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Introvert In Office Environment

Hi everyone. Though t'd I'd share my experiences as an introvert at the office.

So I recently accepted a position as a receptionist at a rehabilitation clinic. I desperately needed a job and have had quite a bit of experience in this role so I took this one. Little did I know how MUCH interaction with the public and my co-workers there was going to be.

I have been there for 3 days now (today is my 4th) and already I'm dreading going in. For one thing, I cannot STAND fake office interaction, and just the general chirpy jokey atmosphere that goes along with working with people who have worked with each other for a while. It wouldn't be so bad to be the new person in an office that was quiet, and the staff were respectful of each other but there was no stupid pointless banter between them. But seeing them joke with each other (and not in what I find in a funny way either...I have a sense of humor but these people are just not funny) makes me feel like I stick out like a sore thumb because I honestly don't know how to jump in and join in with the "witty" banter they have going on, a large part due to my introversion, and also due to their un-funniness (I love making up new words) as I mentioned earlier. For example yesterday, the receptionist training me decided to call one of the therapists over because of the mess he made on her desk. She decided to go about it in a joking route, "Come here you, I have something to talk to you about young man, and I'm going to talk to you like I talk to my daughter!" Chuckle chuckle. He responded, "Ok I'll respond like my daughter would then...." He then shrugged the way a child would in that guilty 'I didn't do anything wrong kinda way', made a guilty face and said "But I didn't do anythinnnng wrong." Oh ho ho more chuckles! So I'm sitting there, watching these two acting like a bunch of retards and think, should I chuckle along? Should I smile? Should I do ANYTHING?? It boggles my mind and I am consumed by stupid nagging thoughts like these. I ended up forcing a half smile but it felt so plastic.So that is how my office is with the "jokes". Little back and forth teeheehee chuckle chuckle moments that make me feel emo for not appreciating them and having to refrain from rolling my eyes. Does this make me an introvert or am I just working with a bunch of fake cheesey people?

I also find I can't relate to what they're talking about or just don't have an opinion period. So again I keep quiet. Another example: towards the end of the day, the massage therapist runs into the kitchen and says "I'm going to have my perogies now". The other receptionist and her then engage in some deep discussion about how hard or easy it is to make them, how they taste like rubber if cooked too long, etc. Woman talk basically. I quite frankly could give a rat's *** about perogies so I clam shut. How do extroverted people have so much to say, always a quick witty comment at the tip of their tongue, no matter who they're talking to, and whatever environment they're in? I just feel so boring at work and I feel like people are going to think that too.

And when it's not witty banter I can't jump in on that gets to me, it's the inter-office small talk. For example I was in the filing room yesterday, photocopying some things and one of the therapists walked in. I heard him walk in and I know he saw me because the room is tiny. But I waited to see if he would greet me. I don't have problems greeting people at work, just a quick hi is ok for me, but I just wanted to see if this guy would say anything. I mean if you walked into a small room and one of your co-workers was standing there, especially someone new, wouldn't it be natural to acknowledge as soon as you see them? It's etiquette isn't it? Anyways we ended up standing there, me on the machine, and him finding a file for about 10 seconds before he said, "hey how's it going"? to which I responded "not bad how are you?" Maybe I'm being too sensitive about the whole thing, but I was like why didn't he greet me? I'm the new person here, isn't it a nice thing to be nice to new people, make them feel comfortable? I dunno I guess I'm just being a baby. And then after that brief exchange I thought, "should I say anything? Should I ask him if he's busy today? Of course he's busy he's a therapist." In the end I came up completely blank, and we remained continued to stand there in complete silence doing whatever we were doing. I think he could have asked me how it was going at the office, how I was finding it, etc. The point is, I can't do the small talk. I have difficulty finding little things to say, especially meaningless things that I already know the answer to, and if the other person isn't going to say anything either, it's not going to be a party I can tell you that much.

Then there's the clients that walk in for treatment. Gotta get the rapport going and keep it up. Gotta make eye contact when they come in. Gotta ask how's it's going (cuz you really care right...wrong), blah blah. To the extrovert, this comes naturally. They don't even have to think about it. To me, the introvert, I have to actually force myself to do all that, which then ends up sounding fake, but then again the office is just one big fake place anyway. So do I put on a front, become a sell-out, and cheese the crap out of everyone at work and our clients? Or do I be myself, do my work, but be lackluster and uninteresting? My manager mentioned that we need to be charming and friendly to our clients, but it is just such a ******* pain in the *** to suck up to people you don't know. Now I know you might be thinking well isn't that what a receptionist's role is? But like I said, I had no idea how MUCH fakeness I would have to witness and plaster on each minute of the day.

Anyways I think that's it for now. Am I alone in thinking like this and going through this? Any and all comments are appreciated ;)
Chloe1980 Chloe1980 31-35, F 2 Responses Mar 10, 2011

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I know how you feel, I am an introvert who has worked in very extraverted offices. Anytime I tried to join the group I was left feeling fake and embarrassed for drawing attention to myself and forcing meaningless conversations just to try to fit in. I prefer one-on-one interactions, or small groups of people I know. It sometimes feels like you can't win- either you act natural and come off cold or snobby, or you fake it to fit in while compromising your true self. <br />
I get overwhelmed by people in general. I have accepted that this will probably always be the case on some level, so I need to make the best of it if I'm going to continue working in an office where I interact with clients, vendors, and coworkers. Either that, or become an accountant or computer programmer!<br />
It has helped to be up front about the way I am with those I work the closest with. I just explain, I'm not the most talkative, and I can be a bit of a wallflower, but I am still a dedicated part of the team and don't mind opening up if it isn't too "public". I take the time to get to know if my co workers are in a relationship, have kids, where they are from, general stuff. It doesn't hurt to get to know the people you spend 40+ hours a week with- plus then if you try to chat, it doesn't feel fake if you have somewhat of a genuine interest in them. You don't always have to like them, just function at work with them at minimum. I have found there are always at least one or two people who are understanding and more calm and straightforward with their approach towards you, which I think is generally more effective with introverts.<br />
Again, customer service and team environments at work are not for everyone. There are jobs where you can have little to no interaction with others, which is sometimes ideal for an introvert who doesn't need all that external stimulation anyway!<br />
Good luck, I hope you can work the situation or find a situation that works.

I have a similar work environment, except I've been at my job for 7 years or so. I always get performance evaluations that say I need to improve my communication skills because I'm quiet.<br />
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Oh well, I'm going to stay quiet because I can't change my personality. I hate that extroverts try and make introverts behave like they do.