Not long ago I was on an overnight staff retreat. Silly me forgot to pack my phone charger. Normally my phone holds a pretty decent charge, but the retreat center was out, away from town and the signal was spotty at best. The other factor to consider was that it was also a silent retreat. I’m generally introverted by nature, but no talking is pushing me to my limits. Normally my phone would be my escape, I could pop on Facebook or play a game, something to pass the time so I didn’t lose my mind, but with my phone charger miles and miles away I had to be very careful about how I used my phone.
The more careful I was with my phone’s charge – knowing that it was limited and I had to make it last until I could get home and charge – the more I realized that people are often the same way. As I mentioned, I’m generally an introvert by nature. I’m not as introverted as some, but being around large groups of people, especially people I don’t know, is extremely draining – even on a silent retreat. In many ways, it is like being a phone without a charger, my battery will only last so long. The things that give life to my battery are alone time, or at the very least, time with people who know me well and can have deep, meaningful conversations with me. When I’m gearing up for a weekend away, family gatherings or other big events, I take a little extra time to charge my own battery because I know too well how quickly my charge can run out.
When the battery on your phone runs out of a charge, it simply shuts down. In a way, I – and most introverts – are like that. When we run out of a charge, when we don’t have the energy or will power to continue on with the endless small talk, we shut down. We sit down. Sometimes we get cranky or rude because we are so over the small talk. Meaningful conversation fuels us, but endless small talk and meeting a zillion new people all at once is incredibly taxing. Small talk to an introvert is like streaming an HD movie on your phone using your cellular data – not only does it use up your data for the billing cycle, it wears away the battery and is just like burning a candle at both ends. When our proverbial charge runs out, we have to recharge. When I’m in a large group of people I can last for varying amounts of time depending on how well I know the people present. If I can find one or two people with whom I have something in common and can talk with them for more than two minutes, I add a little charge to my battery. When such conversation isn’t possible, I often make a bee-line for the bathroom after a while. Even if I can sit in silence for just five minutes, it makes a world of difference.
In this world of go here, do this, see that, talk to these people, meet this group of people, introverts like me lose our charges much faster. Introvert or extrovert, we all have a certain battery life that only lasts so long before needing to be filled. The things that ‘charge’ an introvert are different than what ‘charges’ an extrovert. While I do hold that I’m an introvert, some groups of people – even in larger numbers – give me energy and life, but only if the conversation is authentic and the event doesn’t go on for days and weeks. Whether your an introvert or an extrovert, or somewhere in the middle, there are undeniably things that ‘charge’ and ‘drain’ your battery and it is important to be aware of them so that we don’t burn out. Be careful how you use your battery, especially if you don’t know when you’ll be able to charge up again – and be aware that other people around you may be running on empty. Be kind to others because you never know how you could be draining or filling up their battery.
What about you? Introvert? Extrovert? Somewhere in the middle? What types of things charge and drain your battery?