A Pack of Friends or One at a Time?

by Andrea Chilcote

There’s a saying I love to share, just to watch the puzzles form on listeners’ faces as they try to decipher the message. It goes like this:

“One dog, you have a dog. Two dogs, you have half a dog. Three dogs, you have no dog at all.”

The point, of course, is that due to pack behavior, the closeness of a human’s relationship with a companion dog depends on how many dogs there are. When there are several, you don’t have one-on-one relationships — you live with a pack. My neighbor observes this behavior in her husband and his two grown sons, with whom he is very close. When they’re away, she has a husband. When one son is present, she says she has roughly half a husband and when all three are together, she laments (but with a smile), that she really has no husband at all.

Even though I work with people day in and day out, am socially adept and enjoy interaction with others, I’m an introvert by nature. That just means I get my energy by being alone or with one very close, significant other. I expend energy in my work and in social interactions, and need time in nature or with one close (and quiet) friend to recharge. Extroverts, on the other hand, gain energy by being with people. I often tease a strongly extroverted colleague about the time she told me, in all seriousness, that she couldn’t wait to relax on a Jimmy Buffet cruise with 200 of her closest friends. “200 close friends?” I exclaimed. I could not imagine (though this was before Facebook) having that many friends, let alone consider being with them all at once “relaxing.”

This introvert/extrovert concept is complex, because we need different things from groups than from our one-on-one relationships. In this world of never-enough-time, I tend to covet and protect time alone with special pals, even to the point of (I confess), sometimes resenting when well-meaning others join us. As an introvert, I tend to let the “pack” do its pack thing, with me on the fringes as a lone wolf. I can easily lose connection and drift away into my own thoughts while they carry on as a unit.

Susan Cain’s new bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking  does a beautiful job of helping introverts understand themselves a bit better and nudges their extroverted friends, partners and colleagues to consider a different way of interacting with them. Take her quiz to assess your own preferences.

If you need the absence of connection, the solitude of your choosing, to build the energy to connect with important others in your life, consider the choices you are making. Do you go along with crowd, later feeling exhausted or even resentful that your bucket is empty? Or do you make time for quiet, alone or with a quiet confidant? Honoring these core needs contributes to the quality of our lives.

One of the ways you can tell if you are introverted is that you need time to recharge your batteries and decompress after you spend time with others. – From The Introverted Leader by Jennifer Kahnweiler

1 thought on “A Pack of Friends or One at a Time?

  1. As the friend who spent the cruise with what turned out to be only 100 Parrot Heads (unfortunately), I want to share an additional extrovert story just to make my introvert friends just cringe!

    Last Saturday was the Celebrate CB Community Pride Parade (an over 30 year tradition in my hometown of Council Bluffs). I am the President of the all volunteer board that puts on 10 days of activities leading up to the parade day. I start my morning at 7:30am helping the chair of the parade set up and conduct the parade (which had 114 entries and took 1 hour and 45 minutes). We had 7,000 (of my closest friends, just kidding!) in attendance. Then we had an afternoon in the park with a large carnival with big rides, a band, four tents full of children’s activities, and the UP mini train giving away free rides (about 3,000 people, mostly screaming kids). I left the park at about 5pm in order to get cleaned up to swing by my cousin’s graduation party (about 30 people, mostly family) and then our town’s first annual “Nerd Prom” to raise money for our schools (about 60 people, who actually are my friends). I got home at about 11pm, only because I actually chose not to go to the “post prom” party–I feel like I may have missed out on something!

    Sunday, I had a great long hike with my niece, and spent the evening on the couch with my cats!



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