Nearly all introverts have had to confront their own sociability at times. We’ve probably all been told we are anti-social or aloof, and not just by strangers. Even family and managers can be quite brazen with their comments. People fail to have the perspective or take the time to respect others’ personalities or approaches. Perhaps worse yet are those that don’t say anything directly to us, yet they have already labeled us in their mind, perhaps pitied us, or even told others of our lack of social skills.
None of these approaches are right. They are neither caring nor compassionate. And all too often we hear their comments but rather than put us on the offense to correct the record, our self-esteem takes a hit and we become ashamed or curious about what is wrong with us.
Well, enough of that. Today’s blog is determined to set the record straight! First, we must recognize and embrace our own sociable traits, and then we need to be prepared to educate others.
Developing the Right Mindset
Introverts are sociable! Introversion is NOT defined as lacking sociable skills or an inability to engage with others. Introversion is best defined as how we gain and drain energy. Simply put, we gain energy through more introspective and small group or solo activities and we drain energy through large group, long-duration interactions often with strangers and occasionally of a contentious nature. Being aware of that dynamic is essential. It doesn’t mean we can’t interact with groups of people or enter into debates, it just means it drains our energy. If we recognize and accept that, then we can build our energy with personal time beforehand and end the interaction before our energy level gets too low. But during that time in between, whether it’s 10 minutes or an hour, we can engage with others. Actually, we can be quite adept at such engagement and many will say we even need that engagement. It would truly be a lonely and monotonous life if we all kept to ourselves.
Designing the Right Social Setting
I’ve found that I’m most comfortable engaging with others when most of these conditions are met:
I reenergized with some “me” time in advance
It’s a smaller size group (<5)
I know most people, or at least one
The duration is of my choosing - I can leave when I want
I prepare my List of Four so I have some topics to share about myself and questions prepared to get the conversation rolling
I prefer home-field advantage - while it’s hard to kick people out, I can find respite in the kitchen, cleaning or serving, or even taking a long bathroom break
Under these conditions, I can quite enjoy some sociable time. Oftentimes when I meet someone they would never guess I’m an introvert. However, if I introduce myself as an introvert (for podcasts or other presentations) they seem to lower their expectations and/or are quite surprised at my interaction. This social ability does NOT mean I’m actually an extrovert or that I “turned my extrovert on.” In fact, science has proven introversion/extroversion is largely a chemical condition in our brain. We can’t really change that personality trait. We can develop skills, select conditions like the above 6, and practice interactions, but we are still introverts.
My sister, quite the extrovert, has always been a bit befuddled by my introversion. Her approach is that you never know what you will learn or who you might meet that could become a new friend or valuable business contact. I’ve always kind of nodded my head and moved on. But since I've focused on these interactions more, she is actually right! However, while she may be happy to create these engagements for hours at an event and many times a week or even daily, I will limit myself based on my energy level, so it might be for 30-60 minutes every few days perhaps.
In the first section, I mentioned how we gain and drain energy. I would also say we can gain energy or at least drain our own energy slower if we are engaging with interesting people and if we have the right mindset. If we are forced into a room or find some people boring or worse yet annoying, push the eject button quickly. Preserve your energy and seek another group to try.
Designing the right setting enables us to tap our own natural social skills. Our Beyond Introversion survey indicates introverts are great planners and oftentimes more curious and thoughtful than extroverts. So ask questions. Others love to talk about themselves so the ice will be broken, you will learn stuff quickly, and you can then decide if you want to continue with the conversation or bail. Share more personal information. Ask about their families, upcoming vacations, hobbies, and motivators. Especially at work events, people will welcome the opportunity to avoid hours of purely work discussions and they will recognize your personal curiosity as genuine thoughtfulness which they may be happy to reciprocate. You may have to get the conversation started, but if others don't eventually reciprocate with questions of their own, don't take it to heart - just move on.
Many will say it is not my responsibility to correct others’ narrow view of the world and that is true. But we are not just teaching for their sake but for ours and the broader introverted community. Just sharing our introversion or terming it as “quiet” or “introspective” can open the discussion that we are indeed sociable but that we must manage our own energy. When others understand just a bit about people that are different from themselves, they are much more likely to pause before applying stereotypes. It can change their own view of the world, of social groups, and work team members. Just through a simple conversation.
Just as importantly, the more we teach others, the stronger and more confident we become with our own strengths and ability. We can finally swing the pendulum from shame and low self-esteem to pride and confidence.
It’s often easier to just let the ignorant walk on by, but if we invest a bit of time we can actually change the world and certainly give ourselves a major boost.
It is certainly fine - nay awesome - to relish our own alone time. We need that time and we should quench that craving to be happy and healthy. But generally, we need to find an achievable balance between our solitude and the multitudes. We are just as sociable as the average population. We just need to manage our energy level and the conditions of the engagement so we can truly shine!
The Keys to Your Strength
Learning and Sharing are introvert strengths that make a big difference.
Consider your mindset. Are you positive and optimistic?
Be aware of your energy level.
Create the right social setting for you.
Socialize YOUR way and be done when YOU are finished.
Educate others on the true definition (energy equation) and strengths of introversion.
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.