As part of my "Be Strong" project, I’ve been reading one book a month that deals with an aspect of inner strength. My latest read was Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. Never has a book summed up who I am more than this book.
Every personality test I've ever taken has pegged me as an introvert, but it wasn't until I read this book that I truly understood what being an introvert meant to my daily life. When I'm put on the spot I need time, usually alone, to think through my answer. I like to methodically formulate a response, weigh all of my options making sure I give the best or most accurate response. I need down time to replenish my energy after overstimulation. I think of all the conferences I’ve attended where after a long day I've been tempted to skip the social mixer so I could go back to my room to read and decompress.
I've often been embarrassed by introverted personality:
For example, in my post Discovering My Strengths here are my thoughts upon initially learning of my five strengths:
I was not pleased with the results of my assessment. My first reaction was "I thought this assessment was going to teach me something I didn’t know." I was hoping my strengths would be a little more glamorous. The above so called talents were the same traits I’ve been trying to overcome since I was the geeky uncool nerd in high school. I shut my computer off in disgust.We live in a world that values extroverts:
According to Susan Cain:
It makes sense that so many introverts hide from themselves. We live with a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal - the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight. The archetypal extrovert prefers action to contemplation, risk-taking to head-talking, certainty to doubt. He prefers quick decisions at the risk of being wrong. She works well in teams and socializes in groups. (Pg. 4)The Communication Gap:
Then there was the time my company's HR Manager attacked my management skills. She told me I was the weakest manager our company had and that my career was going nowhere. Now in hindsight I realize she is an extrovert who doesn't understand or respect the introverted personality. She considered my quiet manner weak and not management material.
In the book Susan, also an introvert writes about the first time she had to negotiate a deal for her client while working as a Wall Street lawyer:
Then she remembered what I'd told her again and again: she was an introvert and as such had unique powers in negotiation - perhaps less obvious but no less formidable. She's probably prepared more than everyone else. She had a quiet but firm speaking style. She rarely spoke without thinking. Being mild-mannered, she could take strong, even aggressive, positions while coming across as perfectly reasonable. And she tended to ask questions - lots of them. And actually listen to the answers, which no matter what your personality, is crucial to strong negotiation. (Pg. 8)Pretending to be an extrovert:
Now that I have a better understanding of who I am and what it means to be an introvert how can I reframe my strengths to shine in a world that values extroverts?
Pretend to be more confident:
When Susan was in law school she would force herself early on in class to raise her hand and say something. Other people would sometimes refer to what she said giving her a greater presence in the classroom without her having to say much. (I really could have used this tip when I was in college.)
When in the classroom or work meetings figure out what you are going to say and say it early.
Look for opportunities to have one-on-one conversations.
Ask questions. Lots of them. Listen to the answers.
Carve out restorative niches into throughout your day:
Leave the office during lunch. Find a quiet spot to read and reflect.
Manage your energy.
Get thru it - you will come out a little stronger:
I prepared for two full days prior to the training; practicing what I was going to say, preparing handouts and packets for everyone to review as I presented the information. Despite my preparation my brain still froze a couple of times during my presentation. When I wasn't able to think of the interest term our vendor uses when we don't follow one of their procedures, our extroverted President jumped in and volunteered "exorbitant." Then the phrase came to me "past due." I asked lots of questions giving me a break from speaking and allowing everyone to provide input and learn from each other. The training was deemed a success and our President has asked me to organize another one for October.
What is next?
So now I realize, "thinking on my feet" is never going to come natural to me and I will always have to work at it. I am now going to change the focus of my Be Strong" project to incorporating Susan's faking-it strategies into my life.
Are you an introvert? Do you pretend to be an extrovert? Do you have suggestions for carving out restorative niches or for helping me maintain my energy during the workday?
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The Gift of Fear