The Ol’ Well-Being Wallet

A thought I had after a tussle with a sweetie – one that I wanted to keep in a place where I might get back to it:

I’m a social guy. Like, a really social guy. I’ll go to a convention, and chat with people, and hug my friends and love them.

I can look like a normal person… but at a huge cost.

Which is to say, if normal people paid $1 every time they started up a conversation, for me it’d cost like $50 to say hello to someone cold. It’s not an unpayable cost – I mean, most people can spare $50 from time to time – but it’s enough that most folks don’t go out just spending $50 at a shot without budgeting.

Except it’s not cash I’m spending: it’s my well-being. If I overdraw at the Bank of Ferrett, I wind up with my emotions stretched too thin, and then I’m crying in public or stuttering weirdly or having some other embarrassing mental breakdown.

Which isn’t a big deal, on the whole. It just means I have to budget. When I go to a convention, I budget for the hotel room, I budget for the meals, and I also budget my socialization. A convention is like a big splurge for me, where if I got out to talk to hundreds of people, I need to spend the rest of the week being socially thrifty by talking to as few people as possible.

Yet because I act the same way that they do, extroverts tend to think that I pay the same costs. Which leads to a weird conversations where the extroverts are telling me “Why don’t you just go up and talk to them? That’s a trivial cost of $1! You can pay that cost all day!” And I’m telling them, “No, man, talking to someone who hasn’t initiated a conversation with me is a fancy dinner with drinks. It’s expensive as hell!”

They don’t get it. To them, striking up three conversations in a row is $3 – that’s not even a vente Starbucks. But to me, starting three conversations at $50 a pop is a pretty serious dent in the ol’ well-being wallet.

And I think introverts get that. They understand that some social interactions just cost them more than other people. It’s not that they don’t like people, but people are a comparatively pricey expenditure, and they can’t afford to have people over every night or they’ll go bankrupt.

Yet here’s the thing I learned today:

There are different costs for other things.

For me, “confronting someone” is maaaaaybe a dime. Anyone who’s seen me go after someone in my comments threads or dissect someone’s logic in a blog post knows that it’s pretty trivial for me to call someone on their shit. I could do it ten times a day, and my well-being wallet would still be brimming over.

That also applies to my relationships: if we have a problem, I’ll send you an itemized list of what’s bugging me. If you hurt me, I’ll go, “Okay, yeah, you need to cut that out.”

And what I realized is that for some of my partners, dealing with my confrontations – because honestly, it only really takes one mouthy sonuvabitch to drag someone else into a confrontation – has a much higher cost.

Me? I can get into several confrontations – albeit small ones – a day, and have it turn out to be productive for me, because the confrontation doesn’t cost me a dime.

Whereas for some of my partners, that confrontation may have just yanked a solid $100 out of their wallet, and they may not have budgeted appropriately for the day.

And that’s a large revelation, for me – that it’s not just “introvert” vs “extrovert,” but that all sorts of activities may carry a higher cost. I’m pretty sure my wife pays $30 every time she has to ask for help, which would explain why she so rarely does it, and I have a friend who shells out $10 every time she’s forced to accept a compliment.

So when I’m dealing with people from now on, I gotta remember the local inflation. Round Ferrettville, confrontation is cheap. But when I travel abroad, I gotta remember that maybe confrontation’s a pretty rare commodity, and to treat it like the precious thing it is.

8 Comments

  1. Mishell Baker
    Dec 2, 2015

    For me, as a shy extrovert, the first hello costs $50 and each one thereafter gets a discount because my energy charges.

    But confrontations? At least $100 a pop. If they’re about something I’ve done wrong? Easily $500. The kind of thing that can ruin me for weeks. Maybe even months.

    Phone calls are about a dollar, maybe less, which is why am so baffled by the refusal of anyone I know to speak in voice rather than text. For my best friend I think a phone call is in the $50 range. My husband wouldn’t even order pizza until they invented online ordering.

    People are a varied lot!

  2. Lee Cockrum
    Dec 2, 2015

    Great analogy!!! Really is a helpful way to explain things!

  3. ellixis
    Dec 2, 2015

    Man, that’s a great way to explain it. And there can be some subtle variations: for me, asking for help runs me $10-30 depending on the task, but accepting help unasked-for is more like $50.

    This is something that I will keep in mind. Thanks, man.

  4. Sarah in Boston
    Dec 2, 2015

    This is brilliant. I certainly got the basic concept but I think I had the same issue you did (until now), which was consistently extrapolating out to other types of social interactions. And you (as usual) laid it all out so clearly! This post is definitely going in the “save for future usefulness” pile. 🙂

  5. braidedmullet
    Dec 2, 2015

    Say what … only $100? Try $500. Confrontation in public? $1k to $2K, depending. Why do you think so many people have trouble speaking up when shit is *WRONG?* (I’ll give you a hint– it’s NOT because they don’t care). Some days I don’t have that much in my wallet for the entire month.

    Glad you figured that out, and very glad you wrote about it. It’s an excellent analogy, thank you for sharing it (hopefully the compliment doesn’t cost you anything).

  6. cosetthetable
    Dec 2, 2015

    I actually think you haven’t taken the metaphor far enough!!

    For the person you know, accepting a comment costs her $10, but a different person might GAIN $10 of wellbeing for receiving a comment. (and so on). Which makes it even worse. For a person whose wellbeing is *added to* based on a particular interaction, they might realize that not everyone gets the same boost as others, but they might still not realize that not everyone even gets a boost at all.

  7. Yet Another Laura H.
    Dec 2, 2015

    I understand that the classical definition of the introvert versus the extrovert is whether positive or negative experiences affect them more deeply. In the economic metaphor, for instance, it costs an extrovert a dollar to get past the anxiety of starting a conversation with a stranger, and minus three dollars when the person turned out to be unpleasant and dismissive of her, but getting to talk about her opinion of the Browns paid her ten dollars, so that conversation had a net profit of six dollars. The introvert had the same conversation, but while speaking to the person in the first place cost the same dollar, and she did make four dollars talking about the Browns, but that live-action YouTube comment cost her thirty dollars and now how is she going to pay for dinner now? (I seem to recall the Ferrett likening a troublesome insult to putting a large stone in one’s backpack…)

    I think I do see relevance in my example to Mr. S’s post, because what I’m thinking is maybe it still costs him fifty dollars to talk to the stranger, but wading in as the Mighty Ferrett of Justice pays $49.90, so yes, it does cost him a dime— net. The partners mentioned, though, pay fifty, plus thirty for dollars in fines for “unnecessary ” roughness, plus a ten dollar social tax on maintaining the attractive nuisance next to them and an extra $9.90 ish per cup of perspective, Lady Grey, iced.

    Shame he has not put this on Livejournal; I would have loved to bat this around with the usual suspects.

  8. asoutherngent
    Dec 4, 2015

    I havd to agree with all of this and ive not even realized it about myself. Confrontation cost me just about everything i have when its with my special someone.

Leave a Reply to Mishell Baker Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *