An introvert's most powerful trait may be "Learning." We are generally good at it and it can make such a big difference in our work and social groups.
First, let's learn how to leverage this strength and then we'll dive into how to share those learnings to make a difference.
Why are introverts good at learning?
By definition, introverts are introspective people. We find joy (and brain receptor stimulation) spending time alone, pondering the past, preparing for the future, and relaxing to calm the anxiety that may arise from both.
Pondering the Past: It can be quite powerful to review past meetings, social events, and discussions to ensure we embed the lessons learned in our work projects and personal lives, as well as finding opportunities to improve. Most extroverts, sparked by the desire for social and brain stimulation, may skip this step in lieu of more thrilling engagements, but they are missing out on the chance for self-improvement. Relish these opportunities. However, you must find balance in this area. Dwelling too long on the past can be depressing. Especially if we only reflect on the mistakes and improvements. Be sure to reflect on past events first by identifying successes - what went well in the results, but also in the effort.
Preparing for the Future: As mentioned in our spotlight on Preparation in March, this is indeed a strength and talent. We need this preparation since introverts often aren't best at thinking on the fly. Embrace this trait. Build time into your schedule to prepare for meetings (by reviewing agendas and pre-read, jotting down questions, and comments, and researching likely approaches of key attendees) and social events (by identifying who is attending, considering some common ground, and preparing your List of Four to get the conversation rolling). Most introverts struggle without this preparation. But with it, we can not only calm ourselves, but we often bring unique perspectives to the table that extroverts miss when they happily talk from the hip, not always considering the topic fully or the complexities of the situation.
Calming our Anxieties: Certainly, introverts often find the calmness we need to reenergize in hobbies like reading, music, gardening, art, and more. Taking the opportunity to learn new crafts helps quench our desire for learning while avoiding getting bored with the same old stuff. These breaks, no matter how brief, are critical to recover from the past and prepare for the future. It's the lubricant between what can be two stressful situations. Don't deprive yourself of these moments and don't just wait until work is over and you're a basket case. Create chances to relax and learn throughout your day.
How can introverts make a positive difference through learning?
Introverts should leverage their innate strengths to contribute to their learning. Sometimes this requires a bit of stretching too.
Listening is Learning: We are often those quiet people in the corner of the room. But others might be surprised to recognize that we are not tuned out, but closely observing the dynamics of the room. Who are the power players? Who is prepared to compromise? How does one person's input pair with another or several to develop a creative new solution? Many others are too busy trying to get air time that they fail to listen, observe, and contemplate.
Prepare to Share: Developing grand ideas in your head may be self-rewarding, but we have to share in order to make an impact. This can be a big obstacle for reticent introverts. However, rather than just jump in, you can prepare.
I like to get to the meeting room early to get a lay of the land. It just calms some nerves.
If the room is set up in more of a classroom style with rows, I prefer to be in the front quarter of the room. This cuts the room off and it doesn't feel as big and overwhelming since I really can't see all the people behind me.
I also find value in talking early. This may be just a "hello" as people enter, a brief comment to an early statement, or a prepared question or comment from my prep notes. Such early involvement often removes some of the pressure in talking.
Remind yourself no one needs to be "the great orator." It is much more important to share some important insights to get your unique perspective in the room than to wow people with great speaking skills. Besides, the more you share, the better you get at it.
Follow Through Too: Nothing can be more frustrating than someone that takes an action item and never follows through. People are counting on others to do what they promise. Yet the lack of such follow-up can be tremendous. This can be an especially valuable skill for introverts who oftentimes need a bit of time to cogitate on questions before responding. It's quite acceptable to often ponder and respond to the team outside the meeting - but you better do it. Your credibility is at stake.
The Keys to Your Strength
Learning and Sharing are introvert strengths that make a big difference.
Carve out time to ponder the past and prepare for the future.
Ensure your introspection is balanced (positive and negative) and is not too extensive.
Schedule your downtime throughout the day to re-energize. Learn new hobbies to provide that comforting break.
Prepare to share your unique perspective.
This summer we will continue to explore common introvert strengths through the model (right) as well as the stories and examples others share.
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The Questions Introverts Ponder
The Answers Extroverts Need to Hear
Introversion often feels so alone; many assume no one else could feel this way. This book contains many of the questions that have been asked, often by introverts trying to understand this personality trait that can at times govern our lives.
I also hear from many introverts struggling to share their introversion with family, friends, and co-workers, either out of fear or just not having the words. This booklet can serve to educate others to understand better the many strengths and talents we have to share.
I hope you will find this booklet an informative read and reference book with a splash of light-heartedness and inspiration as well. I invite you to start with the questions you are most curious about and share them from there.
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It's More Than Just a Letter