Steps to turn your inner voice into your biggest cheerleader
As introverts, we are by nature very introspective. We think a lot, reflect on our past performances and worry about future encounters. This reflection can be exacerbated because introverts are often quite ambitious, seeking to prove ourselves and stretch in new and often scary ways. We can develop grandiose plans in our head and debate the pros and cons of issues by ourselves. This constant self-evaluation and challenge can be quite exhausting. Unfortunately, letting things "roll off our back" or "winging it" is not really our forte.
Rather than wish away our inner voice, let's champion it and learn how to use it for our own benefit. Our introspection, analysis, observation, and empathy are, after all, our biggest strengths.
We often compare ourselves to the more boisterous, seemingly confident co-workers or socialites. This degrades what self-esteem we do have and forms a hidden contentious battle with others rather than collaboration.
If we acknowledge who we are (I'll never be the gregarious center of attention) and embrace our strengths (take our free Introvert Strengths Quiz here), we might then find our craving to morph into an extrovert is not really our ambition after all.
So how do we use our strengths to squelch the chatter in our mind?
Reruns & Regrets
Introverts often review our performance in meetings, social dinners, or casual gatherings and we chide ourselves for not being relaxed, not speaking up, not challenging other perspectives, or not being a smooth orator.
This is natural. It's in our DNA to be introspective. However, this mindset of comparing ourselves to perfection paves an impossible path. There are much better ways to change our mindset after an engagement:
Take it On: Don't just wipe your brow and exclaim how relieved you are that the event is over and move on. This just bottles up your emotions and hinders your growth. Find a quiet place to reflect.
Positives First: After events, first reflect on the positive. Write down the good things you did. Take pride in putting yourself out there. Remark on your growth and effort.
Capture Learnings: Then jot down a couple of items you'd like to do better. Don't be harsh or personal. Perhaps you want to include more questions in your speech or at the dinner table. Maybe you forgot to take a break in advance to help boost your energy level in advance.
Pat Your Back: We are empathetic and analytical people. Why just use these skills for others? Self-compassion eases the reflection and turns into a positive experience.
Don't Forget: Keep your successes in your journal or as a list you can reflect back on when you need a boost.
Fears & Worries
We are often consumed by voices anticipating the challenges of the future. You have a presentation coming up or a cocktail hour to attend. Every day there are events we consider uncomfortable at best and anxiety-ridden at worst. They swirl in our heads, mixed with self-doubt and apprehension. We can build up small events into life-changing, critical events that will determine the future trajectory of our life or career. We get carried away with the worst-case scenarios and just want to curl up in a ball.
It doesn't have to be like that. These steps can head this anxiety off at the pass:
Right Perspective: First, let's recognize that whatever this upcoming event is, it is not "all that." Life will surely go on. If we calm down and remove the emotion, it is just a speech or cocktail. More than likely it's not the first such event we've done. We survived previous socials or business events. We will survive this one as well.
Contrary to common myth, these engagements can actually be in our wheelhouse if we relax, prepare, and use our strengths. So now let's consider how we can not just survive, but thrive!
Set Your Goal: Set your goal for the event. Don't look outward for your goals, but look inward. It's fruitless to set goals that compare yourself to someone else, someone who has completely different strengths, gaps, and ambitions than you. Your goal is likely not to cruise the cocktail floor for 3 hours and gather a stack of business cards. You may be quite happy to set up a networking buddy in advance, selectively approach others for 30 minutes, and make a couple of contacts that you can follow up with afterwards.
Prepare for Socials: Chitchat often sets the night up with anxiety. Develop your List of Four prior to any social gathering:
Questions to ask others based on your research of who's attending
Unique facts about yourself including hobbies, travels, background
Interesting current events
Work elevator speech not just about what you do, but why you do it
Practice them and bring them with you on an index card in your pocket so
you can sneak a peak when you need some support.
Prepare for Business: Preparation is often an introvert's greatest friend. We just have to invite them to the party. Strip away the emotion and anxiety and develop a plan. If you are leading a business meeting, prepare your speech and review your points by yourself or with family. Use slides or notecards if you wish - it's not an oratory contest, it's a discussion about a specific topic.
Brevity is best. Hit the audience with the punch line early. Then, ask for questions and let those guide the direction and duration of the discussions. It's much more comfortable to answer questions about a topic you know than to drone on in a speech that waters down the points and anaesthetizes the crowd.