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Over the last three years I’ve been pushing myself to be more sociable. Despite this I’m still clinging on to my self image as an introvert. There’s only so much socialising I could endure. So it had to be limited. Attend a few events and then off. Interactions restrained within comfortable limits.

I was satisfied with this balance. I’ve a few close work friends. I’ve some good people to chat with sociably. A few more with whom I enjoy spending time. Enough to keep a simple introvert happy.

You see, introverts idealise isolation. They see it as the ultimate Zen state where the draining power of social interaction can’t hurt them.  Where all those different, changing, complex people can’t grind them down any more.

Then last September I changed jobs.

I moved from a broad open planned office environment to a very different environment.  Full of heavy wooden closed doors and brusque conversations. I had colleagues. Complete strangers. Entrenched together in a monolithic opaque bureaucracy. Most importantly, the people I worked for were far too important to have time for ordinary interactions.

In hindsight the social isolation was a big cause of my unhappiness. I had become used to having people around. But here genuine  interaction was just so hard to find. There was no one to share a few words with, have a small conversation, and then return to work. Being deprived of that small boost was unbearable.

I came to this realisation when I changed my role in January. Moving role got me a new set of important people, a new office, and, thankfully, a change in environment. The new set of important people was the most important. Because in that midst was one important person who when you saw him for any purpose you could have a brief chat, trade some barbs, laugh, and then get back to work. Just that dose of human interaction I needed to make the rest more palatable.

The new place helped build up a new relationship with the colleague who came with me. As we grew more comfortable with our camaraderie, we started to add more human interaction (instead of formal interaction) into our routine. The odd chat, the ramble, seeking help and ideas from each other and ending the cold formality of the old environment. I was delighted by this change.

It’s that sense of being delighted that gives me pause. It turns out that even me, the idealised introvert, who always desires more peace and quiet, is happier when there’s someone to talk to. When there’s someone who you can share an odd moment or ask a quick question somehow everything seems that bit better.

I’ve discovered that spending too much time silent gives me itchy feet. I feel the compulsion to go have a wonder and talk to somebody. Anybody. Just to let the world refresh itself in the mean time. Itchy feet finds its modern manifestation in an itchy typing finger. Wonder out on the internet. Have a chat. Share something. Get something back. Rest the mind. Reset the brain. Back into the world of work.

I learned a valuable truth about me. I am introverted. I need my quiet time. I don’t do extrovert style socialising. But I am not the kind of person that can survive without other people. I enjoy too much the simple pleasures of having someone with whom I can share the little moments of life. Isolation makes me miserable.

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