Monday, 10 February 2020

Attending The Company Holiday Party: My Experiences As An Introvert/Ambivert

By Waiching 

Introvert or introversion - two terms of which I have long identified myself as having and labels that, whilst I haven't been labelled with by other people, these are things that have, in a way, held me back from being the person I want to be, without judgement, mockery and the concern of what they thought of me. Though part of this also has a lot to do with me being the shy/silent one back in school and college, who wasn't very vocal and upfront and of whom lacked confidence. I had a small circle of friends in middle school, but when high school and college came along, I was a loner who focused on my studies. 

Being an introvert is something that many Asians can relate to or see themselves as - and whilst to most people outside of the community, it means we are obedient, respectful, that we mind our own business, we are frowned upon by other Asians if we go out of our norm and be exclusive, - and in doing things that are seen in their eyes as not 'culturally acceptable' and thus, it is crude. In East and South-East Asian cultures, especially (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Filipino to name), people are praised and seen in a far more positive light by remaining quiet - because 'quietness' and being reserved and closed off are qualities that have long been associated with being humble, grounded and mature, as opposed to being extraverted, rowdy, animated and attention-seeking. But then that kind of ties to the issue of mental health and depression and the suicide rates amongst Asians and Asian-Americans, Brits etc. 

It is well documented that Chinese people place a higher emphasis on studying and less on developing their social skills. When we don't socialise that much, Asians tend to stay at home to watch TV and movies, play video games or surf the internet. Or in the case of the Japanese hanging out in karaoke bars & belting out Western pop, J-pop and K-pop songs. A lot of Asians don't see the point in parties.... for me, the point of going to a party is to have fun, laugh, to loosen up, to get to know other people and to develop my social skills and enhance my confidence. 

Yet, adversely, introversion is also a handicap to your professional working life if you work with a set of people, and it can affect your personal growth as an individual and lead to anxiety. That's if you choose not to speak up, interact, communicate and break and come out of your shell that you become a recluse of some sorts. Due to the lack of social interaction, introverts have an inclination to hide & choose not to stand out. 

My younger sister is the complete opposite of me in terms of mannerisms & personality: she is confident, outspoken, has no issues in forming conversations and making small talk with others, whatsoever, whereas I tend to stay quiet and do my work, - although I speak up, correspond and communicate with my peers to get the job done. That is working life.

Yet when it comes to socialising and staff company parties, I become a completely different character when the music comes on (there was a DJ onset); well, when my favourite song is played, I became so spurred on by its rhythmic beats, I literally sprang out from my seat and started dancing the night away, without a care in what others think and of whom stare at me. I went about it as if I was in a music video and like as if no one was watching, I didn't have a care in the world that I was making a fool of myself, but also in trying to impress others with my dance skills that I learnt by watching music and dance routines videos on YouTube. I am living the moment, and I enjoy it a great deal. 

During the last party, I wore ankle boots whilst dancing and I didn't feel a greater sense of movement; this time around, I wore trainers/sneakers to the party. I prefer trainers to boots when it comes to dancing. I wasn't afraid of showing another or be it different side to my character to my peers (and one I don't display at work), and I didn't hesitate in doing so, and plus, as it was a party, it was going to be an energetic and upbeat affair. When I am not able to strike up conversations in a party setting, I turn to dance as my outlet to express myself and draw people's attention. 

Management was in attendance and I also mingled with several colleagues and made small talk with them, and so I wasn't silent throughout the whole night and a few of them, I didn't say a word but I just shimmied right in front of them! I retreated outside and sat out a few of the dances because I wasn't keen on the music that was played, and not because I didn't want to dance and that I was feeling overwhelmed by the atmosphere, my coworkers and the staff. 

All of a sudden I, of whom, at work I got on with work, of who doesn't have friends at work and who didn't talk as much - yet let my work do the talking, found myself to be the centre of attention on the dance floor by my colleagues. It was...surreal. I was embracing and unleashing my inner party self that was literally going to set loose at any given moment. 

When I left the party at past 1am or so, I didn't leave out of boredom (after all, I had a good time), not because I was completely shattered and felt depleted and my energy levels tanked, nor because I didn't socialise a good deal, but because it was getting really late and I had another shift coming up, and so I had to go home to get some rest, recharge my batteries and get ready for work, later on. 

