Tuesday 28 March 2017

Rick O'Shea: 21st Century Man: 'I'm an ambivert'

It's not just about introverts and extroverts - Hi, I'm rick and I'm an ambivert

Rick O'Shea with his 'game face' on.
Rick O'Shea with his 'game face' on.

My first thought when I suggested this to my editor as a column was "how do I put this together without sounding either like I have a tenuous grip on reality or implying I have a borderline personality disorder?" Still not sure how I'm going to do that, to be honest. Hi, my name is Rick and I'm an ambivert.

I came across the word when a friend of mine (let's call him Max for the sake of decorum) told me about the term because he thought he might be one. Introverts and extroverts you know about – you've seen the shiny excesses of many of the latter in Heat or just whenever your louder mates get together in pubs and falsely presume that all of the former were sitting at home living fulfilling lives in Minecraft or adding to their collections of bellybutton fluff while writing Game Of Thrones fanfiction.

I'm that slightly unusual creature – the ambivert. I'm an introvert in extrovert's clothing. In my own personal life I'm very much the former, but I have an extrovert character handy to play for my job. I know there are lots of people who do that but I think my situation is fairly rare in that my character has a name. His name is Rick. See what I meant about the tenuous grip on reality?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not pretending to be someone I'm not if you meet me out at an outside broadcast or presenting an event. It's just that I've developed a mask that helps me get through stuff like that, and it generally makes those kind of things go quite well. He's a character that's just a few degrees more charming than I am, quite a bit more unflappable in public situations, a fair amount more talkative using the lines he wrote as a character for his own internal soap opera a long time ago. Beyonce has an alter ego for her on-stage shenanigans, entitled Sasha Fierce. Similar to that, but with less sequins.

I think there are a lot of us in the media, all with our game faces on when anyone else is looking. It's not that I'm saying that I don't like having the "Rick" head on (I'm sounding now like I have a Frank-like fibreglass construction that I keep under my desk), just that I get exhausted after a lot of being "on" and most times I'd genuinely just rather be home making dinner than interviewing Richard Dreyfuss on a mock-up boat in the Round Room of the Mansion House in front of 500 people.

Not that I didn't love that one, because I did.

You might think that what I've just said is either impossible or a downright lie given the job that I do, but ponder this; I sit mostly by myself for the whole duration of my show every day, interacting with others online. My studio is a dark box in a basement level. In my head I'm only ever really talking to one person.

In real life I don't go to clubs, I rarely go to gigs. I only go to about one per cent of the things I get invited to. Instead I love going to the theatre, visiting museums and galleries and you might have heard about my passion for sitting on the sofa at home with a book.

I don't have "the lads" or "the gang", I can count the number of actual friends I have on the fingers of one hand. I could never quite tie all of the strings of this together until earlier this year I discovered a book that goes on my shelf of "stuff you read that changed the way you thought about the world".The book was Quiet – The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

This alone was enough to make my interior narrator shout "Me! Me!!!":

"Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pyjamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions." Yep. Me.

Being an ambivert isn't hard, in fact after so many years of it, it becomes second nature. I can shift gears from quiet wandering in my head to full-on live, loud Mr Showbiz in front of a packed room in seconds, but it wasn't always that easy, it's practice.

In case you see a smidge of what I've described in you and just in case you've always been a bit like that – quiet on the inside at home, brash on the outside for work; you're not alone. You're an ambivert.

First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent
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