One Small Talk for Extroverts, One Giant Pain in the Neck for Introverts


I’m only going to ask one more time: How have you been?

Introverts hate small talk. It feels phony, it forces you to make eye contact and it’s exhausting. If only there was a better way to find out how co-workers you barely know feel about the weather.


Unfortunately, there isn’t. Until Apple, Google or Amazon develop a device that talks to the people we want to ignore, the chore will be left to us.

The good news is introverts are smart and resourceful. Also, their rich inner lives make it easier to tune in and out as someone drones on about their granite countertops or which Hampton Inn has the best continental breakfast. (Any introvert knows it’s the one in Denville, NJ.) It’s amazing how far an occasional nod accompanied by “Really” or “That’s interesting” will get you. In the meantime, you can focus on more important things like “Did this woman get a nose job?”



Flee From the Madding Crowd

leaving_02Donna Bernstein is an introvert who has never encountered an uncomfortable social situation she couldn’t avoid. “I know how to slip away from any gathering without being noticed. That includes my first, second and fourth weddings.” Bernstein, a quiet freelance astrologer, trained as a Navy SEAL. She uses her survival skills to escape over-hugging strangers and talkative co-workers. Bernstein once fled a noisy bridal shower by squeezing through a tiny bathroom window and rappelling 10-stories to a sidewalk, using only a piece of dental floss.

Of course, the best way to avoid any unwanted event is to not go. Donna’s first advice is create an extensive list of excuses. For example, she has 25 possible reasons for not attending a Kazakhstani Sweet Sixteen Party. “Although,” she says, “my fail-safe excuse is usually, ‘I’m under house arrest’.”

If you arrive at your destination but are having second thoughts, Bernstein recommends continuing to drive around your end point until you run out of gas. “Then call AAA for help. They’re nice people and, like me, have no interest in mindless small talk. It’s also a good opportunity to watch your odometer pass 100,000 miles.”

Even the most cautious introvert may find themselves at a meeting or event in which everyone is a total stranger. Then what? “That’s easy,” says Donna. “I pretend to have an urgent phone call and say loudly, ‘How far apart are the contractions? Call the doctor! I’ll be there soon!’ Then I sprint out of the building without looking back until the voices screaming, ‘Is there anything we can do?’ have faded away.”

Donna plans to deliver a series of lectures about avoiding crowds and strangers, but only if they’re sparsely attended. “I could never speak to a large group of people. However, if no one shows up, I’ll definitely be there.”

Bernstein has advice for introverts who don’t want live life off the grid but yearn for more alone time: “Let people know how you feel but be nice about it. A politely written Post-it Note attached to your forehead indicating you are an introvert is always helpful. I guarantee, no one except concerned mental health professionals will bother you.”


Caution, Incoming Social Interaction


Dear God, I want to go home and hold my cat.

For most introverts, the definition of Hell is being at a large party hosted by Satan in which you don’t know anyone.

Introverts don’t like being in large groups of people, particularly crowds where strangers ask intrusive questions like, “How are you?” or “Is that your car being towed?”

There are essentially three strategies for avoiding socializing with hordes of people:

  • Never leave home. This works well but can become tedious after 20 or 30 years.
  • Go to social functions, then hide after you arrive. This usually works, although many introverts grow tired of hearing, “I really need to use this bathroom; can you at least close the shower curtain?”
  • Go to social functions, then leave as soon as possible. This is a frequent choice among introverts. The most popular method is to enter through the front door, cordially greet your host and then continue on until you’ve passed through the rear entrance.

These three approaches can help you avoid human contact or, at the very least, keep it to a minimum. The key is to select the best strategy for the right situation. You’ll know you’re on the right track when someone from Social Services knocks on your door and asks, “Are you alive?”


Awaken the Strong and Silent You

Strong_and_Silent_01The Learning Annex is proud to present Luther Spivak, entrepreneur, pushup champion, silent auctioneer and author of the best-selling pamphlet, “All Quiet on the Western Front of My Mouth.”

Luther will present a short history of strong and silent types: from Orga, the first cavewoman to calmly wrestle and then briefly date a wild hyena; to Gary Cooper, an actor so quiet he didn’t realize movies had sound until his 15th talkie.

Luther will next quietly and assertively talk about his 10 easy, foolproof steps to becoming a more confident and less audible you.

