Wednesday, March 30, 2016

An Introvert’s Guide to Life on the Road

By Lily Guerrero

Introverted performers are fascinating creatures. While they may seem quiet and reserved during every day interactions, they are bursting with character that shines on stage. It’s almost as if there's a switch that flips once the house lights go down! People like Audrey Hepburn, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, and Bob Marley said there is the person the public sees and the one they really are in private.

While introverted opera singers thrive in the theatre, perhaps the hardest part of this career is the constant flow of new people, places, and things that must be absorbed and understood. This is especially true for young singers who are first starting out in the business. You have new cast mates, directors, conductors, donors, and host families to meet and interact with in a short amount of time, and the sheer amount of social dealings during a gig can be intimidating to some introverts. If you are an introverted performer, here are a few ideas to keep in mind for your next gig!

1. Create an arsenal of icebreaker questions.

Many introverts find small talk useless and boring. They prefer discussing “big picture” ideas, which can be an intimidating opening topic with strangers! One trick to remember is people love to talk about themselves. The easiest way to start a conversation with someone is to ask questions about their back story, home life, or even where they got their sweater! Remember to keep it genuine, and don’t flood the conversation so quickly that it turns into an interview. If you can find things you both have in common, that is a wonderful way to turn the questions into a two-sided conversation. Bonus points if you can make the person laugh: studies show that sharing a laugh with someone can help to solidify your relationship with one another.

2. Approach people in an environment that best suits you.

It’s tempting to expend your networking efforts where there are a lot of people, such as trips to the club after opening night or group outings to a noisy restaurant during dinner break. As an introvert, we are accustomed to being the listener in conversations, but that does not bode well for those who are trying to make their presence known. Overstimulation from large groups will only cause you to burn out. Instead, take control of your surroundings. Eat lunch one on one or in small groups. Invite a cast mate to go to the museum with you on your day off. When you manage the situation and choose a comfortable surrounding, you set yourself up for success and have a better chance of making a meaningful connection.

3. Allow yourself time to re-charge.

Be realistic with the amount of time you expect to spend with other people. The fundamental difference between extraverts and introverts is that extraverts gain energy from being in social situations, while introverts lose energy. The reason that your brain is signaling you to go home and curl up with a book is because you need to plug in to the solitude and re-energize. It’s okay to want to be alone! If you were physically exhausted, your body would signal the need for rest. Take your mental health just as seriously!

Recommended reading: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain