Group work, introvert style

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Group work as someone who desires time around people and yet quickly tires of that time around them can be challenging. You are dealing with different personalities, and in my most recent case the difference was very striking. In the most recent foray into group work, we all had very different educational and personal backgrounds as well and I really did see how that split us off from each other as much as it also strengthened our final project.

But that really isn’t my point, at least not completely. Yet, I think it does play into how I interacted with the group. When people get challenging for me is when I am most likely to shut down, unless it is a high stakes situation (and this was as we are being graded, quite significantly, on the final product). Another example has happened recently as I was applying for a new apartment. The management there is good, but I can also see where they are challenging. If it wasn’t for the fact I need a place to live and I really liked the apartment, I would have just maybe shut down or not have been as aggressive with them as I have been.

The point is when people get difficult, I either end up a. feeling resentment or bitterness over them/the situation or b. drop out completely. And yet as someone who is pursuing a PhD, I realize I will encounter situations like these a lot. I see it in some of my students, albeit very few (and thankfully so). I see it in people who oversee my work, not only as a teacher, but as a student. And it is always hard for me to keep going. And there are times where i do kind of drift off into the background. For instance, I can vividly recall a recent grant writing meeting where I sat on my laptop and pretended to look busy. (I was working on my part of the presentation, but I really could have done that at another point.) I just needed to get away.

The problem is when I don’t get away, I get sullen and irritated and everyone knows it. Sometimes I don’t even fully realize I am doing it, or at least that is what I think because I have been accused of being “crabby” without realizing it. So when I go away for a moment, it is just so I don’t turn into irritated me. I am saving you all and you should feel happy I knew it was coming, really.

But, of course, people can’t read this stuff well at all. Other people are not mind readers. Then the problem is well, how can I avoid this situation and get them to see the reason why? I could communicate it, but to me it just sounds whiney. “Sorry, guys, I am a little people tired, so I just need to sit here and pretend I am alone for a few minutes.” The better option would be for me just to get up and simply say, “I’ll be back in five.”

And really, that is like the introverts best bet. Just get up and excuse yourself. People will still be there when you get back and perhaps they still haven’t came to any new conclusions. In closing, no one has missed anything. And lots of times, they aren’t even talking about the task at hand anymore. Extroverts are great for small talk and getting to know others and just being great conversationalists. Introverts can be good at this too. Problem is we lack the energy and don’t care that much. Sorry.

Perhaps that sounds harsh, but it isn’t meant to. It is just that in my experience people who are great talkers tend to take longer at completing projects in a group because they want to talk the whole time and that frustrates me. I am one of these people who can sit down and get a fair amount accomplished in a short period of time. I surprised my composition theory professor Dr. Fremo in class a few times because of how quickly I could synthesize information in a meaningful way and create a large amount of text in a short amount of time. (Not stellar work, but it fit what was required of me at that time.) And I think a lot of people at my level of education can do this. For me, I think this happens because of my personality, not necessarily because of my intellect. I’m very focused and I can get a lot done in short order. Other things don’t distract me easily and I don’t want to carry on conversations that aren’t necessary. I have no desire to sit there and talk to you about your day and I’m not really sorry for that.

In short, let’s just get it done and move on.

But I do like people. I do genuinely want to get to know them. I just don’t want to spend too much time with them. And I certainly don’t want to live with them. (Hence why I doubt I will ever get married or have kids. I love my alone time. I can’t live without it. I would stark raving mad if a family was required of me. I’d be the crazy angel in the house.)

This whole entry turned into something a bit different, but it is something I’ve probably been needing to say.

At least it is spring break and I have time to write again.

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