My roommate and I are both introverts, and she has done a lot of research and work around access for “disability” of all stripes. A few weeks ago we were talking about both these things and half-jokingly came up with some ideas for making life less stressful for introverts or people with social anxiety. So without further ado, here are three suggestions:
Caveat: This is a bit tongue-in-cheek; my occasional discomfort as an introvert is in no way comparable to other ways in which our world is inaccessible due to ability, age, race, gender, etc. More than anything, this is an exercise in thinking creatively about how we could do things differently, in a way that makes a difference for a particular group.
1. Store Guides
I already have this actually. My local Copps has a store guide hanging at the end of most aisles, so I can look up where items are without having to ask anyone.
This may sound like a small thing, but some days I just don’t have the energy to ask a stranger where the peanut butter is, and that low energy level frequently corresponds with my ability (or lack thereof) to find the peanut butter in the first place.
For larger stores, it could be a map. I would love to have a map of my local Target, with an index of common items, because I can never find what I’m looking for.
2. Silent Hairdressers
Some people like chatty stylists at the salon, but both my roommate and I agree that when we’re getting our hair cut, we’d rather just sit in silence and enjoy the feeling of being cared for.
My proposal: this is just another one of the questions they ask you before you get your hair cut: “How long? Do you want to trim the bangs? Conversation or no conversation?” So easy. Salons could even advertise: “We feature both silent and conversational hair stylists”.
This should be a thing.
3. “Quiet Time” at Conferences
This one is born out of the past week teaching and helping at the Open Science Grid User School. I love the user school. I like the material, I like the students, I like teaching and explaning these concepts.
But being around people all day is absolutely exhausting. The same thing happens to me when I go to conferences. I cannot do people-time all day without a break.
So, like my friends who had an “introvert’s corner” at their wedding reception, where guests who needed a break could go color and read, it would be awesome if all conferences had not only quiet spaces, but actual, scheduled downtime, where there was NO programming. And that time should be in the middle of the day - not in the evening, when the expectation is that you go out with people and be simultaneously social and professional (which is more tiring than being either one of those things separately).
That’s it! The wishlist of introvert accommodations, part 1.
I write all this, and have to acknowledge that sometimes it’s a good thing to be uncomfortable, to push your boundries, and to grow. It might not be a bad thing for me to find a store employee and actually ask for help; I have had my hair cut and enjoyed a very pleasant conversation with the stylist.
But the options are fun to think about. :)