Thursday, August 14, 2014

Getting Along with Others as an Introvert: What's Your Story?

Ever get tired of being misjudged?  In my book, I tell of Jeannie, a woman who vehemently argues that all introverts are passive-aggressive. Huh?  It doesn't compute with me because I know better. I know what introversion as a personality type is and see through her stereotype.

However, because introversion is much maligned in this way by some who wish that we were all gregarious, sometimes it's natural to feel as if we're outcasts. Feel outcast long enough though and it can become your "story". In my book, I called this the "dark side of introversion".  It's when we come to define ourselves as an introvert. (Todd Kashdan, PhD also explained his view on this recently.) As if it's not enough for others to stereotype us, we begin to do a similar sort of categorization of ourselves that leads to a blurring of our uniqueness and cuts off our flexibility.  Mind you, this is different than merely acknowledging (and appreciating) our difference from extroverts; instead it morphs into a constraining label. It is "our story". 

In fact, in situations that are very comfortable for them, introverts can be indistinguishable from extroverts. So, what of your story, then? One of the fundamental premises of my program for leveraging an introvert's professional capabilities is becoming more comfortable with your introversion. Owning it. Because with that comes confidence and learning how to get along with others as an introvert rather than a fake. The goal is finding the ability to make a professional situation work better for yourself as an introvert. If we're at home with who we are, we take away their power to make us outcast.

But there is a fine line between owning it and becoming it.

Once we become our stories, we cut off growth. We short circuit flexibility. We forget that we're human first and introvert second. In the workplace, this can't lead anywhere good.

WHAT'S NEW :  Two companion workbooks are now available: The Introverted Professional's Field Guide to Leveraging Quiet Competence, Volumes 1 and 2.  These take the program from The Introvert's Guide to Professional Success and provide a series of self-administered exercises and reflections to bring the concepts to life in your own career. The Field Guides expand and update many of the exercises introduced in the original book and bring in new ones. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Introvert Networking Results: How to Gain Energy from an Unexpected Source

I love extraverts! An acquaintance recounted to me the story of one of those awkward gatherings where introverts (and shy people) stand around lamely laboring  to make small talk, secretly wishing that their pal who is the extravert will show up. The extraverted pal eventually emerged in a burst of energy. He talked nonstop about this, that, and the other thing - none of it consequential in the least.

Yet what happened next was a seeming miracle. Soon others were talking, mingling and, in short, networking. Having a great time and loving the interaction. Even when the extravert departed, the energy had shifted and the others continued chatting.

What's the lesson for you, the introvert? There are at least three.

One lesson is to take advantage of the extraverts in your midst when you're at a "networking" event. Appreciate what they bring rather than perhaps being irritated. Latch onto one. Get her talking with some well-thought questions, then sit back, and let it happen. This will help to conserve your own energy that is depleted by such events, as you know. With more energy, you can later approach someone quiet who is more like yourself and ask questions to get to know an introvert.

Another lesson is to realize that when the energy in a room shifts, it is easier for quiet people to be themselves. Consider: is there a way to help this transformation along? Humor is one approach. There is nothing like laughter to break the ice. Another approach is to have a topic to discuss prepared in advance and to simply find one person with whom to converse. If everyone were to do that, the room would be abuzz.

Last but not least, the lesson is that you don't need to be one (an extravert) in order to appreciate one.

No matter what, savor this difference between introverts and extraverts. Both bring something valuable to most interactions even though each sometimes struggles to find it!