  • Rid a town overrun of evildoers without saying more than three words. Then quietly leave.
  • Initiate a relationship with a needy, hysterical, overly-emotional person. Calmly, and silently listen to their problems. Pretend to go to the bathroom and then quietly leave town.
  • Join a local branch of Toastmasters. When it’s your turn to speak, stand up, say “yup” and then quietly leave town.
  • Hang out at a karaoke bar for at least two years and don’t do or say anything. One night, finally get up and sing “I’ve –,” and stop. Then quietly leave.
  • Sign up for a yoga class. Speak to no one. The first time a classmate speaks despairingly of another, beat the miscreant to a bloody pulp. Then quietly leave town.
  • Attend your next family gathering with a new tattoo that covers your face. If they don’t ask you to leave town, quietly leave anyway.
  • At a ceremony for winning the Nobel Peace Prize, announce to the audience you’ve mistakenly left your acceptance speech in your other tuxedo/pocket book. Then quietly leav
    e town.

Luther Spivak is an entrepreneur, personal and impersonal trainer and the nation’s #1097 life and business strategist. He was featured on TLC’s “Naked and Unaware.”


You Have a Right to Remain Silent


Are you sick of people asking, “Why are you so quiet?” What makes this even more annoying is these are the same folks who haven’t stopped talking since the Reagan administration.

If you could get a word in edgewise, you might explain that introverts choose their words carefully and are not fond of small talk. However, by that time the conversation has probably transitioned to a discussion of Uber drivers with zesty body odor.

People may not understand why introverts are quiet. That doesn’t mean you can’t use their lack of insight to your advantage. Your quiet nature is a gift. Embrace it. The world needs more people like you: someone who enjoys nothing more than sitting alone in a movie theater on a Friday night, empty seats on each side and a whole box of Junior Mints you don’t have to share.


Live Like a Billionaire Hermit on a Budget


No, I’m not interested in switching to Verizon Fios.

Do you seek the solitary life of a reclusive billionaire or James Bond villain, but lack the resources to buy a tropical island or build an army of bikini-clad robot security guards?

Even if you calculate your net worth in nickels and dimes, you can still live like a mad ruler of an isolated empire. Simply follow these easy steps.

  • Reconfigure your living space – With some creative decorating, you can make any studio apartment feel like a walled-off fortress in the Himalayas. Go heavy on the earth tones and add an audio loop of angry, exotic birds mating.
  • Stock 25 years of supplies – Plan carefully. For example, how will you feel about Dinty Moore Beef Stew after the 10,000th can.
  • Declare yourself ruler of your domain – Publish your manifesto on Facebook along with a photo of you wearing crown and scepter. Note: For added effect, make sure your Titanic movie poster is not in the background.
  • Security is essential – If your condo community forbids alligator-filled moats, consider hiring a retired snapping turtle to guard your foyer.
  • Adjust your personal hygiene to the new you – Because at last, you finally have the time to comb and curl your nose hairs.
  • A minimum amount of companionship is essential – Mechanical spouses or motorized significant others can be cost prohibitive. However, retrofitting an inflatable doll is a less expensive alternative. They are great listeners, tolerable lovers and never make demands on you.
  • Stay in touch with family and friends – Just because you’re off the grid doesn’t mean you can’t attend Thanksgiving dinners, family reunions and funerals via Skype.

Still feel having your own private paradise is beyond your reach? Remember: Introverts are incredible dreamers, a quality that enables them to accomplish practically anything in their minds. You may not live in a 100-story skyscraper surrounded by barbed wire on a tropical island. It doesn’t mean you can’t run a multinational envelope stuffing conglomerate from the comfort of your breakfast nook.



Alone Again, and Again and Again, Naturally


Do you remember that moment you realized, “Hey, this is nice”?

Whether you are an introvert who prefers meditating in the woods, having a delicious dinner-for-one at a fancy restaurant or simply enjoying a peaceful year or two in the comfortable confines of your studio apartment, the solitary life is for you.

The challenge is integrating your less-than-social lifestyle with the rest of your daily routine. Any business management consultant will tell you it’s not easy running a multinational corporation from your Barcalounger. However, just because your idea of a manageable crowd is you, Ben and Jerry does not mean you can’t have a fulfilling life without compromising your values or occasionally encountering a human or two.

It is time for the solitary and happy you to stand up, look at yourself in the mirror and proclaim proudly, “Even if I never leave this room, I can accomplish anything, and I don’t have to shave my armpits.”