Since working at Costco in 2018, there have been two seasonal work parties held: one in December of 2018 and the recent one this month of 2020, and I have attended both of these. Before that, I have never attended social gatherings, gone out to nightclubs or went out clubbing; it just wasn't a thing for me. I went to these Costco festive parties, not just to show that I am not as socially awkward as other people at work might perceive myself as, not so much as to prove a point in fitting in and being part of the company culture, but a) to grow in confidence as a person, b) by making an effort to connect with others, c) in my attempts to show there was so much more to me than just working hard & being relatively silent at work and d) find some common ground on their level through these corporate-based events and outside of the working environment in an informal manner.   

And so far, I have enjoyed myself on each occasion. If there were any things I wished that were different, it is that I was given an earlier shift and finished earlier, as I left work at quarter to ten on Saturday & headed straight to the party. If I started early and finished early, that would have been perfect, -or the party fell on the day I was scheduled to be off work, even better. 

Introverts are not necessarily shy and not all introverts are anti-social; it's just the nature of the social setting and situation can often be draining and a burden to handle in large doses. Whereas extraverts gain energy from parties and outings, introverts can only put up as much of it as they could handle and tend to be observant. Over time, whilst they are at opposite ends of the spectrum, I have found myself to be in-between introversion and extraversion. I'd probably even say that I am ambivert: by definition, an ambivert is a person who has a balance and mixture of both introverted and extroverted features in their personality. Thus forth, I am quiet and motivated, driven and focused when it comes to work situations and undertaking tasks. I like to take my time to process things and information through before diving right in, but during workplace parties, I look forward to surrounding myself with colleagues I feel at ease with and confident around and in being more outgoing. Whereas introverts avoid the pressure, I try not to let it get to me. In addition, I am at ease to let my guard down and by engaging in one-to-one or small group conversations, as well as to dance my bloody arse off!

I will admit that at times, at certain periods during work I disengage and remain physically and mentally distant from colleagues by avoiding conversations that don't appeal to or interest me. But that doesn't mean I choose to cut myself off completely, and I don't talk or converse with anyone at work- and besides, if you want certain tasks to be achieved communication on a work-level is key. I tend to talk to people when I absolutely have to.

The main argument from most introverts is that they don't like to be pressurised by others or their peers into going or attending social events like parties. They dread being in a large group. They prefer their own freedom, they like being left alone, rather than following the crowd and surrounding themselves with people & feeling as if they must be socially obligated to them. This is something I do understand: being forced to do something that one doesn't want to do, isn't fair and s/he is entitled to say 'no'. 

That being said, with work parties, by deciding that s/he wants to shun the party, that they don't want to go or they won't go because there are people they don't get on well with at work that they'd see just by attending, seems a bit, well, feeble. ''I don't like working with/for them, so why must I socialise or get on with him/her?''. Plus, it is virtually impossible for you to get on with and enjoy the company of working with every single coworker. This is not about making friends with colleagues and the idea that you have to be friends with them at the party (speaking from experience, I notice also that with some of them they drop the overly serious work-like persona and become more relaxed and a tad approachable): it's that by showing your face and getting into the spirit of things, not forgetting behaving yourself and conducting good etiquette, one is making an effort. It's not always about 'me-me-me', but taking into consideration the interests of the other people around me as well, who are in attendance at the party, and in putting yourself 'out there'. Plus, I didn't want to come across to my coworkers and bosses as anti-social. The other issue is they don't drink alcohol for religious reasons or whatever - I don't drink booze, because I'm not too fond of the taste, and I order a non-alcoholic drink, which isn't a problem to the staff (thankfully). 

We all have two different personas: 1) the work persona and 2) the social persona. Our work and social lives offer and provide different challenges and expectations - it's a matter of adapting our behaviours and mannerisms to suit the setting and environments we are in. 

Part-introvert, I don't hate people, but it is more to do with the conversations and banter that neither engage or interest me; if what they talk about appeals to me or of which I have some say in the matter, then I'll contribute or converse with them. 
After attending both work parties, I can practically look forward to the next one, and the one after, and then the one after that with little trepidation and a greater sense of ease and certainty. 

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