12 Most Focused Ways for Introverts to Make Their Mark

I’m rereading the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. If you’re an introvert, make this the book you read this year! The author spent five years researching this topic, and the stories she tells are fascinating. I want to give you a taste of the book, but you MUST read it. It really will change how you think about yourself and others. I know after you read this book you will be able to choose the directions you go with more clarity and ease, plus you’ll create more consciously the life you desire.
Here are some tips Susan Cain offers that I’ve been sharing in my workshops. My introverted clients report more successes. And extroverts, please read this to understand how one-third to one-half of the world operates.

  1. Ask for time to consider the options. Often the person who talks the most and is the most enthusiastic, declaring “Let’s make the decision now,” seems to be forcing everyone to go in a certain direction. BUT you can say, “I suggest we take a day [or a week] to think this over, gather some more data, consider the options and then come back and use our critical thinking to objectively see what makes sense.”
    In your own experience, when can you encourage others not to make a decision right then and there?
  2. Set up guidelines for how much, and when, everyone may speak. City Year has a rule in meetings: no one can speak twice until everyone speaks once. This gives each person a real chance to be heard. It sends the message that no one deserves to monopolize the conversation, giving the introverts their opportunity and forcing the extroverts to be quiet and listen.
    What guidelines do you have in your meetings about how much people may speak?
  3. Embrace your “soft power.” Chances are you are quieter, humbler and more sensitive to others than are your extroverted counterparts. You also like to ask questions and sincerely listen to the responses — mulling over how the answer helps you think about a situation. You have a quiet persistence that keeps going when others have given up. Consider how you are applying these talents to your advantage.
  4. What talents do you have that can be used as assets? Find a coach. Professor Preston Ni teaches a seminar called “Communication Success for Foreign-Born Professionals” at Foothill College near Cupertino, CA. Go to his web site to learn more: http://www.nipreston.com/home/.
    Do you need a coach? How will you find one?
  5. Engage in a certain level of “pretend-extroversion.” I am always surprised how most people label me an extrovert, but in reality I like my time alone. I can’t imagine having a party with 200 people and, when left to my own devices, I might not call anyone ever. I tell others that I have the social skills of an extrovert and I know how to network — BUT not as long and hard as an extrovert can. I can go to a networking event and do well for about an hour; then I run out of energy.
    Where do you practice “pretend-extroversion”? How is that working?
  6. Find other ways to connect with people. You don’t have to attend big networking events. You can volunteer for a non-profit and meet people with the same focus. I have made many wonderful friends and forged new business relationships doing pro-bono work for several non-profits. This is more satisfying for me as I love helping others.
    What are ways you would enjoy connecting with others?
  7. Create “restorative niches” for yourself. A restorative niche is a place to go when you need time to be your true self. I tell my clients to hide in the restroom if they need a break. Some clients tell me they go outside for a walk, book a conference room and stay there all day, work from home, put on their headset in the airplane and listen to music. Sometimes after a workshop I will walk in a park or, if one is not available, walk around a mall where I know no one.
    What are your restorative niches?
  8. Set your expectations for yourself. I’m an Argentine Tango dancer and used to think I should try to meet and talk to many new people at a dance. I was always exhausted from the process. Now I tell myself that if I meet one new person and have one dance with someone I’ve never danced with before, that is enough. And since I can lead a dance, when I feel tired of socializing, I lead someone around the floor. I’m much happier dancing than socializing.
    What are some expectations of yourself you can change?
  9. Mange your time. Some people can go out every night and feel fantastic. They love all the stimulation. Others need time to be alone, read, exercise and think about life. Monitor yourself so you don’t get so drained that you’re no longer excited about going to the company conference or out to dinner with dear friends. You need more down time than the extroverts you know—don’t book something all the time.
    Do you overbook yourself with extroverted events?
  10. Look like an extrovert. You really do have to stand up straight, smile and look at people when speaking. Use expressions like, “I’m excited about this project,” or “This project is a great success, saving the company millions of dollars.” Use such emotional statements in your presentations.
    Look at your presentations – where can you look like an extrovert?
  11. Identify your “core personal projects.” I love to coach in small, intimate, two-day workshops for ten people. I do give speeches to audiences of 100 – 300, but they aren’t my favorite things to do. I also like special presentation projects and am involved in one right now. This type of activity interests me more than preparing a speech and selling it around the country.
    What are your special projects that you love, and how can you do more of them?
  12. Enjoy your quality relationships. Here’s my confession. I’m about to have an important birthday, and my husband offered to throw me a big party. I have tried to imagine having a bash with 100 people and just feel uneasy inside. I can see a party with maybe 30 people. That feels cozy and fun, so I’m opting for the smaller gathering.
    How can you maximize the quality of your relationships over their quantity?

Go buy the book Quiet. Just reading it will give you hundreds of ways to think about your childhood, your present life and your future. I do believe you will never be the same again. If you’re introverted, you will empower yourself in new ways. If you’re an extrovert, you will reconsider how much you speak in meetings, how you listen and most importantly, how to appreciate the introverts who solve complex problems, persevering long after you have quit.
I want to close with a quote from the book: “If there is one insight you take away from this book, though, I hope it’s a newfound sense of entitlement to be yourself. I can vouch personally for the life-transforming effects of this outlook.” Thank you, Susan Cain!

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