t even believe this is still an issue, but so glad to see it being chipped away at like a stubborn stain on the counter top. Pour a little bleach on that shit and scrub HARD because people just can’t help who they love. We all need to get over this, and by WE I mean the people who waste everyone’s time and money trying to block LOVE, for crying out loud.

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It’s Not Just a Car It’s an Emotional Roller Coaster

Dear sweet baby Jeebus, fixing Freddie is going to kill me. The stress of getting one thing fixed only find two more things wrong…I can’t take it. I can’t afford it. But we can’t stop now!

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If you’ve ever watched car shows you know that EVERY time, the job is:
1. More complicated than expected
2. More expensive than expected
Yes.

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And I swear to all that is holy, if they break that back window I am going to die.

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Panic Attacks and Understanding Your Symptoms

Nope, I’m not a doctor or psychologist.  But I know the pain and stress of anxiety attacks, have had a bit of training in how to deal with them and how to help others deal with them.  Problem is, too many people don’t want to hear anything during their panic attack that might help them; they are only interested in an expensive and largely useless trip to the emergency room. The most helpful thing an emergency room can do for the average person having a panic attack (when you know that’s what is happening to you and it’s not your first time) is make them sit and WAIT.  Most often people calm down in the waiting room because they are distracted by the real emergencies, and they also have a lot of time to think about things other than if they are going to die – because hey, you are already in the hospital so if you keel over you are in a place where you might move up in the triage formula!  There are legit emergencies happening there – your best course of action is to understand why your symptoms are happening and realize you need to formulate healthy ways to treat yourself.  Oh, and see your regular doctor during normal hours as soon as possible to talk about if therapy and/or medication might be helpful to you as well.

Your heart is racing:

Rapid heartbeat and palpitations during a panic attack are generally not dangerous (if they are not part of a pre-diagnosed heart condition).  A person’s healthy heart can beat up to 200 beats per minute for days or even weeks without sustaining any damage.  Yes, it can be uncomfortable and may interfere with sleeping.  Do not add to your stress during this time with caffeine or extra sugar. If your heart begins to race (most common symptom), acknowledge it and allow it to do so, but don’t let it become your focus.

Your breathing is labored:

Under stress, your neck and chest muscles are tightening and reducing your respiratory capacity.  This sensation will lead to a sudden fear that you are going to suffocate.  There is nothing wrong with your throat or lungs, and this will pass, although it is understandably scary.

You are feeling dizzy:

The muscle tension in your body is also affecting the semicircular canal system in your ears, which is the system that helps regulate your balance.  Also, you may be trying to breathe more rapidly which actually reduces your blood circulation, and that might be making you lightheaded.  Slow, deep breaths from the abdomen (sometimes called “belly breathing”) will help relieve these feelings.

You are feeling detached or “out of it”:

That arterial restriction of blood flow to the brain due to rapid breathing might be making you feel disoriented or detached from the world around you.  You aren’t going crazy.  As your body starts to relax with whatever method works for you (exercise, meditation, belly breathing, distracting activities, music, etc…) this will pass.

You think you are going to faint and/or your fingers are numb:

That dizzy, lightheaded, detached feeling strikes again!  You are breathing too rapidly and hyperventilating, which means the blood flow to your brain and extremities is slightly reduced.  This situation isn’t dangerous unless you are trying to do something tricky like walk the stairs and you fall, so lie down and get comfortable while you practice taking long, SLOW, deep breaths from your lower abdomen.

Some panic attacks are over in minutes while some last for days.  Sometimes you know what causes the anxiety, and sometimes it may seem to just happen.  The important thing is to acknowledge what is happening without letting it control you.  Try different methods of healthy stress relief to see which ones work for you, and never doubt how strong you are!

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I’ve Decided to Complicate My Life with a Classic Car.

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Add another random life topic to this blog: the odyssey of owning a classic car. In our case, a baby blue 1953 Mercury Monterey sedan. Say hi to Freddie. We’re in love. I figured it might be nice to write every now and then on our progress with the car for those that are interested – especially if you are dreaming about owning an oldie one day of your own. It’s definitely a different experience.

