Eschewing the solitude of the singles line, I moseyed into the gondola’s group area, a decision made easier by the fact that it was much shorter and I was plagued by the biological compulsion to get to powder as fast as possible. The crews around me were chatting excitedly and I began to feel out of place. But, the two dudes in front of me were having an interesting conversation, so I peeked out of my shell and asked one about his AT bindings. Five hours and one additional group member later, we had together hit several floaty stashes and parted as friends. Reference to our common ground had eased the transition from stranger to compatriot.
There was a time when I would not have made the effort to cross the divide: I was lost in the miasma of self-doubt. The spectre of enjoying a solo meal at a restaurant conjured the anxiety of being a sad loner/loser in the cafeteria on my first day of high school. I couldn’t bear the thought of going to the movies by myself, fearing that I would be judged for not having a date or a clique.
To compensate for this internal turmoil, I forced myself into extroversion, seeking conversation and surrounding myself with friends. Through this maturation and participation, I became a more active observer of the human species. This allowed me a more direct view of the links that bind us and the wedges that drive us apart; these are skills instrumental to my current role as resolver of conflicts.
Extroverts have an easier time putting themselves in the path of serendipity, the positive and unexpected outcomes of a chance encounter. Surprise pleasures are enjoyable in their own right, but they also reveal interpersonal connections that could easily have been missed. My marriage is based on one such moment in time and the guts to follow the instinct of my heart in that fleeting interval.
Naturally more disposed to engage in dialogue with unknown persons, extroverts are more easily able to identify common ground that is not apparent from traditional indicators. While clothing, gear, haircuts, accessories, and other external trappings can be initial clues and bases for introduction, it is not the superficial that will yield true insights. Closer scrutiny and deeper understanding are required to find the commonalities that form the basis for relationships and which have tremendous power in resolving disputes.
Introverts used to be largely left out of opportunities to be blessed with happenstance, to engage meaningfully with those who are alien. However, the internet has allowed for more passive initial connections that allow commonalities to be explored without the stress inherent in proximate social situations. Thus armed, the introvert can be confident in progressing further, in gaining revelation about a person’s character, in securing the empathy that will allow one to be a friend and not a combatant.
One need not be a specific type to be effective at solving disputes. Indeed, the personality types that I reference are binary and therefore reductionist. There are times to be both or neither or shades of each. The only requisite is a facility with seeking and finding the common ground between the warring parties. Without a mutual frame of reference, the disputants will not be able to come together and end their fight. On shared ground, they at least stand a chance.