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Being nice to introverts/the highly sensitive (was Re: "Breaking Cliques at Events")

Hello Russ,

On Mon, Dec 11 2017, Russ Allbery wrote:

> A minor caveat here: for some people, it's a minor worry or discomfort
> to meet other people and then it has a huge payoff, and for other
> people, it's a larger emotional drain that can accumulate.
> I really enjoy Debconf when I make it there, and loved Montreal, but I
> still had to spend a lot of the conference hiding, and I was totally
> exhausted when I got back.  Wouldn't have missed it, but for me
> there's a high energy cost for interacting with people I don't know
> well and trying to juggle social signals.  I have to have some time
> off by myself going over everything I did and said in my head and
> talking myself out of worrying that I made major blunders.  (I used to
> think I was an extreme introvert; now I'm increasingly convinced I
> have high sensitivity instead, which is subtlely different.)  Usually
> the amount of accidental interaction, follow-on discussions from
> presentations, or running into opportunities to resolve Debian
> questions in person is enough to exhaust my available energy before I
> can seek people out.
> This is not to discourage people from seeking others out and breaking
> up cliques!  Just know that some of us may stick in our comfort zones
> not because we disagree with the idea, but because we have a limited
> number of social spoons and conferences cost a lot of spoons.  :)

I am someone who has no real barriers talking to new people (except a
little when they have famous names like "Russ Allbery" ;)) and having
always been like this, I am not able to imagine myself as someone who
finds meeting new people difficult.

Further, in my day-to-day life I am in a culture -- a university --
where the norm is to assume that nobody is uncomfortable talking to new
people, and if they seem like they are uncomfortable, it's quite
acceptable to just pretend that they're not (I'm neither endorsing nor
criticising that culture here).

Given the above, at DebConf17 -- my first free software conference -- I
sometimes worried that I had imposed myself on others by
enthusiastically and expectantly introducing myself and asking them
about themselves.  By 'expectantly' I mean that I approached them in a
way that might make them feel obligated to respond with a similar level
of energy.  This is not a reasonable nor a kind demand to make of
someone who has difficulty meeting new people.

You, Russ, are someone with a great deal of self-knowledge: you know
when to make yourself scarce in order to avoid burnout.  So I don't feel
particularly worried about the possibility that I imposed upon you.

However, I'd like to ask:

1) am I right that those of us who have no difficulty with new people
   need not worry about those introverts/etc. who make it clear that
   they know how to look after themselves viz-à-viz their
   introversion/etc.?  Or are there steps we can take?

2) for those people who have difficulty with new people but are /not/
   like you -- do not have techniques to handle their energy levels; not
   fully aware of how they are -- what can those of us who have no
   difficulty with new people do to avoid imposing ourselves upon them?

   This is especially relevant when there's an age/seniority
   difference.  E.g. a more senior/older person who has no difficulty
   with new people talking to someone junior/younger who does have
   difficulty with new people.

(I'm deliberately avoiding the term 'extrovert' because (i) I am really
not sure what it means; and (ii) I want to discuss a much more specific
dichotomy which is probably not all of extroversion, namely "those who
have no difficulty with new people" / "those who do".)

Sean Whitton

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