Today I think about how being mindful of my preference for introversion may affect my actions. Like a self-fulfilling prophesy, this knowledge occupies my thoughts and sometimes prevents me from doing what I’d like to, what I should do. So the question is would it be better to be ignorant of who I am?
How I direct my energy. Because I’m an introvert, I should prefer not going to an evening business networking event after a hard day at work. Introverts should take time to recharge their battery, not exert themselves by socializing after a day of being around people.
Instead: I have the energy to attend social or networking events despite believing that my energy should be saved for reading a good book on my Kindle, while munching on Gummy Bears. I must fight the generalization.
How I communicate. Extraverts rule the world when it comes to small talk. Because I’m an introvert, my ability to make small talk consists of 140 characters of carefully chosen words. Entering a room full of strangers, expected to make small talk, should make me anxious and want to run from the room screaming like a lunatic.
Instead: I can make small talk with the best of them, as long as I’m not battling a motor mouth for airtime. I’ve often dominated the conversation in the lunchroom much to the surprise of my colleagues. I must fight the belief.
How I listen. As an introvert, I’m supposed to listen to people…and like it? Accordingly I should actively listen and wait until the person has said his/her 5,000 words. Extraverts, according to common belief, are off the hook when it comes to listening intently–they’re free to talk nonstop because…that’s the way it is.
Instead: I find it hard to listen to people who believe they’re all that. If there were an off button on some of the loquacious Neanderthals I meet, my right index finger would ache. I am totally cool listening to people who believe in equal rights in conversation. I must politely end a one-sided conversation, as well as be cognizant of my over talking.
How I learn best. Introverts are said to learn best through writing and research, rather than by talking to others. This implies that we’d rather receive e-mails than talk with our colleagues’ in their cubicles.
Instead: It is true that I enjoy writing, but I don’t get my kicks by spending a whole day at my computer researching topics like the Sabin Oxley Act and writing a 30-page whitepaper on it. I like talking with my colleagues as long as it’s productive and doesn’t drain my time, so I must extend my self more often.
How about those meetings. Apparently I can’t participate at meetings because I think too much before talking and, thus, lose my chance to express my brilliant thoughts. The same goes for brainstorming. When others are coming up with hundreds of ideas and throwing spaghetti against the wall, I’m supposed to remain quiet until I have an idea that will stick.
Instead: While it’s true that some extraverts suck the air out of a meeting room, I can throw my weight around as good as the next guy. True, I’m not a fan of brainstorming, but sometimes it works if facilitated by the right person. Instead of over thinking, I must speak up more often and express my great thoughts.
I’ll be the first to admit that knowing the characteristics of an introvert sometimes shapes my actions at work, as well as in my daily life. I wonder how I’d act if I was ignorant of who I am. Would I act more like an extravert? Nah.
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Love this one, but you knew I would, right Bob? You know my story I think – I didn’t KNOW I was an introvert and so took an employment agencies advice and went into sales! Thirty years ago and I am still in it. Oh sure I can call myself anything I want – coach, speaker, author – but it means selling. So thank goodness I didn’t know what I didn’t know!
You asked “would it be better to be ignorant of who I am?” It depends. I mean would we listen to ignorance or not?
Thanks, Pat. In my case ignorance would be bliss. I limit my behavior and actions because of who I should be, according to the MBTI, not who I can be. This weekend I went to a Casino Night after a hard day of work and driving two hours. Accordingly I should have stayed until 9:00 pm or not even have gone; but I ended up closing the joint. It was only 12:00 am, but that’s still late for me.
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My guess is if YOU ended up closing the joint, you were in the flow of things. And there you have it: introverts can and do have fun. You wildman you. hahaha
Great article Bob, a lot of this resonates with me. I’m similar in that I’m naturally an introvert but it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy people’s company. In fact, I rather having company, its just that it can sometimes be hard work for me to enjoy that company and feel I’m engaged as well as being engaging. I do find one benefit of being introverted and not being as good at small talk is you can have more honest conversations as often you’ll find you have nothing to say other than what’s genuinely on your mind. This can lead to great conversations and relationships with people that would never had happened if one were a master waffler!
Interesting thoughts Bob. I would say it probably depends on your level of knowledge of your introversion and how much of your thoughts it occupies. For years I didn’t know anything about introversion or being an introvert. I still have probably only skimmed the surface, but I feel my knowledge of it makes my actions seem ok to me when I do act like an introvert. For most of my life, I thought there was something wrong with me, and so I either didn’t act in ways I wanted to for fear of it being “bad.” So rather than informing me of how I “should” act as an introvert, the thoughts don’t generally enter my mind until I’ve acted as an introvert might.
Lisa, sounds like you’re completely fine with your introversion. In fact, knowing what an introvert, and extravert, is helps you understand why you act the way you do. I think for those who would like to act differently at times attribute it to the way they think they should act, rather than simply just acting. Maybe people like me overthink things.