Dear Workplaces, Churches, and Schools, PLEASE Stop Doing Icebreakers. Signed, Introverts.
I read Introvert Dear, most of which I agree with, but even introverts come in different flavors. Today they wrote an article that resonates with me.
When taking multiple personality tests, I always came up with the same 4 letters and the strongest was I (introvert), always. The rest define me also, but not for this post.
See 15 things Introverts want you to know, but might not tell you and look at networking events. They are the worst nightmare for us. Force a bunch of people together and let them talk about themselves until perhaps you might find something in common. That is hell for me. It’s like small talk, something else I loathe. I prefer the silence, almost every time.
Want to meet me and watch me talk passionately? I do stuff I am passionate about, and then find people who have that in common and we naturally connect, without the social pressure of being forced to.
Icebreakers are supposed to be “fun,” but many introverts absolutely dread these activities because they force them into the spotlight.
Being an introvert at work has always been hard, but most days I get by just fine by minding my own business. For the most part, I don’t mind my job, and sometimes I even enjoy it.
Except when it comes to staff meetings.
I’ve been lucky that most of my past jobs haven’t required weekly staff meetings, because honestly, I’m not sure I could handle that. My current job only has quarterly staff meetings, but they’re enough to drain me and stress me out.
In fact, the most recent one was so difficult that I’m still reeling from it.
It’s part of why I hate family reunions and holidays. It’s forcing people together, only some of whom want to be there.
These are extrovert rules forced on us in public.
Why Introverts Hate Icebreakers
Not all introverts hate icebreakers, but many of them do, especially introverts like me who suffer from anxiety. I’m sure there are some extremely confident and self-assured introverts out there who have no trouble speaking in front of a crowd, but that’s never been me. (me: I can do it but hate it and it’s an act when I have to do it. Hell, I hate being at a small gathering and having to act like you are interested, when in fact most times people are more interested in talking about themselves. It’s like a Facebook post to get the most likes by telling the good parts about your life).
Why do introverts tend to feel uncomfortable during icebreakers? For one, an icebreaker forces you to become the center of attention. Whereas extroverts may enjoy being in the spotlight, introverts may find it overwhelming. In general, introverts thrive in calm environments where there isn’t much stimulation. I can’t think of a more stimulating situation than a roomful of eyes watching your every move! For introverts, all this attention may simply put their nervous system in overdrive. (I hate Christmas for this).
Also, icebreakers are supposed to move quickly, so there’s little time to think about what you’re going to say or do. Although no one likes being caught off-guard, for introverts, it can be especially difficult to think of something to say on the fly. That’s because the introvert’s brain might be wired a little differently in this sense. According to Marti Olsen Laney, author of The Introvert’s Advantage, we “quiet ones” may rely more on long-term memory as opposed to short-term or “working” memory, which makes us a little slower to gather our thoughts and speak out loud (it’s because we’re processing our thoughts and experiences deeply). Extroverts, on the other hand, may do the opposite. (Here’s the science.)
Personally, even when I come up with something to say, it never comes out quite the way I planned it in my head. I might stutter or stumble or mix up my words. In turn, this spikes my anxiety even more and leaves me feeling frazzled and embarrassed… all in front of people I work with… in a situation where I am trying to make a good impression. I know icebreakers are supposed to be “fun,” but I, like many introverts, absolutely dread them.