Most every year, my lovely wife, Adrianne, asks me to accompany her to the downtown beer tent that is one of the main attractions of “Boxcar Days,” her hometown of Tracy, Minnesota’s annual Labor Day Weekend celebration of railroads and trains.
The beer tent is where everyone over the age of 21 gathers to visit with old friends, perhaps have a beer or two, listen to karaoke, maybe even dance a little. It’s easily the biggest draw of the celebration.
And the loudest.
Adrianne, like me, is an introvert, though she generally seems more outgoing than I am. So while I’m never exactly shocked that she wants to go to the beer tent — and I’m ultimately happy to go both with her and for her, especially so she can see her high school friends and vice versa — the inconvenient truth is that my very first, gut-level reaction to her suggestion that we attend is always: “Ugh.”
I have my theories as to why.
For starters, I think I have a touch of social anxiety disorder in certain situations. I’m also not much into beer drinking, though I’ll have my one from time to time.
The real story, though, is something that marketing writer Kate Finley touched on a few years back in her superb Fast Company article entitled “How Introverts Can Network Without Losing Their Minds.” There, in describing the key distinction between introversion and shyness, she wrote:
“… [A] lack of interest in socializing (introversion) is clearly different than fearing it (shyness).”
As I wrote in a comment to Finley’s piece, I don’t have a “lack of interest in socializing,” necessarily. Rather, I tend to have a lack of interest in the typical ways OF socializing. As I noted in my response:
A one-on-one, quiet conversation with someone about a topic that really matters? Count me in — let’s socialize! Glad-handing and back-patting through herds of shouting people at conferences and parties? Not so much.
Interestingly — and this happens to me quite often in similar situations — I always end up having a nice time with Adrianne at the beer tent. (It’s especially gratifying to see her seemingly mild-mannered high school friend get up on the karaoke stage year after year and belt out tunes like Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell.”) There’s always something to be said for pushing beyond (or being nudged beyond) one’s comfort zone.
But there’s also something to be said for diversity when it comes to socializing approaches. And socializing one on one — in a peaceful coffee shop, perhaps — is what I’ll always pick if given the choice.
It’s still socializing.