For a long time, I was acting as if I were an extrovert. I wasn’t consciously trying to be an extrovert, but rather I was allowing myself to be influenced by the extraverted world we live in. Being an introvert in business is not easy, when our extroverted business world is set up by and large to reward extroverted activity. Activities such as being required to ‘think on your feet’, attend networking events, dress up for the Halloween office party, work in an open concept office surrounded by noise and take part in after work social activities.
I remember one job I had. The boss was an extreme extrovert, and he definitely ran his company based on what I like to call an Extrovert Bias HR Strategy. He fed off the energy of others and social experiences. (Every introvert’s nightmare.) We worked in an open office concept and he loved to ‘pop by’ my desk unannounced. He would creep up behind me without making a sound and then start talking at full volume. It startled me so much that I jumped out of my chair with panic every single time he did it, which was often. He also loved parties, especially Halloween, when all employees were expected to dress up and play games. Employees would take sick days just to avoid ‘forced fun’ days at the office. I hated going to work.
Because we live in an extroverted world, this gives introverts an artificial sense that it’s somehow wrong to be an introvert. Our world is organized around extroverts, but in truth researchers estimate that as much as 50% of the world’s population are introverts.
It’s a beautiful thing to be an introvert – if you honour it.
Some of the most amazingly successful introverts include: Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks, Julia Roberts, Johnny Depp, Ghandi, Bill Gates, Eleanor Roosevelt, Charles Darwin, Meryl Streep, Michael Jordon, Warren Buffett, JK Rowling, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steven Spielberg to name a few.
Over the years, I definitely felt like I was greatly misunderstood by so many people including my family, friends and coworkers. Unfortunately, they translated my introversion into all sorts of traits that were ultimately negative in nature (and largely untrue). I know I’m not alone; introverts are a greatly misunderstood bunch.
Here are some introvert myths you may have heard. I have personally been called all of these at some point or another in my life:
- Introverts are shy
- Introverts have nothing to say
- Introverts are slower
- Introverts are aloof
- Introverts are rude
- Introverts are socially inept
- Introverts are bad
- Introverts are reclusive
- Introverts are anti-social
The real distinction about introverts and extroverts is about energy, thoughts and feelings.
The difference between an introvert and an extrovert is where a person derives energy: through alone time (introverts), or through other people (extroverts).
Introverts don’t know what to say until they know what they think (they need to process internally). Extroverts don’t know what they think, until they hear themselves say it out loud (they need to process externally).
If you’re an introvert, you have to go inside of yourself to get in touch with your feelings, your thoughts, your grace and your wisdom. As an extrovert, they have to go outside of themselves to be with other people in order to connect with those virtues within themselves.
Neither way is right or wrong. It’s simply a different way of connecting to one’s thoughts, feelings and sense of renewal energy. And more importantly, most people have expressions of both; it’s all a matter of the degree to which you express it.
Introverts recharge their batteries internally and extroverts do it externally.
How can you thrive in the extroverted business world, when you are an introvert?
Here are six considerations:
- Know where you are at on the introvert-extrovert continuum. If extreme introversion is on the left and extreme extroversion is on the right, where do you place yourself on that spectrum? Being aware of your normal tendency and then knowing how it changes when you are under stress is very empowering. There is a huge price to pay when you violate your general introversion, and that price is that you disconnect from your self.
- Understand your boundaries. If your needs as an introvert require a certain amount of self time, where you can’t be out socializing all the time, then recognize that fact and create personal boundaries so that you have the introverted, contemplative, self-connection time that you need. This will help make your time with other people a much higher quality experience for you and for them, and your activities don’t come at the expense of your self.
- Be mindful of your energy. Know how many units of extroverted time you have to expend in a day. Let’s say you have 10 units of extroverted activity per day (let’s say that extroverts have 40 units of extroverted activity per day), how do you spend them?
- Give yourself permission to step away. When you’re in a meaningful or important conversation, give yourself the gift of stepping away (for 10 minutes, an hour, or a day) to gather your thoughts. Step away so that you can connect with what’s appropriate for you and how you really feel, so you can re-approach the conversation from a place of confidence.
- Inform people. Tell people (friends, colleagues, coworkers) that you are a quiet and proud introvert. Tell them what it means to be an introvert and what they can expect from you. Give self-permission to be an introvert – take your personal authority back.
- Don’t try to be an extrovert. Honour what your energy availability is to spend extroverted. Be aware of what that needs to be and interface with it.
Some of the greatest gifts of an introvert are to excel at connecting with your wisdom faster than an extrovert might, you tend to be more contemplative, more considerate and mindful. These are beautiful virtues that can take you a significant distance in your life.
One requirement to truly be seen, heard and valued in business, is to be your authentic self. And being yourself requires you to first know who you are, honour all facets of your being-ness and then stay self-true.
If you are tired of feeling like what you work hard for in your business is not valued or respected and you want to lead from a place of strength and not shaky self-esteem, let me be your guide. Contact me for a no obligation consultation conversation. I will share my lessons learned for honouring yourself and being valued by your clients.
Oh my God, Michela! What an excellent article on what being an introvert is, and is like. I couldn’t stop nodding as I was reading it, resonating and relating SO MUCH with what you said. Perhaps that is what attracted me to you at Petra Mayer’s ‘Big Leap Bootcamp’, where you spoke about part of your journey to who you are now. You exuded, to me, such a grounded calmness that embraced me energetically; it was truly beauty-filled. I felt safe in your presence, and after your presentation, felt excited to meet with you for the Business Breakthrough session you offered, which was very insightful!
I didn’t know what to call this sense of peace I felt in you. Learning, through this article, that you, too, have an extroverted nature or personality is also insightful. Your article helps me to accept, even more, how I operate in the world, and that I’m not alone in it… in fact, I’m in GREAT company! Thanks so much, Michela!
Thanks for sharing your insights Wendy. I love the new awareness and acceptance that has opened up for you as a result of reading this article!
Great Article, Michela! As a self-declared extrovert from way back, I find myself moving into a quieter mode. Could this be age-driven? Or, have I just figured out the sliding-scale? Very interesting to think about. (Maybe it’s the rain out here…) Thanks for your insight and sharing this wisdom, Kathryn