To My Fellow Introverts at STFM Conferences

2016 Sonya Shipley Head Shot

Sonya Shipley, MD

Furtive glance on the elevator whispers, “I see you.  I know you.  I am you, and I am glad that you are here.” Your mutual silence is comforting to my decidedly stimulated brain.  I see you artfully arranged on strategically placed couches with your noise canceling headphones in place. I am, admittedly, a little envious of your first claim of right to the couch. Though there is ample room for another body, I dare not interrupt your solitude.  I respect your space; your battery is recharging.

The elephant in the room, albeit an often very quiet elephant, is the introvert. But, I see you soaking in the new angles of old information and familiar angles of the new.  I hear your thoughtful probing of the presenters, and I can see the speed of your mind formulating unheard of combinations of inquiry. I see your new ideas, your new projects, your new plans; your newness. I, too, have claimed this newness.  This new invigoration, this new energy, this new resolve, this new commitment. The kind of newness that is only barely adequately described by sentence fragments because it defies and even mocks correct grammar and syntax.  It just IS.  And it IS comfortable in its own skin & its own presence.

We are basking in this new. We have quietly recommitted ourselves to this weighty mission and the ideals of family medicine. We are doing whatever it takes. We are stepping out of our comfort zones—putting ourselves out there. We are taking to heart the lessons of the day.  

To the presenters of the writing session, I heard you. We all heard you. I am bettered by your take home message; someone somewhere always wants to listen—needs to hear.

To my fellow introverts, thank you for bringing your offerings to the table. Thank you for the caffeine you ingested and the brief sojourns into the sunshine and the corners that you occupied in the name of recharging. Though I do not know all of your names, I saw you. I know that you will all go home and earn Tomatoes (especially, my new east coast friend who inspired this turn of phrase). Tomatoes, you say?  Yes, Tomatoes.  From the grateful patients who will bring you the work of their hands—these treasures born of gratitude—for the work that you will do.

4 responses to “To My Fellow Introverts at STFM Conferences

  1. Dr Shipley – thank you for your very thoughtful comments and the important reminder that attendees engage conferences and education in different ways.

  2. Colleen Fogarty

    I love this! I will share this reflection widely. One caution–introverts and extroverts both can have speedy minds! Thank you for the important message of nurturing our internal selves while at large conferences!

  3. Dennis Baker, Ph.D., INTJ

    Sonya, Thank you for extraverting (turing outward) your introversion (turning inward) in a special way with all of us (Is and Es). I have been attending STFM conferences for more than 30 years and as an Introvert I still have so many awkward moments when interacting with folks, even those I have known for years. When I see you at the next STFM conference I will make a special effort to introduce my self and say “hello.” I will be thinking about some more things I can say. 🙂

  4. Nora Callinan MD

    Just read this again. Such a great ode to the power of peacefully holding space as a way of showing love and respect to those around us.

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