When I was a teenager, my family and I moved to a country thousands of miles away from the one in which I was born. Having to grow up in two widely different societies with different languages, cultures, norms, and ideals is one of the many opportunities that I have had to stretch beyond my comfort zones. Now, as a young adult, I have begun to appreciate how every opportunity has required me to challenge the ideas that I already have, improve what I think I am already good at, and has provoked me to learn more about the world. Thanks to some exposure to challenges in the new environments and situations that I have been in, I was able to learn the lesson of how to survive and thrive regardless of wherever I am despite constant changes, at first hand.
What is learning, anyway? According to Bransford et al. (2006), learning is, among other things, a social activity that happens in a particular context — it could be setting-based such as school, work, or even in cultural context — that involves interactions between people. Thinking back, an essential aspect of my learning process has been human interaction. I believe that every person with whom I interact with could teach me something.
As an introvert, however, my biggest challenge is the relatively limited amount of time that I am comfortable spending around people.
Furthermore, my preference for one-on-one interaction with people might decrease my chances of meeting as many people as I could. Although I no longer do now, I saw it as a hindrance for a long time.
Actually, I am not so sure if the preference above has to do with introversion or the fact that human interactions, including communication, are multi-faceted. You have to sincerely be willing to listen to what others have to say; something that can be challenging at times, due to our own need to be listened to. Most of us communicate through words that are strung together to create sentences, which will in turn be sieved through in the mind of the listener to create meanings. Meanings that might differ from the ones intended. Moreover, the place in which the interactions take place and the non-verbal aspect of communication, which includes emotions, ways of communication, intonation, paralanguage, etc. each plays some role in creating an experience for everyone involved. Due to their element of surprise, one cannot predict in advance how interactions with other people might go in most cases.
Sometimes, my reflection about human interactions leads to me welcoming incoming and possible interaction with other people with a hint of unsettling anticipation.
Maybe introversion has not been the reason for my preference to interact with only a few people at any given time. Perhaps, it is due to my growing awareness of the different aspects of human interactions. The way I see it, such awareness acts as a call to further understand the various aspects of social interaction to maximize the experience of interacting with other human beings, regardless of where, how, and how many are involved.
A note to self: every human interaction brings an opportunity to learn something new.