Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I is for Introvert

Last week, Ophelie made a post about how to keep shyness from ruining your WoW experience. She gave some very good tips on how to not get overwhelmed in a game like WoW that has heavy social and group components.

A lot of what she wrote also covers another group of people, and one that I feel I fall into: Introverts.

Allow me to get pseudo-science here for a moment.

When I think of someone as being "shy," I think of a person who (as an average case), feels anxiety in social situations, possibly to the extent of it being a phobia. The thought of conversation, especially in groups, makes them nervous. Actively being around other people can be uncomfortable and awkward. If they do go out with a crowd, they tend to move themselves away from the group, or at least aren't engaged much at all.

One-on-one situations can sometimes alleviate this anxiety, if the other person is someone they know and are comfortable with. Then they can open up.

On the flip side, there's an introvert. Introverts don't mind being in social situations. In fact, group social activity is something many introverts still crave and actively seek out. When in a group, they'll be in the throng and engaged. But the introvert can come off as shy because they still won't say much. They're passive participants.

Many introverts, like myself, feel totally fulfilled socially just by being around other social people and listening to their conversations. If they have something to add that they feel is of particular value to the conversation, they'll offer it. But most of the time they remain part of the audience. Being there is enough to make them happy.

One-on-one situations can be more awkward for an introvert than group situations. One-on-one, there's a (necessary) pressure on the introvert to be an active participant in the socializing. Even when it's with a close friend, the introvert often just doesn't have a lot to express.

So how does this all relate to WoW?

In a game like WoW, where your social interaction is pretty much related to a chat box, there's less distinction between a shy person and an introvert. The people in your guild or group or whatever can't look at you and determine how involved you are in what's going on. No one knows if you're hardly getting anything done because you're trying to read everything that's typed, or if you're ignoring it completely. At the end of the day, if you're not putting words in that box, (for lack of a better way to phrase it) you don't exist. And while you may be enjoying the conversation and banter that's scrolling up your screen, if you want to get the most out of the situation you need to involve yourself a little more actively.

This is where most of the stuff Ophelie put in her post comes into play.

1 - Take it one step at a time
No one's going to go from being a quiet observer to a spotlight hogger. But do little things to remind people you're there and you are paying attention. Even if it's just a simple "lol" or "grats" or "that's amazing" here and there. They're generic non-committal responses to a lot of different things, but at least they get your name in the chat box.

Work yourself up to the point where you can actively engage yourself in a conversation without being prompted to. You don't have to do it all the time, but often enough to show people you're involved.

If you're feeling really daring, start a topic of discussion. Whatever's on your mind. Introverts are almost always thinking something, sometimes playing out entire conversations in their head. But they don't feel any particular need to share those thoughts if they're not immediately relevant to an active conversation.

2 - Seek out (medium sized) social guilds
When a guild is too small and doesn't have a minimum number of players online at the times you play, it falls back to that uncomfortable point where you can feel obligated to participate in any social interaction because there won't otherwise be any.

Alternately, if a guild is too large, it can become too easy to sit back and let everyone else do all the socializing for you. Introverts may not speak much, but because of that, when they do speak, they want to feel heard and acknowledged. Whatever they said was important enough to them to warrant saying. If a guild is too big, your voice can get lost in the crowd which doesn't give you any reason to say more in the future.

3 - Be honest as to why you’re quiet
I'm going to copy this part almost word for word from Ophelie:

There's no shame in being introverted. As long as people know they're not being snobbed, they'll generally give you as much time as you want to open up.

I use a format like this "*insert compliments and appreciation here* *warning that I take a long time to warm up here*". For example: "Thank you very much for the invite! I really appreciated it. I'm having a great time, I'm just a really quiet person."

4 - Be nice to others
Nothing brings an introvert out of their shell quite like strong emotion. Strong negative emotion, in particular. While everyone needs a bitch-fest every once in a while, try to make sure that when you decided to speak in chat it's not always complaining about what a jerk/noob/scrub you just ran with or how much some part of the game is getting under your skin. You may know you're not an angry, negative person all the time, but that's the impression you'll end up giving to other people, and they won't want anything to have to do with you.

5 - Know when to take a break
While introverts may love social activity, it can also be draining on them. After they've spent so much time listening to conversations and being with a group, they often need to retreat off on their own to mentally process all of it and recharge.

I go to social conventions two or three times a year. They're a great opportunity for me to get together with friends from all over the country that I don't get to see very often and party like a rock star in some other city far from home. But after being around other people from the time I wake up in the morning, come mid-afternoon, I need a break. I'll usually head up to my hotel room for a few hours and nap, read, play DS, or whatever. Then I'm ready to head out to dinner and party the night away.

By the end of the weekend, I'm more than ready to have a couple days all to myself.

WoW can be the same way. I may spend a few nights being social and actively doing stuff with my guild. But then every so often I just want to log onto an alt and level or farm and completely ignore gchat. And that's fine. Allow yourself time to do that every once in a while.


  1. Thank you for this post. There's so much in this to relate to.

  2. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator FTW! I'm INFP. I think it's a good idea for anyone to type themselves so they can understand how they act in different situations. It'd be great to type our raiding groups and see what mechanics are at play there.