If you know me at all, you know about The Mighty Geo, my 1995 Geo Prizm that is going to run until the End of Days. Well I wish, but we know it has a terminal illness that will eventually lead to catastrophic failure and I didn’t want to pass up this deal while Freddie was available. In my family, when the dog starts getting old and you know it’s almost time, you bring in a new dog. I never thought of that as cruel to the old dog until now. I’m going to feel really guilty when I park them next to each other. But knowing The Mighty Geo’s days are numbered, I’ve been thinking for a while now that as a replacement I’d like to have a classic car instead of buying the cheapest piece of new crap I can find. They say they don’t make cars like they used to and since my husband is a mechanic I have a guy willing and excited to work on this project. Maybe project is the wrong word for this though – this is not a long term overhaul restoration…

I’m going to do two really blasphemous things with this car:
It’s going to be an “everyday driver”, not registered as an antique auto.
It’s not going to be sheltered – we live on a college campus and a house with a garage is just not a reality for me right now.
So I apologize right now if that gives you chest pains; I don’t like the no garage bit either but as far as driving it all the time I stand by that decision because I don’t buy useless things.

Life would have been SO much easier if I had never seen this car last week in Pigeon Forge at the Shades of the Past car show. But if we had thought seriously about taking a trailer and wad of cash life still wouldn’t have been as hard as going home, thinking about it, then deciding to drive seven hours to go get it this past weekend. And nine hours back, since a U-Haul car hauler is a poorly designed piece of crap not good for distance (not to mention mountain roads), and also since our truck’s computer and/or transmission were deciding not to work properly. ANYWAY…

Things I’ve learned/done so far:
1. Classic car guys prefer cash. Then they can turn around and buy more stuff from other classic car guys. And of course no paper trail through large bank deposits that might mess with their income tax. Making a large cash withdrawal, however, gets you a look of disapproval from the credit union lady who is concerned for your safety.
2. Proper insurance will be expensive when compared to your newer vehicles. I am currently underinsured through Progressive so it can at least be legal to drive but at some point we will need to get insurance instead through a company that understands how to value and insure classics.
3. Property tax, on the other hand, is far cheaper than a new car. Maybe you don’t live in a state that makes you pay property tax on a vehicle in which case I hate you. It adds two more long lines to stand in at a location different from the DMV.
4. Even if the car is a solid, drivable vehicle (like Freddie is), it’s still going to be a bit of a money pit. Things like hoses, gaskets, window seals and tires probably need to be replaced because of their age. Freddie is almost all original with one owner most of its life. We have to convert it from 6volts to 12volts, replace a rear window seal, and I’m trying to ignore the dry rot on the tires because whitewall tires are about $200 each. But it’s a beautiful car with all the chrome trim and we got a really sweet deal.

For the car fans out there who care, the engine is the original flathead V8. This sedan was a luxury model in its time and is a “Merc-o-matic” – automatic transmission. The keys are pretty too :)

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Facebook is Making Us Stupid

I’ve just realized in the past day or two how I’ve been sucked into enabling students thanks to Facebook.  I meant well, really I did.

It seems the majority of students (mostly new but returners as well) would rather ask a question on Facebook and wait for the minority to find the answer than use their technology to find it themselves. However, it’s hard to make these “helpful” students understand that it’s important for the majority to figure out how to find information themselves.  I mean, I just made myself understand it today.  In particular, the school where I work has a public Facebook group for each class of student.  As you can expect, the Class of 2018 group is the most needy right now.  I keep an eye on the groups to make sure the helpful folks don’t go spouting incorrect information, especially where it pertains to housing.  I try to be as helpful as I can but over the course of the summer it started to get really frustrating that people were asking the same question over and OVER again.  Not searching for the info themselves, not even searching that group for the key word to find the other 10 times the question was answered.  Then my sister posted a link to this blog entry about not allowing students to email for simple things that were already covered in class or the syllabus:

http://serenecriticism.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/banishing-student-emails-yes-we-can/

Amen sister, amen.  Why do we go to such great lengths to have things written down (paper or online) to help when most people don’t read it?  And then we humor their helplessness by providing the answers instead of referring them back to where they can find it (or ignoring the request)?  Once the student gets one thing answered, it’s like they become addicted to asking question after question and I don’t know how to wean them off because some people just like being helpful.  I mean, who doesn’t like to feel needed, right?  It’s one thing for a professor to decide they are not answering emails so the student learn to look at their information and have face to face conversations, but these Facebook groups are like a Pandora’s Box of learned helplessness with so many people contributing.  Even if I had some control over posted content, it wouldn’t help the bigger picture.  This is just a symptom of the disease, showing itself in a very public way.

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Ugh.  All these folks have grown up with so much powerful technology to help them navigate every part of their life, and they don’t even bother to use it.  Such expensive gadgets and they are only used for texting and selfies.

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