I spent what seemed like a year sharing a ride to the office with a very extroverted coworker awhile back.
As soon as I got in the car with him, he was “on”. Hoping he would take a hint, I remember saying, “Gee, Larry*, you’re kind of a morning person, aren’t you?” His response: “Yes! I AM a morning person! And I’m an afternoon person! And I’m an evening person! I’m an ALL DAY person!”
We only commuted together for a couple of weeks, but during that time, my definition of intense took on a whole new dimension. Even now I measure intensity on a scale of “1 to Larry”. I haven’t seen him in a number of years and I’ve often wondered if he spontaneously combusted somewhere along the way.
Seriously, though, in my ongoing attempt to seek harmony in my life, I find intense people to be a real challenge. And I don’t mean just first thing in the morning.
If I’m in a restaurant with a small group of people (say, six or less), I prefer one conversation at the table, if at all possible. I don’t want to be pulled into a side conversation by whoever is the “Larry” in the crowd and miss interacting with the others.
If I know I’ll be spending time in the company of a conversation hog, my tendency is to immediately start thinking of how I can cut my time with them short. How can I get away (or not sit next to them)? How can I not go in the first place?
But here’s what I came to realize about Larry and I think it applies to others who tend toward that end of the spectrum.
Larry didn’t mind being told he needed to dial it back a notch. He wasn’t overly sensitive so I didn’t have to be particularly subtle. I’m not sure he picked up on body language (if he did, he either misinterpreted it or chose to ignore it.) Offending him was almost impossible.
“Give it a rest, would ya?” didn’t make him sulk or write me off; it made him laugh. And then he would actually try to settle down. Of course, it didn’t last long, because – well – he was Larry. But I learned I could ask for what I needed and speak up when I felt like I was being run over.
Larry and I were very different from each other. I’m not an introvert, but I’m closer to the middle of the continuum – a hybrid, I like to call myself. Larry was a textbook extrovert, a party just waiting to happen. I liked Larry, I really did. Just in small doses!
He couldn’t be expected to read my mind and know that he was making my head spin. And I learned to cut him some slack, too. He wasn’t intentionally being “too much” just to drive me crazy. He was simply energized by having an audience and genuinely liked human interaction.
I try to gear myself up for intense people and remember that the way they are is normal for them, so they don’t realize it might be a bit much for others. With that in mind, I can reclaim my personal space if I need to without worrying about hurting their feelings. And I can politely leave when I’ve had enough. “Excuse me” is my go-to phrase as I make my retreat.
Knowing I’m not going to change the “Larrys” in my life helps me accept and deal with them – and it gives me a fighting chance at maintaining harmony.
How to you handle folks like Larry? Please share your tips in the comments!
*Not his real name, of course!
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