I get it. You’ve taken the DISC, or the MBTI, or one of the other myriad leadership/communication/personality tests out there, and the word “Introvert” shows up in your results. You see it and think, “Right! That’s why (public speaking, networking, fill-in-the-blank) is hard for me!”
In some ways it feels validating: we’re all told we’re supposed to be good at those things, so if we’re not naturally good at or comfortable with them, it’s a relief to have a simple answer as to why: “I’m an introvert.” What a relief!
But if you feel like you’re not achieving your maximum potential for influence and achievement, I want to suggest that you completely eliminate the phrase “I’m an introvert” from your vocabulary.
Why? Three key reasons:
First, because the simple word “am,” from the verb “to be,” references a status. An unchanging quality of existence. If you associate “being” an introvert with “bad at public speaking,” and you accept “being an introvert” as part of your inherent identity, then you are subconsciously accepting the notion that you cannot succeed at public speaking because you’re not wired for success.
(For that matter, check out this post on why introversion actually has nothing to do with skill at public speaking.)
The second and more important reason is that “introversion” is not a singular construct; it’s a constellation of factors, each of which deserve its own attention. If you’re looking to get ahead in your career and even in your personal life, success is going to be dependent upon looking about your individual behavioral preferences (which are associated with introversion) and figuring out how to develop those skill sets.
When you use point-blank, absolute statements of being (like “I’m an introvert”), there’s no room for discussion. It is what it is, end of story. But when you identify the specific factors, the world opens up because you suddenly become clear on what can change and how.
For example, if you feel like you don’t know how to network with confidence and get results, great! Because that’s a specific context, with a mindset and skillset you can work on developing in order to change your comfort level and the overall value of your experience.
Third, introversion and extroversion are not two sides of a coin; they’re on a continuum. While exact statistics may vary, studies show that only about 15% of the population are “extreme introverts,” 15% are “extreme extroverts,” and the remaining 70%(!) are somewhere in the middle. That’s a reeeally big middle!
At that point, most people display some characteristics of introversion and some characteristics of extroversion at different times and in different contexts, so using static, absolute labels of identity like “I am an introvert” are neither useful nor universally accurate.
Instead, try something like “I have more introverted tendencies, so I typically need time to think about things by myself before getting together to hash it out with the team.” It acknowledges your natural inclinations, connects them to the situation, and identifies behaviors and skills you need to be successful: ideally, you should take time to prep on your own. If you don’t always have that luxury due to deadline changes or a packed schedule, you may need to develop some strategies for thinking on the fly, participating proactively even if your ideas aren’t completely fleshed out yet, and letting your contributions shine under sub-optimal conditions.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not dismissing qualities of introversion and extroversion or the role they play in social interactions. They do matter, and understanding their influence is incredibly important if you want to be able to work effectively with different kinds of people.
What I want you to do is reframe the issue so that you don’t subconsciously reinforce self-limiting beliefs and practices. Focus on a specific quality and figure out what the associated skills and behaviors are, then set related, attainable goals. Don’t let a label hold you back!
Need help reframing your challenges to create attainable goals and become a more confident effective communicator? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to set up a 20-minute focus call to discuss it with me, personally.