Monday, January 4, 2010 - Relationships

posted Jan 3, 2010, 10:53 PM by Jeremy Poehnert   [ updated Jan 3, 2010, 11:12 PM ]
I added a new goal to my self-development goals.  At least three times a week I want to send notes/messages, something to people I know or used to know.  I think of it as my "relationships" goal.

In this effort, Facebook is my friend!  Something about the dynamic nature of Facebook makes it feel more natural and less intimidating for me to reach out to people.

Because that's definitely my issue.  I'm terrible at maintaining relationships with people.  I tend to get along with the people I'm interacting with through work or outside activities (classes, community service, etc.), but I've never been good at staying in touch with people I used to know.

I think this is affected, at least in part, by a combination of my natural introversion and the fact that I moved around a lot growing up.

One one hand, I'm introverted.  I like people, I really like people!  I enjoy hearing hearing people's stories, learning about their lives.  I enjoy the quirky characteristics that everyone has.

But it takes energy for me to focus on people, to socialize.  That's what I think of as the major difference between extroverts and introverts.  It's not whether or not you like people (I know both extroverts and introverts that don't like really like other people, however they act in public), it's where you get energy from.  I get energy from being by myself.  Even socializing with people I really care about takes a certain amount of energy.  So social outreach is one of the first things I put off when I get busy/tired/stressed.

On the other hand, I've never really had any long term relationships.  Growing up we moved every two or three years.  I got used to just letting people go.  It didn't mean I didn't like people, or that I didn't value the impact they had on me, or that I didn't remember our time together.  I just never developed the habits that keep relationships current.  I got used to liking people and then letting them go as I moved on.

I don't necessarily regret either of those factors.  I'm happy being an introvert, and I coped with moving the best way I knew how.  But now I'm trying to get better at maintaining relationships, of keeping some contact with folks.  Nothing dramatic; I don't expect to stay best friends with everyone forever.  But I'd like to keep the door open to the occasional hello, the on and off check in, the random get together; all the things that keep relationships alive over time.

It's an experiment for me, and we'll see how it goes.  Again, I find Facebook a great fit for my style; it's quick and easy to have low-impact but still valuable interactions; little validations, little comments, short messages.  In addition to intentionally sending people more substantial messages, I'm trying to be more present on Facebook, offering little comments, responding to jokes, keeping up with people's lives at least a little bit.

Facebook is also a very  forgiving medium.  Sending an email to someone I haven't talked to in months feels awkward.  But randomly commenting on something they post on Facebook, or forwarding them a link they might like, feels like a casual, low pressure way to reach out.

We'll see how it goes.  I'm not looking to make a radical change to my life; I'll never be an especially social person.  But even maintaining a few more relationships over time would be nice.